Monday, May 28, 2012

Burdening our grandchildren with debt

"Conservatives" are fond of saying that social welfare programs, including Social Security and Medicare, impose an undue financial burden on future generations and must be cut, or better yet, eliminated, to protect the financial well-being of our children and grandchildren.  Well, I have an alternative suggestion for them - - how about we just stop sending our young men and women in the military off to fight unnecessary wars and use the resulting savings to fund programs that improve the lives or out most vulnerable citizens, including the disabled and elderly?

War is expensive business but of course it makes a few people very rich, so we seem to keep starting them in order to keep the cash flowing to those companies that make billions from supplying the munitions and supplies that fighting a war requires.  But here's my point, the cost of fighting the war is only a small fraction of the total cost of the war, because all of those wounded, damaged and broken soldiers that come home from the battle field need extensive, and expensive, medical care, probably for the rest of their young lives.  And guess who has to pay for that care - not the corporations that profited from their sacrifice certainly; no, that cost is borne by the taxpayers of the nation that so callously sent them in harm's way.  And so it should be.

Today's news featured a report that 45% - NEARLY ONE-HALF - of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking compensation for service-related injuries.  The report calls that figure "staggering" and it is.  Disability claims are coming in faster than the government can handle them.  As a spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) (an organization with which I am affiliated) said, "You just can't keep sending people into war five, six, or seven times and expect that they're going to come home just fine".

The cost of caring for veterans rises for several decades and peaks 30 to 40 years later - estimates for the health care and disability of the recent (unnecessary) wars range from $600-$900 BILLION. The report suggests that, "it's very plausible many people will feel we can't afford these benefits we overpromised".  Well, that would just be a crime, to my way of thinking.

So here's my suggestion to "Conservatives" - how about we stop sending young men and women to fight unnecessary wars and use the resulting savings to fund Social Security, Medicare and other programs that support those in need?

Today is Memorial Day, when we remember and honor those who gave their all for their country. Ironically, they are our cheapest veterans - it's the ones who survived but came home injured that need our continuing support.  Their benefits were not "overpromised", they were earned and we can best honor the service of those who died by taking care of those who survived, and by not sending any more into harm's way just to benefit those who profit from their sacrifice.

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