From This Week with George Stephanopoulos Nov. 29, 2009, Sen. Lindsey Graham let's us know where his spending priorities are. Forget health care or stimulus spending, we need more money for Afghanistan. Sen. Bernie Sanders reminds us all what is so terribly wrong with that line of thinking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, how about this question of cost, as Senator Sanders raised? It looks like the cost is going to be about $1 million per year for each additional service member, and a lot of Democrats, like the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, talked to our Jon Karl this week, said we ought to pay for it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBEY: If we have to pay for the health care bill, we should pay for the war as well.
JON KARL, ABC NEWS: How?
OBEY: By having a new war surtax. The problem in this country with this issue is that the only people who have been asked to sacrifice are military families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does he have a point there, Senator Graham? If we're going to fight a war, shouldn't the American people pay for it?
GRAHAM: Well, I'd like to see an endeavor to see if we can cut current spending and find some dollars that we're spending today to pay for the war, and prioritize American spending. Where does our national security rate in terms of spending? Are there things that we can do in the stimulus package? Can we trim up the health care bill and other big-ticket items to pay for a war that we can't afford to lose?
So I welcome a debate about how to control government spending and pay for the war. I do want to let Bernie and anyone else listening know that from my point of view, the president is correct in assessing that Afghanistan is a war that must be won because the national security implications of what happens in Afghanistan will follow this country for decades, so I intend to support the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to -- I want to ask Senator Sanders to comment on this, but first, let me press you on that. You're against -- let me first get Senator Graham on one point there. So you are against the tax, but you are for cutting spending to pay for this, not increasing the deficit? Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: I think it would be a good exercise for the Congress to look at ways to trim up the spending, which has been out of control since the administration came into power, and prior towards this war, the way it should be. Our national security future depends on getting it right in Afghanistan, and there is no better use of taxpayer dollars than to defend America, in my view.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Well, let's see. We spent perhaps $2 or $3 trillion in the war in Iraq that Bush got us into that we never should have been in, which we didn't pay. We sent that bill to our kids and our grandchildren. And what Senator Graham is now saying is, as I understand it, is hey, we can cut back on education so middle-class families can't afford to send their kids to college. We don't have to rebuild our infrastructure. We don't have to invest in sustainable energy, so we stop importing $350 billion a year of foreign oil. We don't have to do all that stuff. Let's just spend more money in Afghanistan, while Europe and the people of China and the people of Russia watch us do that work. I think that is a very poor set of national priorities.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Senator Sanders, if I hear you correctly, if you're against -- if you have a big problem with sending more troops, does that also mean that you're against this surtax that Congressman Obey is talking about in order to pay for the troops?
SANDERS: Look, we have a presence in Afghanistan now. No one is talking about bringing the troops home tomorrow. What we need is more international cooperation. We need an Afghan government that resonates with its people, that is not corrupt. But if you're going to have a presence there, you just can't pass the bill on, as we did in Iraq, to our kids and our grandchildren. I think that's wrong. I think that's immoral.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let me turn to health care now. Senator Graham, there is a new study out by Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based on Congressional Budget Office numbers, which shows that premiums for most Americans are actually going to go down under the Senate health care bill. So then, what you've got lined up now, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers, the deficit goes down over 10 years, costs get under control, and premiums will go down for most Americans. Why can't Republicans support that?
GRAHAM: Well, because I don't believe that's true. To make that happen, we're going to have to reduce Medicare spending by about $400 billion over a 10-year period to get the math right. We haven't reduced Medicare spending by 40 cents, so that's not going to happen. You have to increase taxes to get the revenue neutral. And when you look at the second 10 years, the deficit goes up to $2 trillion, because in the first 10 years, you collect taxes for four years before you pay out any benefits. And when you look at the 10 years to follow, that's when the spending goes up.
This whole idea of have we been spending enough and the Afghan war is the problem to me is ridiculous. We have been spending money on stimulus packages, growing the government in appropriations bills by double digits, now a $2 trillion spending package on health care too, and a half-trillion dollars in the second 10 years. We'll make premiums go up, because taxes go up to pay for it, and we'll never cut Medicare benefits to make it work, nor should we.
So I think the whole thing is a sham. And we've done nothing with the doctor fix. Are we going to let the $200 billion doctor fix go into effect over the next 10 years? The House just passed it without an offset. So when you look at it, it makes an Enron accountant blush the way they're trying to make these numbers work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your answer, Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: I voted for the doctor fix. I don't think that Senator Graham did. Bottom line is...
GRAHAM: That's because it wasn't paid for...
SANDERS: ...yeah well... we are the only country in the -- well, we are the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all of its people, and yet we end up spending almost twice as much per person as any other country on earth. We have 45,000 people in this country who are going to die this year because they don't have access to a doctor.