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The American war debt will soon exceed a trillion dollars, and a strong case can be made that our national security requires that this debt must be paid as soon as possible. This goal can be achieved by a combination of aggressively selling low-yield (but high-patriotism) War Bonds, and imposing a very, very steep estate tax on dekamillionaires and hectomillionaires (definitions provided further in) -- an estate tax? "You mean a death tax," says the Repub. "Yes," we reply, "a 'death tax,' because our live soldiers in the field can make better use of that support than dead dekamillionares in the grave."

The current price tag for the Iraq and Afghan Wars is closing in a trillion dollars, all of which must be serviced annually, and over 700 billion of which comes from the still-unpaid bill for the Iraq War.

America, the argument must be made, will not be safe from "terrorists" and other real and potential foreign adversaries if we are unable to show the world that we have the will to pay for the cost of defending our nation against all threats. Otherwise, our enemies will be emboldened to attack us again in the belief that they can bankrupt the country. That is why it is of vital and immediate importance to American security for the U.S.A. to do whatever it takes to raise up the funds to pay off the trillion dollar debt already brought about by our wartime commitments, and to build up a homeland defense war chest amounting to whatever it will take to fend off all lingering threats. This is not a debt that can wait for years. However, nor can we permit our enemies to believe that our military defense will reduce the viability of our domestic governance. Even those who oppose domestic spending must acknowledge that we can not allow ourselves to be forced to curtail our government activities on the home front simply because foreign enemies rattle their sabers.

The case being made for raising revenue to immediately pay off this trillion-dollar war debt, the question turns to how, exactly, are we going to raise those funds. I propose two routes, intertwined with one another.

War Bonds

First, long-term low yield War Bonds. In the heady days of World War II, the country defrayed much of the cost of the war by selling bonds - according to Wikipedia, "Over the course of the war 85 million Americans purchased bonds totaling approximately $185.7 billion." Adjusted for inflation, that would be over two trillion year 2010 dollars. With concerns being aired (in the Super Bowl, no less) about the amount of U.S. debt owned by foreign governments, we should limit the initial purchase of such bonds to U.S. citizens (who would then, of course, be free to sell the bonds to USA-loving foreign nationals at a markup).

Now, I will grant that selling bonds, even low-yield bonds, does not pay off the debt so much as it puts off the debt, but it does hold it below the level of inflation and bond payments can be structured so as to remove the requirement that continuing interest payments be made on the debt for the amount of the bonds being held.

Plus, there is nothing more populist and patriotic than a President leading a bevy of the famous and the influential from across the political spectrum, in urging all Americans to support their nation by buying War Bonds to pay off the costs of defending it. This device has the benefit of avoiding a tax increase, relying instead on an appeal to patriotism, coming with a veiled implication that if enough money is raised in this way, future massive tax increases to pay off this particular war debt won't be necessary.

It might be pointed out that the savvy investor won't touch low-yield bonds with a ten-foot pole, but we're aiming for the patriotic investor, the one who wants to avoid the business risks that arise with the threat of his country being attacked. Some useful drivers can be added to this mix.

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* First, the certificates for the bonds themselves can be artistically rendered, perhaps with features heretofore unused in U.S. bonds (such as cutting-edge holography), which would make them "collectible" as documents. Such an approach could be expanded with the issuance of multiple designs, so that a person might want to "collect them all."

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* Second, purchases could be "spiced up" a but if the certificates, which would necessarily be uniquely numbered, could also serve as "tickets" of sorts in a national lottery, with a handful of random bond numbers being pulled weekly, and the owners of those bonds being permitted to redeem them early for "prizes" such as tax credits worth several thousand dollars (or a seat at the next State of the Union Address). The expenses would be minuscule compared to the additional revenue generated by the bonds if buyers bought them in contemplation of potentially winning such a prize.

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* Third, and likely the best driver of bond purchases would be a competition-based driver, that being the issuance of separate sets of bonds in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan war debts, with the inherent suggestion being that the purchase of bonds in support of the debt from Iraq equals a message of support for the Republican policies that led to that encumbrance. Simply put, conservatives will be challenged to prove that theirs is the position that merits support by generating the largest share of purchases of bonds for the war that they elected to enter.

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Other variations can be thrown into the mix. During World War II, the government also sold several million dollars worth of "peace bonds" to pacifists who refused to financially back violence; another facet of the earlier effort that we could emulate. However, the ideal outcome would be for the bulk of the cost to be paid by those whose ideology supports the arising of this debt in the first place.

To the degree that taxes remain necessary to generate this additional revenue, we move to the next step.

The Death Tax

The second route is an estate tax. A very, very high estate tax, beginning at perhaps 60% on the value of estates above the dekamillionaire level, and graduating to upwards of 90% for the value of estates above the hectomillionaire level (depending, of course, on how much debt remains to be retired after the sale of War Bonds).

Wait now, you ask, the what and the what levels?

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* A dekamillionaire is simply a shorthand way of referring to someone having over ten million dollars, based on the Greek root "deka" routinely used in measurement systems.

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* A hectomillionaire is similarly shorthand for someone having over one hundred million dollars, from the Greek "hecto."

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Even Joe the Plumber visualized himself as someday becoming a millionaire (and suffering higher taxes for it), but what average American looks in the mirror and says, "someday I'm going to be a dekamillionare"? The word has an exotic, dare we say, almost decadent ring to it. An appropriate label for those having reached a level of wealth that promises to detach them from the reality of the average citizen. Perhaps we should just call them "dekamils" for short -- don't worry, middle class heroes, we're paying the war debt on the backs of dead dekamils. Ironically, those who stand to profit from the deaths of their super-rich relatives will then have an outstanding incentive to reduce the portion of the war debt assessable to them by promoting the sale of those War Bonds.

The other side will, of course, call it a death tax -- which is fine. Let them. Agree with them. Our mantra in reply will be "our live soldiers in the field can make better use of that support than dead dekamillionares in the grave."

Originally posted to Dem Bones on Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 01:51 AM PST.

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