President Bush spent the Memorial Day weekend thanking the nation’s veterans for their service, saying "we acknowledge the debt [we owe them] by showing our respect and gratitude."1 Yet, his rhetoric came just hours after the Bush Administration announced new plans to slash veterans health care funding if it returns to power in 2005.
Late last week, the Administration released a memo detailing a plan to cut $1 billion from the Veterans Administration2 in the first budget of its second term. The cut would come even after the White House has tried to close veterans hospitals throughout the country,3 and has proposed veterans health care budgets that have been criticized by veterans groups and the President’s own Veterans Affairs secretary.4 It also comes after the president decided to cut off 164,000 veterans from their existing prescription drug coverage,5 and threatened to veto6 any bill that would allow veterans to receive both the military pension they were promised, and any disability compensation to which they are entitled.
- Presidential Weekly Radio Address Speech, WhiteHouse.gov, 05/29/04.
- “Democrats rip Bush’s outline for cuts in domestic programs,” Palm Beach Post, 5/28/04.
- “VA Seeks Major Hospital Overhaul,” CBS News, 8/05/03.
- “President Bush’s Veterans’ Budget Called Woefully Inadequate and Inexcusable,” Senate Democratic Policy Committee, 2/12/04.
- “VA Cuts Some Veterans’ Access to Health Care,” Washington Post, 1/17/03.
- “Bush Threatens Veto of Defense Bill,” Washington Post, 10/7/02, p.A02.
Proving once again that talking our yer ass IS possible!
Krugman, in his op-ed yesterday in the Times, mentioned this kind of behavior-campaigning on the benefits of certain programs, only to bring the hatchet to them to appease the all-consuming DoD budget next year.
This specific instance is particularly sleazy, but it’s the same thing that Bush and the rest of the neocons have been doing ever since 9/11 gave them the green light to do-make any kind of enlistment into the armed forces unappealing, so that they can hire as many contractors to do the job for them, filling the coffers of their defense contractor buddies (like Halliburton) as much as they possibly can. They do it through poor pay, the overuse of reservist and national guard forces, underfunding of the GI Bill, and extensive foreign deployments and extensions to those deployments.
The regard of this administration for the long-term health of the US Military is just horrific. Clinton wasn’t much better, but the heavy use of reservists and national guardsmen-people who signed up to fight for their country in the most dire of circumstances, and to provide security the nation’s populace in times of crisis, respectively, in the Iraq adventure is particularly repugnant. Soldiers making a fraction of what contractors are making while putting themselves in mortal danger every day is an insult, as is not having enough troops to properly rotate troops in and out of the theater of operations.
We need to encourage more active full-time, long-lasting enlistment, increase pay and benefits, and provide a real chance for class mobility by truly paying for education through an updated GI Bill. Get the reservists home and bring them back to the days of “one weekend a month, 2 weeks a year” assignments, and get the national guard, well, guarding the nation-seems we could use it, considering the way terror always seems imminent and what not.