Are neither you nor a family member a current or former member of the U.S. armed forces? There might be a tax for that. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke proposed a “war tax” Monday as part of the former Texas congressman’s plan to support veterans and spread the burden of military conflict.
O’Rourke’s “war tax” is part of the candidate’s new plan to provide better services to the nation’s veterans and to end the “Forever Wars” in the Middle East.
“The time has come to cancel the blank check for endless war and to ensure that any future engagements are the result of a national conversation about our security interests and duly authorized by Congress,” O’Rourke’s plan states.
The new tax, according to O’Rourke, would apply to households that lack either current or former members of the military. Qualifying households with an income below $30,000 a year would pay $25, and those making under $40,000 annually would pay $57. Households with an income below $50,000 would pay $98, those making less than $75,000 would pay $164 and those under $100,000 would pay $270. Households making less than $200,000 would pay $485 and those making above $200,000 would pay $1,000.
If enacted by Congress, revenue generated by the tax would be deposited into a new “Veterans Health Care Trust Fund” O’Rourke claims would provide better veteran health care for each war that the United States engages.
O’Rourke has proposed the war tax before, introducing similar legislation while serving in the House in 2016 and 2017. O’Rourke served on the House’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee and made veteran care a focus of his time in Congress. His west Texas congressional district is home to Fort Bliss, a large U.S. Army base.
Other prominent political players have also previously supported the idea of a war tax, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), a fellow 2020 contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The plan unveiled Monday further outlined O’Rourke’s sweeping proposals to alter the Department of Veterans Affairs. It includes a number of steps such as filling the 45,000 staff vacancies at the VA, making staffing rations and wait times publicly visible, expanding access to telehealth, requiring more attention to mental health, treatment for addiction, suicide prevention, and making electronic health care data the standard.
The candidate is also calling on Congress to double the National Institutes of Health funding on Alzheimer’s research to $5 billion per year to better asses cases stemming from military service. In addition, O’Rourke wants to increase funding for research into Amyotrphic lateral sclerosis (ALS) based on a study from the Institute of Medicine that found that veterans of the Persian Gulf War, Vietnam War, and World War II were more prone to developing the disease.
The plan would also require the Defense Department to update its records regarding LGBTQ veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation, and creates a pathway to citizenship for foreign citizens who serve in the U.S. military.
The plan announcement comes three days before the first round of Democratic debates as O’Rourke tries to improve his reputation as a young and inexperienced policy lightweight. The 2020 hopeful has recently increased his television appearances and has been more detailed in his policy suggestions in recent weeks.
Throughout his three terms in Congress and during his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms, O’Rourke has called for the United States to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, there are approximately 20,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, most of which are American, and 5,000 American troops in Iraq.