Getting tired of the media parroting the Beltway line.... how is it going to be “paid for?” Answer: They did already!
A few courageous Senators and House members understood the singling out of military pensioners for a 1% COLA cut by Congress in the last budget deal was bad policy, harms those who earned their pensions and induces bad morale within the active duty ranks. As everyone is keenly aware of the COLA cut had nothing to do with trying to contain budget profligacy but everything to do with satisfying the ego of a few people in Congress and in the White House. These folks want to penalize military pensioners and their families in the most mean spirited way. Luckily, some in Congress have let it leak out they are venturing to reverse the cut and perhaps soon.
This is all good but unfortunately, we have a long history of misguided economic policy making. Democrats and Republicans alike have latched onto the idea that if you wish to advance a bill, there must be an offset somewhere else in the budget. In other words, someone else will be made to suffer as a result of the offset. Hardly a workable premise with a very divisive Congress.
“Paid for” policy making in Washington parlance is having a huge affect on active-duty, veterans and people that are concerned about national security. The roots of this had their origins in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). The White House and Congress signed off on a reprehensible federal statute to trim department budgets, and most importantly, to take a whack at federal workers. Since 2009, federal workers have suffered a gauntlet of attacks to their salaries through sequestration and COLA freezes. All told federal civil servants have lost billions of dollars in earnings. This worked according to BCA plans.
Another “paid for” target in the BCA, which is now becoming clearer, is military personnel and veteran retirees. Many millionaire Washington elites think our troops and retired vets are paid too much and have too many benefits and they should be scaled back. By design, the “paid for” bill authors intended to squeeze the Department of Defense (DoD) budget so tight the Service Chiefs would have to make “tough choices” – keep your hardware or slash your personnel budgets, which also includes TRICARE and pensions funds. It took the Service Chiefs a New York minute to decide – hardware would be spared and sacrifice personnel and retiree funds.
Naturally, this presents an ugly dilemma. Congress and the White House skillfully boxed in the Service Chiefs to make that decision. The Secretary of Defense, Service Chiefs, bean counters, etc, are now bellowing loud and clear, “legacy” costs need to be constrained. Compensation and benefits are out of control. In all honesty, they know these costs are not out of control. Our out-of-touch friends, who are immune from the cuts, are masking the fact what they really want is for our troops and veteran retirees to go the way the rest of the nation – low wage and unequal. Decimating the financial well being of veterans and active duty personnel is now a Washington hallmark.
The most unconscionable part of this recent budgetary gamesmanship is the behavior of General Martin Dempsey (CJCS) and the members of the Joint Chief of Staff for their lack of conviction to not play the Washington game of pitting one group against another. Active-duty, retirees and many others were startled to hear on Nov 7, 2013, the Service Chiefs were OK with the COLA cuts and reductions in compensation and benefits to control costs. The JCS unequivocally favored plowing those savings from cuts back into hardware programs. What many of us were counting on them to say was: salaries, pensions and health care funding are non-negotiable. End of story. Instead, we got a bunch of yes men kowtowing to power. If these guys dont stand up for our troops, who will? Sure, the wars are winding down and scaling back is necessary, provided it is done in a humane and decent way.
The real scandal is the Washington elite dont want to own up to the fact the government borrowed over $1 trillion dollars (and counting) to fund two wars. The government does not know the costs in dollar terms of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Estimates are provided by outside advocacy groups. Washington uses all sorts of budget games to push war costs into other budgets (and onto military families) so as not to alarm the public of the total. They now want to move these debts somewhere else. Lets be clear, the cost of the wars will grow into the trillions of dollars as time marches on. History cannot all of sudden be erased as some in Washington wish.
Another tragedy unfolding is the Service Chiefs are trying to keep their eye on the now, the future. This is not gong to work. You cannot be OK with slashing COLA, pay raises, health care costs and not expect to have a serious impact elsewhere.
What the White House, Congress and JCS failed to calculate on during their backroom budget deal making is the “total force” includes active duty, their family and......veterans. We will take swift, unrelenting action when we see unfair deal making. Even us old guys who are retired will not sit idly by letting misguided, ideologically driven policy wreck our military. A broken military is unthinkable.
People in Washington who favor war cannot now renege on those men and women (and families) who sacrificed so much. They “paid for” it already.