Just prior to Veterans Day, Congress appeared to actually find the will to act responsibly and with bipartisan support overwhelmingly passed a veteran's jobs bill. President Obama applied his signature and the legislation is now law. While the feckless media touted this legislation as indication that both sides of the political aisle can work together when it concerns helping the country's military service personnel, this same media didn't bother to highlight the fact that this bill was paid for with already obligated funds; funds for veterans.
According to the White House, "Some 240,000 young vets were out of work in September 2011 alone, and with the Iraq War set to end in two months, a surge of troops will be returning home. And most of them will be looking for work."
The 'VOW to Hire Heros Act' "Would provide veterans with comprehensive transition assistance, ranging from resume writing to an extra year of training for high-demand fields like technology and trucking. In addition, companies would get up to $5,600 in tax credits for each veteran hired, and up to $9,600 for a disabled veteran, as long as he or she has been job hunting for at least six months."
Certainly it's important to help veterans transition to a job when they return home from active duty, but wouldn't it be appropriate for Congress to find funding for this bill in another area besides the elimination of a fee reduction that would have helped other veterans? Yes, apparently Congress believes that veterans should be the ones paying for a veteran's jobs bill:
To cover the cost of the veteran jobs package, Murray and Miller agreed to a provision that will keep in place higher VA loan guarantee fees for veterans who re-use home loan benefits a second time or more. The higher fees, set in 2003, were to expire but will be extended through 2016.
"The tax breaks and jobs programs for veterans would cost just over $1 billion, and would be paid for by extending a fee the Veterans Affairs Department charges to back home loans."
The 'VOW to Hire Heros Act' also contains some other jobs related benefits and will likely help some long-term unemployed vets find some much-needed work, but other veterans fees will not be reduced and corporations will benefit by receiving a hefty tax credit. In essence, veterans are paying corporations to help them get hired. It's also troubling to think that corporations require monetary encouragement to hire veterans who have protected these businesses through their military service.
To pay for this veterans jobs bill, would it have been possible for Congress to impose a fee on hedge funds? Could tobacco or corn ethanol farming subsidies have been cut? Maybe the oil companies could have been forced to pay minimally higher fee for deep water drilling permits. A surcharge on executive bonuses on banks that received taxpayer bailouts may have been appropriate. No, that would have been too divisive, since the GOP would rather see more jobless than higher fees and taxes, and Democrats don't want to anger their large campaign contributors with additional charges. No, both parties agreed that veterans should pay corporations to help veterans land jobs.
This type of legislation where cuts are made in programs helping the poor and middle class is nothing new. Last year Congress cut planned food stamp benefit increases to fund another jobs bill, "Congress decided to pay for part of a $26 billion jobs bill by cutting future food stamp benefits."
And this year Democrats are proposing cutting Medicare to the tune of $400 billion as a sweetener to see if the GOP will raise some taxes. As Thom Hartmann offers, "Why on earth would Democrats put their second-most prized creation on the table for sacrifice -- when everyone knows Republicans aren't going to compromise on raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires no matter what Democrats offer up? Have Democrats not learned their lesson yet?" It's obvious that Democrats have not learned their lessons and feel it's easier to chop social programs than to reduce unbridled defense spending, corporate welfare and demand that corporations pay taxes on trillions in off-shored profits.
In fact, the current veteran's jobs bill contains an elimination of a proposed withholding tax, "Erasing the withholding requirement for contractors would reduce federal revenues by an estimated $11.2 billion over the coming decade. It would be paid for by making it harder for some elderly people to qualify for Medicaid by changing the formula used to determine their eligibility." The result is that contractors benefit at the expense of the elderly.
The GOP is adamant about not cutting an $816 billion defense budget, or taxing the wealthy appropriately, but when it comes to cutting SNAP (food stamp) benefits, they want dramatic cuts: "Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want to rein in the programme's runaway growth. In their budget outline for next year they proposed cutting the amount of money to be spent on food stamps by roughly a fifth from 2015." The article continues: "It is also hard to argue that food-stamp recipients are undeserving. About half of them are children, and another 8% are elderly." The reason for the rapid cost growth is continued high unemployment and declining wages, which leads to an increase in poverty.
The latest Census poverty report shows that 49 million Americans, a new record, currently live in poverty. Another alarming economic reality offered by the New York Times is that, "100 million people -- one in three Americans -- either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it."
If both parties in Congress can agree on one item it's that it's easier to reduce benefits for the poor and middle class, and veterans in the case of 'VOW to Hire Heros Act', than to place any burden on the mega-wealthy, the connected class, large highly profitable corporations, or bloated government agencies.
As the Iraq War veteran at this link realizes, the enemy has changed, "I am a 27-year-old veteran of the Iraq War. I enlisted to protect the American people, but ended up making profits for politically connected contractors. I returned to a country whose economy had been devastated by bankers with the same connections and the same lack of ethics. It might be cliché by now, but this is the second time I've fought for my country and the first time I've known my enemy. I am the 99%."
It's not surprising that Occupy Wall Street protests across the nation have taken the argument for economic justice to the streets, since economic justice is not being found in the halls of Congress.