Friday, May 23, 2014

VA Hospital Scandal: The political right's "underfund-and-blame" strategy on full display

Above: In numerous ways, New Deal policy-makers tried to help soldiers & veterans. For example, they improved military & retirement facilities for them, they had pubic job programs for them, they gave them free entertainment opportunities, they created public information posters (like the one above) to support them, and more. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Of the recent VA hospital scandal (deaths resulting from an alleged secret wait list), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said: "Look, it is a management problem, not a money problem. So it's obvious that the management team needs to be changed in order to address this problem" (emphasis added).

However, the Washington Times reported the following, shortly after the VA scandal broke out: "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" (emphasis added).

In 2005, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) "proposed providing $1.98 billion in additional funding for veterans' care. She said VA hospitals were underfunded and overcrowded. 'There's a train wreck coming,' Murray warned." Murray's warning makes sense because the U.S. has an aging Vietnam Veteran population, and has had many soldiers return home from extended tours of duty in the very lengthy Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Republicans, of course, rejected increased funding. Laughably, "Republicans denied that the VA facilities had such serious problems. They noted that the Bush administration had said the additional funding wasn't needed and that it had enough money to cope with emergencies." My God, how many times was the Bush Administration wrong? (Weapons of mass destruction, Iraquis welcoming us, oil paying for the war, etc.--all ridiculous lies and/or egregious miscalculations.)

This is the typical strategy of right-wing politicians. They de-fund or under-fund government programs and, when bad results occur, they point the finger at the government and say, "See, I told you big government was bad!" Why do they do this? Because if they can convince the public that the problem is "big government" incompetence--and not their deliberate underfunding--they will be more likely to keep taxes low for their right-wing millionaire & billionaire campaign contributors, and also more likely to convince Americans that public services should be privatized (which will benefit already-wealthy corporate executives & investors, and harm everyone else). We are seeing this political tactic--or similar tactics--being used against medical care for veterans, the Post Office, our national parks, and more. But if the American public does not recognize, and then fight back against this underfund-and-blame strategy, then many more people--including our soldiers and veterans--will be harmed for political gain.

What we really need is a New Deal for our soldiers and veterans--not charity, and not privatization for the benefit of the already-wealthy. And certainly not political gamesmanship by a party whose sole purpose is to sabotage government for the sake of keeping taxes low on their political sugar daddies. 

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