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Stacy Bare

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$1 Billion Proposal, Part III

Posted: 02/22/2012 6:18 pm

This is the third and final blog discussing Obama's $1 billion proposal to put 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years rebuilding our public lands infrastructure. Part one can be read here, and part two can be read here

Is it sustainable? And why would anyone do it?

Spending in America is anathema at the moment. Fears, founded or not, about our deficit crisis, our economy, and our tax rate ripple out from everywhere when new spending is proposed. In this particular case, however, we should be reminded that we have spent billions and billions of dollars on our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effectiveness of these wars, and the good they did or did not serve can be discussed elsewhere.

The reality of the situation is, for the first time ever in our history as a country, we went to war and cut taxes. As a nation, despite millions of dollars spent in the private and public sector on veteran issues, we still find ourselves falling behind with high rates of suicide, unemployment, homelessness, drug use, and depression among other maladies affecting our military family and veteran community. We are all stakeholders, and all have much to benefit from if we can successfully bring our men and women home from war.

The way I see it, we fought for this land. So we have a choice, we can continue to berate Obama for everything he has done on veterans issues, and he has done more for veterans than any other president in the last 50 years in terms of benefits and support, or we can say thank you to the American people and the lawfully elected president, who with this policy seems to be saying, "You know what, after multiple billions of dollars invested in war, I think we should invest a few billion in helping veterans come home." And one of those investments means 20,000 jobs over five years, tax incentives for those who would not otherwise look at a veteran resume, and in the mean time, maybe, just maybe we can keep people employed long enough to begin fixing a lot of the other root problems surrounding veteran employment and other veteran related issues.

Is it sustainable? I think it is. I think in the long run, $1 billion dollars over five years for a jobs package that puts veterans back to work on public lands should be sustainable, especially in light of the billions we've spent on these past two wars. Some detractors have said that 20,000 veterans is not enough in light of the several hundreds of thousands that Obama is 'sending to the unemployment line.' Our current levels of military spending are far less sustainable. Our military is most likely too large for peacetime operations. And the majority of veterans who will be seeking employment should find it in the private and non-profit sectors. We can, however, use the president's proposal as a springboard for encouraging more veterans to find work in outdoor and outside professions, as well as capturing a segment of veterans who may otherwise fall through the cracks.

Let us also remember that this kind of work needs to get done. Since it is important, why not ensure that veterans get the work? Is the work insulting? Hardly. What's insulting about asking a veteran to work in the woods? This is someone who has possibly humped hundreds of miles around Iraq and/or Afghanistan with 60+ pounds on her or his back in the extremes of winter and summer. And what's more, they volunteered to do this when they enlisted in the military for whatever military occupational skill they chose. Many veterans have chosen this kind of work over life in a cubicle already as evidenced by the success of programs that put veterans to work in conservation corps style programming already.

So yes, it is sustainable and I can confidently guarantee that if enacted, 20,000 veteran jobs over five years will be filled by plenty of veterans excited for the opportunity to get back to work.