Conservative: Never having to say, ‘Pay later’

Many anti-conservatives and a small yet vocal slice of those who style themselves as conservative equate the conservatism brand with the anti-tax stance.

Such silliness, however, isn’t critical thinking and belies the type of conservatism that prefers to pay as we go. In this potpourri column, we’ll question putting war on the tab.

I’m anti-tax generally. Thoughtless spending angers me. Unbalanced budgets don’t impress me. Tea parties don’t impress either, nor do Republicans or Democrats who spew talking points.

President Obama’s measured speech on sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan might have reached me had it included payment plans for the $30 billion annual cost. But he said little and was vague about paying for what he has called a “war of necessity.”

A couple of New York Times columnists talk of paying for it via a gasoline tax hike, one too small and one quite large. How about something in between?

David Brooks pushes a nickel per gallon, with pictures of troops on gas pumps to justify it. He’s the conservative. Tom Friedman pushes $1 per gallon, pie in the sky if I’ve ever heard it. More liberal, obviously.

Middle ground could be a quarter per gallon, which would raise $35 billion annually to cover the surge so future generations escape paying completely for a war they (hopefully) will just read about in history books.

Or we could boost the gas tax a dime, raising $14 billion annually, then use some repaid TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds and yield for the rest of the war’s cost. That makes more sense than Obama administration jobs creation schemes.

Some in Congress want to stop putting all war costs on the tab. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Democrat, talks of taxation. But it’s because he opposes escalation in Afghanistan rather than a real desire to tax.

I’ll be interested to hear more on this from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada’s own, as his 2010 re-election bid nears.

Other potpourri stuff:

• Speaking of Sen. Reid, the outlook at this writing indicates the Democrats’ leader in the upper chamber couldn’t deliver on the majority’s public option health care push. Republicans and a few conservative Democrats foiled it even as Reid compared adamant opposition on health “reform” to those who opposed slavery. Horsepucky, Harry.

• Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki returned to political viability because a judge dismissed charges he mishandled public funds. Republicans think he was unjustly indicted. The Democrats’ counter spin is that Krolicki got off the hook. Truth be told, this is how the system works. Krolicki ignored a law, but it was a minor infraction. The umpire decided; that’s it. Let’s move on.

• Criticism that Gov. Jim Gibbons is using the state’s Economic Forum for political purposes is just twaddle. He called the forum in before he must decide next month whether to convene a special legislative session on the budget shortfall. This is like President Obama seeking advice before deciding what to do in Afghanistan. Taking time and seeking information may or may not be political, but it’s still common sense.

• Adios with thanks to Reno businessman Frank Bender, who died this month. He is credited with helping develop area warehousing, following in his father Edwin Bender’s footsteps. The elder Bender spearheaded a 1949 Nevada Freeport law, which lets goods move through the state tax free and fosters jobs. The younger Bender built on that as a member of the state’s Commission on Economic Development.