Tax Analysts Blog

Ben Nelson Needs a History Lesson

Posted on Dec 2, 2009
Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has made a career out of being every Republican's favorite Democrat. But the next time he feels compelled to trash the proposal of a fellow Democrat, he might stop to consider whether he knows what he's talking about.

Take his comments on the recent proposal for a war tax to fund the surge in Afghanistan. Apparently, Nelson hates the idea (surprise, surprise). But while suggesting a reasonable alternative (war bonds), he managed to mangle some important facts.
    "Some people jumped right out and said you need a war tax, and I said wow, we didn't have a war tax in the Second World War," Nelson said. "The fact that we had bonds, war bonds, and people invested in their country in that fashion made a lot of sense back then. I don't know why it might not make sense today, certainly in lieu of jumping to tax."

Note to Sen. Nelson: you might want to read up on the history of World War II taxation. In particular, I suggest a quick review of the 1942 Victory Tax. It wasn't the only war tax enacted during World War II (far from it), but I'm thinking that even Senator Nelson might grasp the significance of the name.

If reading seems too burdensome, then maybe Nelson could just take a gander at the wartime propaganda poster reproduced on this page.

I realize that tax history might be a little arcane for average folks, but it seems reasonable that a U.S. senator might have some passing familiarity with the subject. And if Nelson doesn't, then maybe he should stop talking about it.

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