Tales from the Trail

Would Congress swing its spending ax at the war in Afghanistan?

AFGHANISTAN/You’d think the war in Afghanistan would be the sacred cow of  federal spending. The Republicans now in charge of the House have always embraced “Support Our Troops” and “Defeat Terrorism” as two of the most serious ”Thou Shalts” of their political playbook.

But could the times be a-changing? Two influential conservative voices suggest they might be, as lawmakers search for the right balance between spending cuts and their own job preservation.

Grover Norquist, the influential political hierophant at Americans for Tax Reform, says in a Newsmax interview that the time has come for a serious cost-benefit discussion about Afghanistan.

IRAQ USANorquist says the United States will spend $119 billion this year in Afghanistan, a country with a GDP of just $14 billion. In his view, supporters of the war should not be afraid to debate their position, to come up with good reasons to stay and the benefits of doing so. “Only (conservatives) can convince the country to stay the course or to take a different approach,” he says.

Then there’s House Republican Ron Paul of Texas. He’s long been a voice crying in the wilderness about the need to scale back on America’s overseas military commitments. Except now, with the Tea Party’s ascent, Paul is no longer a political backwoodsman.

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

RTR2GF2D_Comp1-150x150RTR2GF2D_Comp-150x150Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles think it may be a new day in American politics, one where politicans who hike taxes and alter Social Security stay in office.

Simpson, a former Republican senator, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he sees evidence of change whenever he strolls through an airport: “I can tell you, we used to get lots of signals. I get more thumbs up now than other digits.”

The pair, co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, have proposed cutting the U.S. budget deficit by reducing defense spending, eliminating tax breaks, hiking the gasoline tax and altering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.