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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Jobs, Jobs . . . Senate Republicans Keep Vets Unemployed

09/25/12

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“Where is our honor? Where is our valor? Where is our sacrifice?” —Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), leading opposition to Veterans Jobs Corps Act

“I care deeply about the veterans. I care deeply about housing and helping the veterans who have fought for their country.” —Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), assisting the opposition

“This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work. Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on—even in an election year.”Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

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The next time you hear Republican politicians praising “our brave men and women in uniform,” remember that all but 5 G.O.P. senators voted No on the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012. The bill failed, 58–40, on a procedural vote, just two votes short. This bipartisan bill would have provided $1 billion over five years to help up to 20,000 veterans find work in their communities. All Democrats voted for the bill. The Republicans who voted Aye are Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine; Scott Brown (MA); and Dean Heller (NV). Two Republicans did not vote. (In the Obama years, 51 votes is no longer a majority. Because the G.O.P. filibusters all legislation, 60 votes are needed.) Now the Congress is on recess till after election day—the earliest pre-election vacay since 1960—and Republicans will be busy blaming Obama and the Democrats for the underperforming economy.

Now, in the federal budget, $1 billion is not a large amount, and, in our humble opinion, even as a down payment this would be a pathetically small investment when the unemployment rate of veterans is officially 10.9% (certainly higher in fact). Further, this money would have been “paid for”: it would not have added to the federal debt because Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) ensured that funding would have come in part from Medicare providers and suppliers who are delinquent on their tax bills. Remember also that during the George W. Bush years, the enormous costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were never part of the official budget of the United States, but were routinely allocated through “emergency supplementals”. According to the National Priorities Project, costs of these two wars so far total $1.38 trillion (with Iraq at $807.4 and Afghanistan at $570.9 billion). But $1 billion for job training that would help 20,000 veterans, said Republican senator Tom Coburn, was a mere “political exercise” and a waste of time, as the House of Representatives would not pass it anyway.

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

In addition to creating jobs for veterans as police officers, firefighters, first responders, and restorative conservationists, the Veterans Job Corps Act would have also extended the critical Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP provides employment, education and entrepreneurship advice for troops separating from the service, and to veterans and their spouses after they’ve left the military. The VJC would also require states to consider military training and experience in granting credentials and licensure for EMTs, nursing assistants and commercial driver’s licenses.

A New York Times editorial in favor of the bill pointed out:

The bill gives priority to those who served on or after 9/11, with good reason: the jobless rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan hit 10.9 percent in August, compared with 8.1 percent nationally. This is a time of persistent homelessness and unemployment among veterans, and record suicides among veterans and active-duty service members, many of them stressed by the burdens of two long wars. It makes sense for the 99 percent of Americans to find new ways to pay their debt to the 1 percent who serve in uniform. [LNW’s emphasis]

To most people, Senator Murray’s bill would seem like one decent way to do that. But not if you’re one of those Republicans in Washington who thinks it’s more important in an election year to deny Democrats a success or accomplishment of any kind.

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For the last word here, let’s listen to the occasionally candid and revealing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as he gives away the game just before the 2010 mid-term elections:

The single most important thing we [congressional Republicans] want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

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See also:

They Need to Do Their Job: Obama Bitch-Slaps G.O.P. Deficit Hardliners, Hell-Bent Extremists” (LNW 7/1/11)

2001 Bush Tax Cuts: Where the Deficit Began” (LNW 7/20/11)

Arguing about How to Defuse a Huge Ticking Bomb: Burn-it-Down Nihilism Spreads Among Tea-Infused House Republicans” (LNW 7/20/11)

Grinch Wins Plastic Turkey Award: Pentagon Demands Reimbursement of Signing Bonuses from Disabled Vets” (LNW 11/19/07)

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