As a Korean War veteran I know firsthand and understand the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. I authored the Universal National Service Act because I believe that everyone in America should contribute to the greater good of America. As a young man lying wounded in Korea I understood my country would take care of me. I did not know how to put it in words back then but I knew it was an inherent part of being in the military. And it was true. I went to college and law school with the help of the GI Bill. That experience moved me so much I dedicated the rest of my life to serving this great country and helping others succeed.
Now that I am a little bit older I can better articulate what I inherently knew while in combat in Korea. The "second social contract" settles the relation between society, government and the armed forces. Whether implied by society or promised by our nation to men and women who join the military, such as specific benefits during retirement, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen -- agree to put aside their own needs for the needs of America. They make great sacrifices and are in return entitled to the government's and society's support. Furthermore, they can expect to only be sent to war once reasons for their deployment are carefully weighed. That is the contract we live by.
The reduction in our service members' retirement pay is a breach of this covenant -- the covenant made between the military and those they protect. This covenant is more important than ever because it is the foundation of an all volunteer force or more accurately, our all recruited force. And those recruits were given promises and signed contracts. Today so few sacrifice their lives to protect us and our freedoms -- less than 1 percent of America serves in the Armed Forces. If the United States government will not keep its word to our service members, who will we keep our word to?
It is clear the pledge made to Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform is stronger for some in Congress than the pledge they have made to our troops. It is absolutely reprehensible that the richest country in the world will not keep its promises to its voluntary military. Some in Congress would rather cut the benefit of those who have just spent 10 years fighting for you than increase revenue. It is more important that our nation keep its promises to the 1 percent who fight than to the 1 percent at the top of the tax bracket. Without the 1 percent who fight; there wouldn't be a top 1 percent of any tax bracket.
In a world where the top tax rate has been cut again and again from 92 percent in the 1950s to 39.6 percent in 2013 with many in the top tax bracket now paying a mere 14 percent because they know how to work the laws to their advantage. In a world where the top 1 percent own 40 percent of everything and the top 10 percent owning 81 percent of everything, a world where America is still the richest country on earth by far -- having a $16 trillion a year economy -- you are telling me we can't keep our promises to our men and women in uniform? Nonsense. It is not a matter of money. It is a matter of priorities.
America has broken this covenant before. In 1781, most of the Continental Army was demobilized without pay. Veterans surrounded Congress and Congress fled until the Veterans were dispersed. In 1932 over 43,000 WWI Veterans marched on Washington demanding bonuses promised them. They were driven off The Mall, and their shelters burned. Later, Congress paid the Veterans.
If members of Congress who have not served believe the men and women who are fighting and dying in America's longest war have "too good a deal," perhaps they should sign up. At the very least they should keep the promises made to this generation and see if the next generation of the all volunteer service will volunteer for less.
It is tragic that we repeat these mistakes. After the threat of war is gone we should not turn our backs on the men and women who eliminated that threat. We should embrace them and keep our promises we made to them.