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As Long as We Remember...

May 15, 2008

Signal Legislation, Unavoidable Question

Tony Soltero

As America's military commanders and troops brought World War II to a close, finishing off the formidable Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan war machines barely three and a half years after Congress declared war, our government at home expressed its appreciation for our servicemen's sacrifices with the landmark G.I. Bill.


It remains to this day the most far-reaching and effective tribute to our troops ever implemented.


The G.I. Bill made it possible for an entire generation of Americans to share in the prosperity of the country they so valiantly fought for overseas. It afforded heretofore unavailable educational, employment, and homeownership opportunities to millions of veterans. And the benefits redounded to the entire national economy, triggering a home-building boom, creating the largest middle class in human history, and opening up career fields to a multitude of talented people.


It is no coincidence that America enjoyed its greatest and most sustained period of prosperity in the two decades that followed the passage of the G.I. Bill. And its benefits continue to echo today, as the children of these veterans have enjoyed the accouterments of middle-class American life, and continued to contribute to our economic strength.


And of course, doing right by our troops should never be a matter of debate.


In light of this, Congress today is trying to pass a new G.I. Bill (S. 22; H.R. 5740) for the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's simply an updated version of the original 1944 legislation; it readjusts benefits to cover for intervening inflation. At present, returning veterans are only eligible for partial education compensation, as college costs skyrocket. This bill restores the value lost over the years.


It should be a no-brainer to get this bill passed. We support our troops, don't we? Democrats and Republicans alike have signed on to cosponsor this bill. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is listed as a cosponsor.


Well, regrettably, to some members of Congress, support for the troops doesn't go beyond flag pins and ribbon magnets. There's a movement afoot – primarily composed of Republicans, though a few right-wing (blue dog) Democrats are on board – to derail this bill. And these congressmen are trying to go about it through procedural tricks – obviously they lack the courage to publicly vote against it on the floor.


So what's their excuse? Suddenly, these congressmen have discovered "fiscal responsibility." A concept that they cheerily set aside for every Iraq supplemental and Wall Street bailout that comes before them, but which seems to be a very, very big deal when the issue is benefiting our troops.


I applaud Congressman Bartlett for being on the right side of this issue. This is the kind of initiative that should zip through both houses of Congress unanimously and get a quick signature from the president. While the political motives for these wars have been dubious at best, there is absolutely no question that the soldiers carrying out the mission deserve every bit of support we can provide them.


Let's be blunt: any one of these lawmakers who hides behind contrived "explanations" to defend his or her opposition to this bill is engaging in the crassest form of elitism possible. Such a line of thought declares that our soldiers are merely props to hide behind in election campaigns, not human beings and Americans who deserve a little help from their government after putting their lives on the line halfway across the globe.


Oh, and it's probably worth mentioning that alleged uber-patriot and troop-"supporter" John McCain opposes this legislation. He thinks it's too generous to the troops.


Okay! How maverick of him.


Do we support our troops, or don't we? Are we prepared to back up our declarations of support with actions, or are the slogans empty and hollow?


How our congress people vote on this bill will go a long way towards providing us the answer to that question.

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