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As the cost of war skyrockets and its contribution to the federal deficit continues to increase, it is important that Americans fully understand where their tax dollars are spent and how they are spent. This accounting is especially important as cuts are proposed to important safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security, as well as to services for the unemployed, elderly, women, families and children.

The Cost of War Act helps inform the discourse around these proposed cuts by calculating, unequivocally, the exact price tag of these ongoing conflicts to each American. It requires the Department of Defense to work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to calculate and post the cost of war for each American taxpayer in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria on their websites. Article I of the U.S. Constitution does mandate Congress to publish the exact expenditures of all accounts.

“Every American has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Rep. John Lewis. “A variety of accounting methods are used to make it harder for Americans to comprehend how many billions, and even trillions of federal dollars are used to support these international conflicts, meanwhile services they may need to survive are placed on the chopping block due to the claim that our nation cannot afford them. A budget is a statement of values, and the people have a right to know whether the priorities of their government meet their expectations. This is a simple request, and I think that’s why it appeals to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

On May 15, 2015, Congressman Lewis reintroduced H.R. 2376, the Cost of War Act. This legislation was adopted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Acts in 2013, 2014, and most recently on May 18, 2016. It has been passed now by both the House and Senate, and is awaiting signature by President Barack Obama. In October 2011, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) first introduced the Cost of War Act as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 142nd birthday.

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