Get Something From the Budget Fight

October 28, 2007 at 1:40 pm

In the picture shown, who would you say is the Republican and who the Democrat?

Interestingly enough, not one person so far has picked the taller person as the Democrat. Everyone guesses the shorter person is the Democrat. I can’t claim to know for certain why this is, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Democrats have been tossed around politically for the better part of the past 8 years.

And guess what? It could happen again in the Iraq War funding fight unless Democrats figure out a better strategy. President Bush has asked for an additional $46 billion dollars to fight the Iraq War this year. That’s an additional $46 billion. This would bring the total for this year alone to $192 billion. New estimates for the war(s) are a total of $2.4 trillion through 2017.

Yet Bush keeps getting his money. Why? Democrats are afraid that they will be accused of not supporting the troops. Bush trounced them with this message in the last fight.

So how could they combat this strategy?

First, Democrats have to realize their position in this negotiation. They are not the little man (even though they may feel like it). They have control of the purse strings and support of a majority of the American people. Long story short: you’ve got to stop thinking like the little man and start thinking about your strengths and how to fight this battle.

Second, they know what Bush is going to do. He is going to accuse them of not supporting the troops. So whatever strategy they choose needs to in some way take this into account. Worst case scenario: you get accused of not supporting the troops.

Let’s look at this from a couple different purse-string perspectives. The first situation. Your 16-year old son asks if he can have $40 and the car so he can go out Friday night. You would probably ask him where he was going and what he was going to do.

In the second scenario, you’re a CFO for major company. One of your business unit presidents is asking for $50 million to fund a new project. As CFO, you would want to know what the return on investment is before giving him the money.

What I’m getting at is that Democrats need to define up front what they want from President Bush in exchange for the money.

At the very least, Congress should ask for a few things before approving any money for Iraq:

  • Where are you going with Iraq?
  • Why are we fighting this war?
  • What is the return on investment?

Answers that are unacceptable: We’re fighting for freedom; we’re going after the terrorists so the terrorists don’t come over here; we’re making the world safer; or, if we tell you, we’ll be helping the terrorists.

Ask for measurable results. This is what a CFO would do. It doesn’t have to be a timeline. But it does have to be measurable. When the violence is below X. When X number of Iraqi soldiers have been trained. If they can’t do this, Congress should write a budget that funds everything in the government except Bush’s war.

If this is setup right, it can be won. Emphasize that Republicans have done nothing in 4 years, with almost $400 billion dollars. What do we have to show for it? Democrats should relentlessly talk about the TAX that this is putting on our country and what we could buy here at home if we weren’t fighting this dysfunctional war.

At the very worst, Republicans say you’re not supporting the troops. This argument grows thinner and thinner this tired horse is trotted out. If you’ve set things up right, you respond to this by saying you want to see the return on investment (ROI) as any good businessman would. It’s time to end the Enron flow of cash.

Regardless, the Democrats should get something from this negotiation. Maybe they could ask for a commitment to spend as much domestically as on the wars in Iraq. Maybe they could ask for a way to pay for it now as Charlie Rangel could do. Something. This is the way to start changing the direction of this poorly managed war.