I am absolutely fed up with the hypocrites in the Legislative Branch, and the spineless leaders in the Defense Department. We are in a budget crisis right now, and changes have to be made. Of that there is no doubt. That being said, the priorities of our so-called leaders are completely twisted. I have said much of this before, but it bears repeating.
They scream about “entitlements” and how they are ruining the balance sheet. So, let’s take a look at those so-called entitlements. The first things that are attacked are Social Security and Medicare. These are supposed to be self-funding. They would be, too, if our leaders hadn’t raided their funds for so many years to offset the deficits in the general fund. The result is that now these programs are hurting for money, and so they cut Medicare payments. There are myriad Medicare recipients who cannot get medical care, because Doctors can’t afford to see those patients at the outrageously low rates Medicare pays.
A very simple fix for this is possible. Currently, there is a maximum income cap on FICA (SS and Medicare) payroll deductions. This was fine when the funds stayed where they were supposed to. By raiding these funds to offset the general fund, they become a de-facto regressive income tax. So, what to do? Immediately remove the income limit on FICA deductions – make all earnings subject to them, and the problem goes away. If at some time in the future, the fund is solvent again, then put the caps back in place, as long as there are protections put in place to protect the color of this money.
The next outrage is military retiree and veteran compensation. We have an all-volunteer military, and have since the Viet Nam war. Yet at no time since then have we ever actually been at peace. Our troops (myself included) have been deploying and engaged in military operations continuously. We are currently engaged in two ill-advised, never-ending wars – Iraq and Afghanistan; worse, we are now also engaged in Libya. So what do our so-called leaders want to do to fix the budget problems in the Pentagon? Scale back operations? NO! Scale back acquisition programs? NO! Too many pork barrel projects and rice bowls to protect.
So, what is their solution? Cut benefits to veterans and retirees. We have given our lives to our country. Those who serve in the military always come out with higher injury and illness rates than the general public because of the inherently dangerous work we do. We are always subject to what our peers are going through right now – endless conflict with no end in sight. Countless dead and even more whose lives are totally destroyed.
We chose to serve, but did not choose these wars. Our so-called leaders did. They must stand up and keep the promises that have been made to us for decades regarding our benefits. Those of us in uniform don’t just work a desk or a factory (I acknowledge the dangers in those too). If our leaders want to keep end-strength where it needs to be, our troops need to be able to trust our leaders. We don’t have any other recourse. Unlike Federal civilians, we don’t have unions or any other protections in the military, and unlike most Federal civilians, we are required to “Go in Harm’s Way”.
So, I think the answers are fairly clear about what our leaders must do:
1) If they are truly serious about cutting the budget, then immediately cut compensation and benefits for all elected officials. Let them operate under civil service guidelines for all benefits including medical and pensions (of which they get two, after only five – yes 5 years). To do anything less shows that they are total hypocrites and must be immediately replaced in 2012.
2) Preserve all military and veteran benefits until ALL other Federal programs, including Congressional budgets, first have been adjusted appropriately.
3) Immediately reduce military operations. The only way to safely reduce the military budget is to reduce operations. This means getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This means leaving Libya to the EU, NATO (other than the US), the UN and the Arab League – they all have militaries, that we have been subsidizing and covering for, since WW II.
4) Change our force posture to one of border protection and sea lane preservation only, as it should be. We must stop being the Police Force for the World.
5) Put guarantees in place to protect benefits and compensation for disabled veterans and military retirees (FULL DISCLOSURE - I fall into this category as a totally disabled military retiree).
If our leaders could actually accomplish these things, we might actually have some faith in them, and might not begrudge cuts to programs we were promised from the day we enlisted (I came in in 1979, when recruiters promised us full, free medical for life).