As the Oklahoma legislative session wrapped up last week, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn was pulling a typical political stunt by supposedly offering ways to offset funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations.
In the Senate, Coburn offered two amendments to the $60 billion War Supplemental Bill. Those amendments, which were voted down, would have frozen the salaries of federal workers, capped hiring of federal workers for five years, stopped funding for peacekeeping activities in Haiti and cut surplus funding for the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Here’s a complete list of Coburn’s proposals.
The problem here is not necessarily with Coburn’s overall stance about deficit spending. It’s that his legislative proposals are often too extreme to gain support and thus become about the “message” or the “politics” rather than what they supposedly would accomplish. Would freezing the salaries of federal workers right now be a good idea? It might merit a discussion, but not if it’s framed within funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The funding for the occupations should stand on its merit. Is it wise to continue to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Coburn’s amendments don’t even begin to get at the crux of the issue, which is the waste of money and lives in the two military occupations. Polls show a clear majority of Americans no longer support the Iraq occupation. Why not just stop funding for the occupations and bring the troops home? That would make the amendment issue moot. After that, Coburn could offer his proposals in separate bills and they could be debated on the Senate floor. This would be a better, more straightforward political strategy. Given the current political milieu, surely some of his proposals would pass.
It was a Republican president who started the needless Iraq occupation, which has become a major contributor to the current deficit. So does Coburn, who is a Republican, support the Iraq invasion and ensuing occupation? What’s his position on what has been accomplished in Afghanistan? These are the larger questions that deserve debate. Instead, Coburn wants to cut funding to the WIC program, which promotes healthy diets for children, so more American soldiers and innocent civilians can die in two military occupations that have dragged on since 2001.
Coburn gets a free ride with the state’s corporate media, which won’t challenge him on his political stunts.