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Lawmakers Hold Tax Day Press Conference on Cost of Iraq War

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On Capitol Hill, several Democratic lawmakers are holding a Tax Day press conference this morning on the cost of the Iraq war. They will present taxpayers with a bill that shows how much each American family owes for the Iraq War. We speak with Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a Congress member for a moment and ask you to comment after she speaks. On Capitol Hill, several lawmakers are holding a Tax Day press conference this morning on the cost of the Iraq war. Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Peter Welch of Vermont will present taxpayers with a bill that shows how much each American family owes for the Iraq war.

Democratic Congressmember Jan Schakowsky joins me now on the phone from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you, Amy. I’m glad to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you’re going to say today?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, we’re going to, on Tax Day today, show that the Iraq tax bill for the average family of four is $16,500 per family of four. It’s only one way of expressing how much the war costs, of course, but the dollars are pretty significant, and most people understand that. In fact, 89 percent of Americans believe that the cost of war has contributed to the US economic problems. And certainly, it’s been a problem for them in their own families.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you calculate the cost of war?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, we looked at what the total bill is to date, over half-a-trillion dollars, and just divided it out among the families. And that’s a lowball number, because we aren’t considering the other costs, including the care of veterans, all the healthcare costs. So it’s really a modest number that, you know, could go into the trillions of dollars for the whole country.

But we also, I think, need to look at what else could we be doing with that money? I know just in my state of Illinois, every single person could be provided with healthcare if we — you know, for the amount of money we pay just in Illinois for the war. Homeless veterans, 48,000 of them, could be provided with a place to live for a year. I mean, the things that we can’t do and don’t do because we’re just throwing all this money at a war that seems endless and is not making us safer is just — it’s so tragic, really. And we want to point out what that cost is to people in real dollars.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Schakowsky, do know how much military contractors like Blackwater cost?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, we know that there are big winners in this war. And of course, an over-a-billion-dollar contract has been renewed with Blackwater. Imagine — just imagine anybody hiring a contractor who we know has killed seventeen innocent people. Now, there’s not been any results of the investigation, but don’t you think that most sane people would say, “No, I think we better figure out another way to provide this service”? It’s just mind-boggling, astonishing that Blackwater would get this contract renewed. But there are huge winners in this war: these companies that are making money hand-over-fist, these war profiteers that are delighting in the continuation of the war and the bilking of the American people. There’s horrible corruption and waste fraud and abuse that’s going on. And yet, Americans are asked to pay on and on and on.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Congressmember Schakowsky how you feel about people like Pat and John Schwiebert — John Schwiebert, a retired United Methodist minister; Pat Schwiebert, a nurse who deals with families who have lost their children — not paying taxes, as they haven’t for more than thirty years, war tax resistance.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know, I can understand that. I truly do. Obviously, my heart just breaks for people who have lost their children. But beyond that, the notion of contributing to this war, I certainly can understand that. You know, I guess the argument is that, you know, if everybody sort of picks and chooses what they want to pay for, that it could be a problem. But this war is such a huge problem, that I certainly understand and empathize with the decision.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for joining us, Congressmember Jan Schakowsky, speaking to us from Capitol Hill before her news conference.

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