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Veterans low on totem pole

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Veterans low on totem pole

Okay Guys and Gals, this month’s article is going to be a combination Civics lesson—a course that apparently has not been taught anywhere for many years—and a cautionary tale about the hazards of actually getting what you wish for. Firstly let me say that having returned from the sunny north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula—apparently about a month too soon—to North Idaho I’m starting to think that we will never see the sun again. The moss on my roof is turning that deep, intense green one only sees in the primeval forests of the Olympic Peninsula.

As some of you might remember I’ve been tracking several bills that will have—if enacted into law—a profound effect on veterans and their families. All of these bills were introduced within the first few weeks of the 112th Congress convening. All were assigned to appropriate committees shortly after introduction and to date none of them have come out of committee. I repeat, none of them! As of the May issue arriving on the newsstands Congress will have been in session for 126 days. Of that 126 days the House of Representatives will have taken 44 days off (this number excludes Saturdays and Sundays so let’s add 35 more days of non-production!). If my math is correct I find that of the 126 days Congress has been officially in session our elected Representatives have spent a total of 47 days actually involved with the Peoples Business. 

A cursory examination of what the House has been working on during those 47 days reveals that almost none of it has been for the majority of the American People. They have passed a budget proposal that eviscerates Medicare for everyone under 55 while reducing the taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent an additional 10 percent. Immediately after convening the House session the GOP majority, as part of the housekeeping stuff that occurs whenever there is a change of majority in the House, eliminated the ‘Gephardt Rule.’ The Gephardt Rule has been in place since 1979. What is the Gephardt Rule you ask? Well, it was a continuing resolution that allowed the National Debt ceiling to rise without a standalone vote. The National Debt ceiling was allowed to rise to whatever the latest projection said it would be. In 1995 the GOP majority refused to act on this rule as a showdown with then President Clinton. The end result of this confrontation was two shutdowns of the government to the detriment of every American. 

Why did they do this at this time? I believe that it was so the GOP could make the needed and necessary passage of the debt ceiling a forum for their long-term agenda to reduce the size of government and make radical cuts to those programs that benefit the majority of Americans. Every economist I’ve seen who has commented on this ploy has said it is somewhat akin to playing Russian Roulette with a semi-automatic. 

The American and world economy will suffer no matter what the riders the GOP hangs on this bill. There is a real chance that this maneuver will further slow the recovery we so desperately need. None of these machinations have done a thing to create jobs for returning veterans or any other unemployed individual. None of the actions of the GOP controlled House have done a thing to fix our failing infrastructure or helped people facing foreclosure stay in their homes. The House has instead focused all of its efforts on forcing its myopic fiscal and social views on the totality of the American people.

For their efforts our federal legislators are paid $174,000 per year—more if they are in leadership positions—plus perks and benefits. By my count that means we have paid them $60,065.75 for 47 days of unproductive work. Assuming an eight hour work day that is $1597.75/hour! Will someone please explain to me how they have earned this? Is it any wonder that 75 percent of those polled recently say that they disapprove of the 112th Congress? 

Earlier I said that I would comment on a cautionary tale of getting what we wish for. Here’s some food for thought. In November we Idahoans elected Raul Labrador our Representative for District 1. He won with 51 percent of the total vote but only 58 percent of registered voters even bothered going to the polls. He defeated first term Representative W. Minnick by over 25,000 votes. Minnick was a staunch, solid supporter of veteran’s benefits and was himself a veteran. Labrador is another lawyer who has never done day one of military service but he did have an (R) after his name on the ballot. Labrador has no history of and—apparently—no interest in veteran’s affairs. 

This pattern of voting for those candidates advocating for smaller government and lower taxes was followed throughout the country. The GOP now has a 49 seat majority in the House of Representatives. But, and here’s the point I’m making, there are 7 percent fewer veterans in the House. That leads me to believe that the party that touts itself on being the “Party Strong On Defense” is a little shy on any actual veterans. It takes a veteran to understand the problems and obstacles that our military face on a day-to-day basis. It is my opinion that only those who have served can fully comprehend the challenges veterans face when they transition back to ‘civilian life’—especially after seeing combat. There is a world of difference between watching ‘Rambo’ and having the guy next to you disappear in a cloud of smoke and dust.

I believe that until such time as we get more people elected that actually understand the differences between normal civilian life and the military we veterans will continue to be low on the totem pole of fiscal priorities. As a career non-commissioned officer I may be biased, but I would like to see more enlisted elected than officers. Enlisted people seem to be more ‘results orientated.’ 

Until next month—think Summer!

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

Gephardt Rule, Raul Labrador, service

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