The Washington Post has reluctantly signed on to the notion of a special war tax for Afghanistan. (It was apparently a painful decision, given the amount of ink the editors devoted to arguing against its necessity.) But the Post is not enamored of the various proposals for an income tax surcharge to pay for the war. Instead, they suggest a higher gas tax.
But as a war measure, it makes no sense at all.
War taxes, more than most other revenue tools, are deeply symbolic. Sure, they raise money. But even more important, they send a message. War taxes are about shared sacrifice, patriotism, and accountability. As such, they should be broad taxes, paid by everyone. And if history is any guide, they should also be progressive taxes, since progressivity is (and always has been, at least for the last century or so), the principal measure of tax fairness in American politics.
A war tax should not be simply a favorite revenue tool wrapped up in patriotic marketing. If we go down that road, what's next? A Star Spangled soda tax? View TaxAnalysts' Joe Thorndike's opinion in its entirety on TAX.com.