I want to draw attention to an article by Barbara Ehrenreich of The Progressive
. It can be found here
When I first heard the discussions surrounding the events that transpired in Fallujah, I immediately thought about how our own government is treating wounded soldiers who return to the US to find they have to pay for their medications, hospitalizations, and prostheses. I was unaware of how little they were paid and was shocked to learn that some 25,000 are receiving food stamps because of their financial situation.
Frontline battle troops, most of whom have been in the military for about a year, earn less than $16,000 a year--which puts them at about the level of theater ushers and Wal-Mart clerks. Even second lieutenants, at a starting salary of $26,000 a year, earn less than pest control workers and shoe repairers. So when the Bush Administration, in its frenzied rush to transfer more wealth to the already wealthy, hurts the working poor, you can count the troops among them. The 2003 Bush tax cut for the rich, for example, failed to extend a child tax credit to nearly 200,000 military personnel.
Bush has an appalling record when it comes to benefits for military personnel and veterans. Ehrenreich continues:
You might imagine that our "war President," as he styles himself, would be in a rush to enrich the frontline troops, but last August his Administration proposed to cut the combat pay bonus of $150 a month. Somebody must have pointed out that an election year was just around the corner, because this little trial balloon was quietly punctured. In fact, the 2005 budget offers to double the military death benefit received by families of the fallen from $6,000 to $12,000.
Sounds good. In fact, it may make death financially preferable to surviving in a damaged state. Bizarrely enough, veterans' disability benefits are deducted from their military retirement pay, giving the wounded a powerful incentive to die while they're young. The sorry condition of VA health services seems designed to accomplish the same thing, and those services are about to get a lot more inaccessible. In his 2005 budget, Bush proposes to raise veterans' health care costs--through increased drug co-payments and a new "enrollment fee"--thus driving an estimated 200,000 vets out of the system and discouraging another million from enrolling.
I think it is time that we hammer Bush on veterans' issues and on support of the military. If this administration can afford to "outsource" military jobs to private firms like Blackwater Security which then pays its "contractors" $1000 per day, it can certainly afford to increase benefits to the front line troops.
Is this any way to show support for the US military? It makes me wonder if use of private "security firms" is merely a step towards full privatization of the military. Given the choice of food stamps or $1000 per day, which would you prefer?