Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our soldiers & veterans need a New Deal, not the crummy treatment they've been receiving

 (This is one of many WPA posters created during World War II that reminded Americans to keep quiet about war secrets and shipping routes.....for the sake of our soldiers and defense industry workers. Image provided courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

During the 1930s and 40s, New Deal policy-makers tried to support soldiers & veterans. For example, World War I veterans were allowed to serve in the CCC (a work program primarily focused on young men), WPA workers improved living, working, and training facilities for active duty soldiers, WPA orchestras provided free concerts, and more.

As America has turned away from New Deal policies & ethics, and instead embraced the policies & ethics promulgated & practiced by Corporate America (e.g., tax breaks for the rich, greed, fraud, white collar crime, financial deregulation, harsher bankruptcy laws for individuals, plutocracy, etc.), we have turned vicious towards our soldiers & veterans. Consider the following ten examples:

1. Illegally foreclosing on their homes

See, for example, "Bank Of America Will Pay $20 Million For Illegal Foreclosures On Active-Duty Soldiers" (Business Insider, 6-4-2011)

2. Cheating them on student loans

See, for example, "Sallie Mae, Navient To Pay $139 Million Settling Probes Into Cheating Troops On Student Loans" (Huffington Post, 5-13-2014)

3. Blocking employment programs

See, for example, "Senate GOP blocks veterans jobs bill" (CBS News, 9-20-2012)

4. Practicing employment discrimination against them

See, for example, "Veterans' unemployment -- a national disgrace" (CBS News, 5-18-2012) 

5. Cutting off their unemployment benefits

See, for example, "Emergency Jobless Benefits Cut-Off Has Hit Nearly 200,000 Veterans and Counting" (Huffington Post, 2-28-2014)

6. Reducing their food assistance

See, for example, "Nearly 1 Million Vets Face Food Stamps Cut" ( News, 10-29-2013) 

7. Blocking their access to quality health care

See, for example, "284,000 Uninsured Veterans May Miss Out On Medicaid Coverage If 25 States Reject Expansion: Study" (Huffington Post, 3-27-2013) Note: Republican-managed states did indeed reject Medicaid expansion.

8. Underfunding their medical services

See, for example, "A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list" (CNN, 4-30-2014) Note: This story is still developing, but the political right, of course, is labeling this as a problem of "big government" incompetence (see, e.g., here). This is a typical tactic of the political right. They work towards underfunding government programs and then, when bad results occur due to that underfunding, they cry out "See, I told you! Big government is bad!" In turn, they use such problems to further cut funding for the "incompetent"  government, thereby justifying more tax cuts for their donors and more privatization contracts for their big business buddies. And indeed, the Washington Times reports: "Dr. Sam Foote, the first whistleblower to come forward about the secret paper lists, said the hospital is understaffed and underfunded. 'The main problem in Phoenix is there’s a horrendous mismatch between demand for care and ability to provide it,' Foote said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon." 

9. Threatening their disability payments

When Republicans and Tea Partiers shut down the federal government in October of 2013, in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), the following was reported: "Government Shutdown: Veterans, Families May Not Receive Disability And Pension Checks, VA Chief Warns" (Huffington Post, 10-9-2013) 

10. Letting debt collectors harass them

See, for example, "Debt Collectors Have Harassed Thousands Of Military Servicemembers Over Nonexistent Debts" (ThinkProgress, 3-11-2014)

So, considering the crummy treatment highlighted above, don't you think it's time for a New Deal for our soldiers & veterans?  

(A WPA poster promoting remembrance, gratitude, and respect for our veterans. Image provided courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(The WPA created Baltimore National Cemetery, a beautiful and final resting place for many of our soldiers & veterans. Photo by Brent McKee, 2011.)

 (The WPA helped put together the 75th anniversary event for the Battle of Antietam. Above, we see a Union veteran and a Confederate veteran shaking hands during the event. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

(A WPA airport project in Frederick County, Maryland--probably at Fort Detrick. The WPA improved many facilities for our soldiers; so much so that Brigadier General Michael F. Davis said: "Much more than one-half of America's airport construction has been the work of the WPA. Runways have been laid; buildings have been erected; utilities have been reconditioned; drainage systems have been installed. Nests for America's warbirds have taken shape out of raw fields and meadows. Hamilton Field, whose fighter-planes guard the vital San Francisco Bay area, has felt the drive of the WPA...Hamilton Field dips its wings in tribute to the WPA" (radio transcription, 1941, National Archives, Record Group 69, Records of the Work Projects Administration.))

 (The WPA created many posters reminding citizens to conserve resources during World War II. Such conservation helped our soldiers during those dangerous times. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(The Scott Building, on the campus of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The WPA did extensive repair and modernization work at the Retirement Home during the 1930s, and the facility still serves our veterans today. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)  

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