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Two Bills Pass

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Two big pieces of news have occurred since last month’s article went to the printer. The first of these events was not directly veteran related but well worth noting. The ‘Super Committee’ failed to arrive at a solution to our national budgetary impasse. Surprise, surprise, surprise! If ever a group was designed to fail it was the Super Committee. The twelve members—six Republicans and six Democrats—were chosen by the respective leadership in both houses of Congress not for their negotiating skills or willingness to reach a consensus. Rather, they were chosen for their ideological purity and willingness to stick to the mantra of their respective parties. Demonstrably, the six GOP members of the Super Committee were less flexible than the six Democrats—more on that later. In the 112th Congress the very make-up of the committee defines the formula for failure. When it comes to accomplishments the 112th Congress has set a new low bar.

My expectation for success from this group was at a low level from the get go. They had been given a model that could have been used to reach a solution. But one side in that debate chooses not to even consider that model. I recently found a report that compared the proposals presented in the Bowles-Simpson Plan and an almost identical plan submitted by the six Democrats on the Super Committee (see below). The suggestions that came out of the Bowles-Simpson Plan would have raised even more revenue and made almost identical cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs over several years. The Bowles-Simpson Plan spread the—considerable—pain across the entire spectrum of incomes and age groups, therefore making it intolerable to the extremes of both Parties. With the collapse of the Super Committee, Congress has once more kicked these hard decisions—decisions that NEED to be made—down the road to be essentially decided by the results seen in the elections of 2012. 

I firmly believe that nothing will be done on this crisis until after the votes are counted and those within the ‘Beltway Bubble’ that is Washington see how the American People feel about the adequacy of their representatives. I suspect—indeed, I hope—that there will be substantial changes in the composition of both houses. I believe that the American People are finally waking up to the fact that the 112th Congress may indeed be the worst ever Congress in our two-hundred-and-thirty-five-year history. The majority of members that took office in January of this year came in on a wave of anti-Government feeling. These ‘newbies’ soon learned that actually governing was much harder than they realized. The traditional GOP leadership soon realized that they had loosed an uncontrollable and undisciplined bunch of neophytes upon the country. Those who lose their seats on the second Tuesday of November 2012—known affectionately as “Lame Ducks”—may realize that they don’t have to follow Grover Norquist’s dictates any longer, and realizing that they had been sold a pig in a poke by the Koch brothers, will actually do what is good for all of the country before they head back into the real world outside ‘The Beltway’ at the end of December 2012. One can but hope.

Now onto the other event that occurred during the past month. In an almost unheard moment of bipartisanship both the House and the Senate passed—with a near unanimous vote—the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (H.R. 2433) and Hiring Heroes Act (S.951). This legislation is actually a miniscule—$55 billion—portion of the President’s $455 billion jobs plan given to Congress during his September 8th speech. Granted this bill is built on the GOP’s favorite things—tax reducing incentives for employers—but it does at least recognize a very real problem. Unemployment among veterans is well over the national average. As he was signing the bill President Obama said, “Just as they fight for us on the battlefield, it’s up to us to fight for our troops and their families when they come home. Today, a deeply grateful nation is doing right by our military and paying back just a little bit what we owe our veterans.”

While there has been zero action on any other portion of the President’s jobs proposal—thanks to GOP obstructionism and intransigence in the House and threats of filibusters in the Senate—this small piece zipped through both chambers with lightening like speed. I found it ironic—and somewhat suspicious—that this bill was signed into law shortly after Veteran’s Day and shortly before tens of thousands of fit, motivated and unemployed young men and women—that coincidentally are very familiar with tactics, weapons and are extremely goal oriented—are coming home to bleak employment options. But then again, I’m a cynical old bastard.

I find it amusing that the members of the GOP who make such a big point of being for a ‘Strong National Defense’ have shown so little concern or care for all those young men and women who volunteer to bear arms for this nation once that service is done. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced thousands of young veterans. During the Bush Administration billions of dollars was spent providing these young warriors with the best equipment* and training in the world. When these same warriors returned home they found a Veterans Administration woefully underfunded and understaffed to handle this huge influx of broken citizen soldiers. When the current administration increased funding for veteran’s services, guess which group raised the specter of ‘Runaway Debt’?

*I’ll save my commentary on trying to run a war on the cheap for another day.

I am hopeful that voters nationwide will see the sheer hypocrisy of the GOP when it comes to serving the vast majority of Americans and our veteran community in specific. I recently read an article in New York Magazine by Robert Frum, a former speech writer for President Bush. Mr. Frum is no fan of President Obama but he asks the question, “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” It is a lengthy analysis of the past 10 to 12 years that is well worth seeking out regardless of your political bent. He has done an excellent job of laying bare the distortions of reality that are the hallmark of today’s GOP and sets the stage for the battle to return the GOP to its traditional values and priorities. The outcome of this battle could well determine the future course of our country.

I’ll close this month’s article with a heartfelt ‘Thanks’ for all the local businesses that did so much to honor the area’s veterans over this past Veterans Day. Many of them render this honor on a daily basis—not just one day a year. To them I offer this salute from this old sailor – Thank you!

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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:

veterans, H.R.2433, Hiring Heroes Act, S.951, jobs proposal, The Veterans' Opportunity to Work Act

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