Friday, April 11, 2008

Supporting The Troops

Okay, look, I get why certain issues-- economics, etc-- have such a strong partisan divide because of differences in political philosophy, but the GOP's hardline stances on most issues (that to my brain seem... well, no-brainers) baffle the shit out of me. Take for instance, the GI Bill.

The original GI Bill was passed after WWII. According to Wikipedia, it "provided for college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs or G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses." Seems the least one could do for them, no? As Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell argued on Bill Maher's show last month, this bill-- along with other late New Deal-era legislation-- is what helped create the post-war middle class boom.

Now, granted, things are a bit different now (smaller wars, less soldiers in the army, etc), but the same general notion of paying our soldiers back in this way should still remain, right? Well if you're a conservative Republican, you apparently disagree. Sens. Webb and Hagel (and others) have been leading the fight for over a year now for a new GI Bill, and have received little help in moving this along from the White House or the Senate minority leadership.

Particularly absent from this fight is GOP presidential candidate, and military man, John McCain... who said just this week that, in response to a question on the great strain the military faces these days, "one of the things we ought to do is provide them significant educational benefits in return for serving. Americans will always serve their country. Americans will, if they’re motivated to do so." And yet he continues to refuse to sign on to the bill that would do just that. As it stands now, existing policy works to deny soldiers any benefits they are due.

But why? The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum has got the answer nailed: "the Department of Defense [is] afraid that updating GI benefits will hurt retention rates as soldiers leave the service to go to college. Charming, no? And of course, it would cost too much. Can't have that when it comes to programs that involve actual help for actual people. Apparently we're better off spending money on sugar subsidies and mediating gang wars in Iraq than we are helping vets get an education."

Yep, that sounds about right to me. Time to slap some more ribbon magnets on the car and forget about this.

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