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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | June 27, 2003

How will servicemembers vote as GOP continues to screw them?

I've never felt comfortable with talk about military personnel being a solid Republican block. I didn't see that when I served.

First of all, most military people I served with (and I was in a combat arms unit -- artillery) were apolitical. I served overseas, so perhaps the hassle of voting absentee made people less likely to participate, but in any case most people didn't bother voting.

Of those who did vote, there were three blocs -- the officer corps, which was very Republican, the southern gun-culture whites, who were also Republican, and the northern whites, all African-Americans, and all Latinos, who were Democrats.

Note that a great percent (if not the majority) of enlisted people come from low-income backgrounds. They are prototypical Democratic voters, and the act of serving didn't change that in any way.

Obviously, the officer corps was more likely to vote than enlisted men and women. So in the end, the political leanings of the military corps came down to the usual culprit -- voter turnout.

But there's a shift -- an important one -- amongst the top military brass. These are men and women who appreciate the social benefits bestowed upon our servicemembers -- benefits like housing and food and an aggressive affirmative action program that ensures we maintain the best trained, highest morale fighting force in the world. They do not appreciate GOP efforts to curtail such programs in the "real" world.

They are also sick and tired of constant deployment, and see the damage that perpetual (and unecessary) war causes with troop morale, reenlistment rates, and the general well-being of their troops. Generals Shinseki and Clark are the highest profile examples of this new outspoken breed of left-leaning top brass, but they are not alone.

And while Republicans and conservatives "support our troops" by putting them in harm's way, with an ill-conceived mission justified by a lies-generating "cabal" of pointy-headed "intellectuals", they also eagerly tear apart the meager social programs that help our veterans after the sacrifice to their nation.

This is not going unnoticed. In the Marine Corps Times, the headline blazes "House Republicans dig in against child tax credit for combat troops." In the Army Times, we get the following editorial (subscribers only):

Nothing but lip service
(Issue Date: June 30, 2003)

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful -- and unnecessary -- including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there's military tax relief -- or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can't seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

Incredibly, one of those tax provisions -- easing residency rules for service members to qualify for capital-gains exemptions when selling a home -- has been a homeless orphan in the corridors of power for more than five years now.

The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.

The Senate version of the defense bill rejects that idea, and would provide minimum 3.7 percent raises for all and higher targeted hikes for some. But the House version of the bill goes along with Bush, making this an issue still to be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.

All of which brings us to the latest indignity Bush's $9.2 billion military construction request for 2004, which was set a full $1.5 billion below this year's budget on the expectation that Congress, as has become tradition in recent years, would add funding as it drafted the construction appropriations bill.

But Bush's tax cuts have left little elbow room in the 2004 federal budget that is taking shape, and the squeeze is on across the board.

This is a key editorial, in a publication read by a large number of Army personnel (I read it religiously while serving). It exposes the "support our troops" hypocrites as creatures worth less than dirt. They LIE to place our troops in harms way. Then they:
  • Refuse to double the $6,000 gratuity to the families of soldiers who die in harms way.

  • They roll back pay increases for troops in harms way.

  • They refuse to pass servicemember-friendly tax provisions, as the GOP's corporate masters get first dibs.

  • They provide meager basic increases for the lower ranks.

  • They cut the Pentagon's building budget (which pays for things such as barracks improvements, bowling alleys and other quality-of-life improvements at military bases, something that was really important to us soldiers), in order to make room for Bush's tax cuts.

In fact, Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee tried to restore $1 billion of the construction money, and proposed paying for it by trimming some of the recent tax cuts for those making more than $1 million. Get this: under Obey's proposal, instead of an $88,300 break, they would've gotten an $83,500 cut.

The Republicans killed the proposal. To Republicans in Congress, $4,800 for their richest benefactors was more important than improving the quality of life of our men and women in uniform.

And those bastards dare to wrap themselves in the flag?

(Every presidential candidate and every elected Democratic official needs to be on the case right now. You have the facts. Use them!)

Posted June 27, 2003 08:19 AM | Comments (115)


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