Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Soldiers & Veterans Need A New Deal

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

It can be argued that America has never fully respected or appreciated its veterans and soldiers (think about black soldiers who served their country and then faced segregation when they returned home). But at least New Deal policymakers tried to push us in the right direction. World War I veterans were accepted into the Civilian Conservation Corps, WPA workers improved facilities & living areas for soldiers, and there were various New Deal activities to assist in the war effort (e.g., WPA collection of scrap metal and rubber).

Today, the story is quite different. Big banks have illegally foreclosed on soldiers, debt collectors are targeting soldiers for harassment, the 2013 government shutdown delayed the processing of veteran disability benefit applications, and in 2012 Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have created a new CCC-type program for unemployed veterans. With respect to the latter, unemployed veterans would have worked in our national park system which, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, has a maintenance backlog of about $11 billion. It would have been a win-win situation.  

In the past few years, the suicide rate has risen sharply for young veterans. Why do you think that has happened?

(WPA workers building new living quarters for non-commissioned officers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Harford County, Maryland, 1939. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

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