The buzz here in DC this week includes two main messages:
Number one, until we end the war in Iraq, we'll be unable to address other pressing issues in our nation, and the continuation of the war is the main factor driving the worsening economy. Many Democratic policy analysts and spokespeople are starting to call the slowdown the "Iraq Recession."
Number two, "Is the surge working?" is a largely irrelevant question. Instead, voters and candidates need to be asking "What do we do about Iraq to make our nation stronger and safer?"
Ten congressional challengers answered the latter question Monday with "A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq," unveiled at the Take Back America conference and online. Their main point is that we can end the war responsibly, rejecting the conventional wisdom that our only good choices are endless occupation or a destabilizing withdrawal. Other key aims include using U.S. diplomatic power, addressing humanitarian concerns, restoring our Constitution, restoring our military, restoring media independence, and creating a new, U.S.-centered energy policy.
But the economic argument for ending the war may well have the most traction this election year. "We have a bridge in my district that's about ready to fall into Lake Washington and we can't repair it because my district's sending all its money to Iraq," said candidate Darcy Burner of Washington's 8th District, who organized Monday's event. In fact, the war's $526 billion cost to date has cost each U.S. family of four $16,500 and each congressional district more than a billion bucks. Burner said that when she asks people in her Puget Sound-area district what they'd do to improve the economy, most say "end the war."
The war's effect on the economy clearly needs to be a factor in the presidential and congressional races, and I hope to see our Idaho candidates embrace this plan. But savvy state legislative and even local candidates must realize that the war's costs are crimping our ability to provide essential services at every level of government, from repairing roads and bridges to maintaining state National Guards. It's time to stop the bloodletting, both in human and economic terms.