On Veterans Day we must stand up to the Debt Commission and reject their recommendations to balance the budget on the backs of our people. At a time when we strive to honor generations of service, the Debt Commissions comes out with draconian cuts that will have drastic consequences for veterans and military families. They must be stopped.
First, a three-year freeze on basic pay, military housing and food allowances, combined with higher charges for health care, will undercut hard-earned benefits. We already have military families stretching every dollar and using food stamps -- why make matters worse in a time of recession? We can't support a first class American military with a third world America budget.
Second, the Democratic Congress and Obama-Biden administration have made bipartisan strides to send veterans to college, put veterans to work, reduce homelessness, and enhance the social safety net. All of these efforts are undercut by slashing "non-defense" spending. For instance, let's look at the scourge of homelessness. A homeless assistance program pledged to help all those Americans living under bridges and begging for food -- veterans and civilians alike -- may be funded by HUD or USDA, and reach many veterans yet not be considered "security" funding. In addition, a veterans focused assistance organization like San Francisco's groundbreaking Swords to Plowshares operates thanks in part to VA and HUD grants. HUD funding would not be deemed "security" by the Debt Commission yet it is just as vital to assisting those who defend America's security interests around the world. [For more examples (and groups you can help), visit the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans here]. This 'you're on your own' (yoyo) economics hurts veterans and must be rejected.
Third, slashing Social Security and raising the retirement age will have a harsh impact on all workers in physical labor jobs -- and obviously that includes our veterans. Imagine fighting for your country; coming home to work in physically demanding jobs; then being "thanked" by delayed retirement for another two years? Just ask the tradespeople and their advocates such as Helmets To Hardhats -- this Work Till You Drop recommendation shows little regard for people who work for a living and who know that retirement delayed is retirement denied.
What is to be done? America's working families must organize with veterans service organizations and seniors advocates to reject this you're on your own approach to veterans and military families embodied in the Debt Commission recommendations. We must stand together and fight plans to freeze military pay and non-discretionary spending on the social safety net, especially for returning and homeless veterans, cut Social Security, and raise the retirement age.
We must remember that American got into debt with unfunded tax cuts, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Wall Street Crisis causing Main Street meltdowns. In order to come out we must pay for any tax cuts, wind down the wars, reform the financial institutions and big banks that still wreak havoc on consumers, pay back the Social Security trust fund and maintain the retirement age. On this day as we honor our veterans let's keep our promises to them and the country they serve. Opposing the Debt Commission cuts is an act of policy and patriotism.