There are compelling reasons for us to go into Iraq and compelling reasons for us not to. The only two things I feel sure of are that (1) the timing of the debate, for Labor Day through the mid-term elections, was deeply cynical; and that (2) we could be doing this with far more international support if our general attitude these last two years hadn’t been one of near contempt for the rest of the world’s concerns and sensitivities. As more than one commentator has inquired, how did we ever lose a popularity contest with Saddam Hussein?

Once it starts, one can only hope the war will wreak the least possible carnage and the best possible outcome for the Iraqi people, which will in turn lead to the best possible results for us.

But until it starts, and after it is over, we should not forget our own peaceful but important struggles, such as the struggle to reduce the tax burden on those who are already best off at the expense of those who are least fortunate.

I was thinking such thoughts when I mailed in my Florida Intangible Property Tax today. As long-time readers know, this is a tax that only those Floridians who are best off even know about. Shortly after he took office, Governor Bush cut it in half. (He left the sales tax and the property tax unchanged.) Instead of a very small tax (two-tenths of one percent of assets above $100,000, not including real estate or retirement plans or bank accounts or Treasury securities or Florida municipal bonds), it is now half that (one-tenth of one percent).

Governor Bush saved me some money. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t need it, and it’s one more reason so many kids in this state are poorly educated in desperately overcrowded classrooms; one more reason drug treatment programs have been eliminated in 51 of Florida’s 55 prisons.

This is the Bush way of helping the poor and middle class, as valid in Florida as it is on the national stage (yesterday‘s column).

Is the idea to build a country of rich and poor, with machine guns guarding our gated communities? I’d rather pay the tax.

Finally, a word about the market. It’s nice that it’s spiked up the last few days. It might spike up some more. But best-case scenario, with all going reasonably well, where are we at the end of this war? Won’t we be more or less where we were, but with an extra $100 billion in debt on top of all the rest? Are we that much better off, with that much brighter prospects, than we were December 5, 1996, the day of Greenspan’s ‘irrational exuberance’ remarks, when the Dow (now 8140) was 6500 and the NASDAQ (now 1392) was 1250?


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