Monday, September 8, 2008

Supporting the Troops

It has always been a complex world. Most Americans would tell you that it is a more complex world today than it was in 2000, but that's just not true. Many Americans will claim that "everything changed after September 11th," but that's not true, either. The world is the same--it is we who have changed. We're paying a little more attention, right now. Not much, but a little. We're seeing a little bit deeper into the complex interrelations that move world events.

For example, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac (private, for-profit corporations) are being taken over by the US Government amid fears that their collapse would cause a domino effect of financial ruin at home and around the world. According to the NYTimes, the government (you and me) will guarantee Freddy's debt, while allowing shareholders to twist in the wind.

As an American, you might ask, "Whose debt am I guaranteeing? If the vig comes due, who will we--the taxpayer--have to pay? Who has so much pull with our government, that they can request us to take over the largest mortgage companies in the world and guarantee their investment? Especially in a lousy housing market, where the value that debt supports is rapidly shrinking? Who, in other words, does hold my mortgage?"

Answer (from MarketWatch):
The top five foreign holders of Freddie and Fannie long-term debt are China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In total foreign investors hold over $1.3 trillion in these agency bonds, according to the U.S. Treasury's most recent "Report on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities."
$1.3 trillion dollars. At least it isn't a buyout. You and I aren't paying China. We're just guaranteeing their investment in our mortgage industry with our taxes. And, yes, it's the same mortgage industry that's in the toilet right now.

It's complex. Always has been. The point is, things are bad enough right now that we're starting to pay attention. I know I sure didn't care about China buying our debt before a couple of years ago. I don't know if I ever gave it more than a passing thought.

So, back to September 11 and everything changing and, as the title implies, supporting the troops. I don't think I'd find much argument if I said that our military is a little ragged these days. And most people would probably agree that our veterans aren't getting the help they need. If one of your older relatives went to school on the GI Bill -- maybe your Dad or your Grandfather -- you might know that's a lot harder to do now. You might also know phrases you never knew before, like "stop-loss" and "individual ready reserve."

National security has never been more critical or seemed so complex. Many of the first choices and policy decisions our next President will have to make will deal with the health and welfare of our military. If you're in the service, or you know someone who is, you're probably assuming that John McCain is the right man for the job. After all, Republicans support the troops more than Democrats and he served in the military (you might have heard he was a POW). He never hesitates to reiterate his abiding support for our military. I'm writing this post precisely for you. If you think John McCain is the best candidate for the military, then you're using the same logic as a woman who supports Sarah Palin because she, too, has a vagina.

Here are some examples:

In April of this year, the Webb GI Bill came up for a vote in the senate. The Webb bill would have guaranteed veterans a chance to go to college. The original bill, from WWII, could have (and did) put a service member through Yale University. Currently--well, not so much. McCain opposed the Webb bill, which was co-sponsored by Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) would have again made it possible for a soldier to go to college, with thanks from a grateful nation. McCain opposed this bill, saying it would decrease retention. Saying, essentially, that the benefits were too good.

Webb's bill would be expensive--about the same amount of money that we spend in Iraq in 36 hours. According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the WWII bill returned $7 to the economy for every $1 it cost.

It is also the Army's primary recruiting tool.

On the day of the vote, only two Senators couldn't seem to make to the Senate. One was liberal Senator Ted Kennedy, at home recovering from brain surgery. The other was John McCain.

Here are some other dropped balls:

September 2007: John Sidney McCain (JSM) votes against another Webb bill that would have mandated adequate rest for troops between combat deployments (the "Dwell time" bill).

May 2006: JSM votes against providing the VA with $20 million needed for health care facilities; the money would have been provided by closing tax loopholes.

April 2006: JSM joins an elite group of 13 senators (all Republican) voting against $430,000,000 for the Department of Veteran Affairs for Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.

March 2004: Votes against creating a reserve fund -- funded by closing tax loopholes for corporations -- to provide up to $1.8 billion in Veterans' medical care.

October 2003: JSM votes to table (essentially, to kill) an amendment that would have provided $322,000,000 of safety equipment (you know, like body armor) for troops in Iraq, funded by spending that much less on reconstruction.

In April of 2003, he voted to kill an amendment that would have appropriated $1 Billion for National Guard and Reserve Equipment in Iraq to address a shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof insets and tactical vests.
I'm not going to get into a discussion of how McCain voted on the war in Afghanistan or the invasion of Iraq, or how he wants to deal with Georgia or Iran. All I'm trying to say is that if you want to argue for military measures, or you want to say you support the troops, then you should be able to back it up with your voting record--since that's all you've really got.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has kept track of over 160 separate votes since 9/11, and graded every Senator and Congressman on their voting record. John McCain gets a "D."

The Disabled Veterans of America rated McCain at 20% for the 109th Congress.

IAVA and DVA also graded Obama. He got an 80% from DVA and a B+ from IAVA. If you're on the fence about these two guys, and the way they treat our people in uniform is something you're interested in, then I think you should take the evidence of their votes into account. One guy loves to use the military, but isn't interested in taking care of it. The other guy considers force the last resort, and would look after the health of his men.

If you find yourself surprised, and perhaps considering Obama, don't worry. You're in good company. According to the non-partisan Center For Responsive Politics, deployed troops support Obama over McCain 6:1, and he maintains a significant edge among all military personnel.

Our world is a much more complex place than some politicians try to make it seem. But this seems pretty simple to me.


Adam S. said...

Interesting post, but I have to get this out of the way because you mentioned Sarah Palin has a vagina.

"My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina."
"Oh yeah?"
"Yes, they don't like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson."

I was curious about the IAVA and did a little glance at their website. I want you to know I can't find anything wrong with them. It seems to be an organization founded by vets for vets. The thing that stopped me from digging further is that I saw Phillip Carter was one of the founding members. Before he left the Washington Post to work for the Obama campaign, I was a regular reader of his blog Intel Dump. I really liked his analysis on supreme court cases involving gitmo.

I can't bring myself to vote for Barak Obama. I wasn't excited about McCain at all until Sarah Palin got on the ticket. I'm now considering holding my nose and voting McCain. Articles such as yours is going to make that harder.

Thanks for nothing :)

Jim said...


You mean ... coitus?

I'd love to have a conversation about why you can't bring yourself to vote for Obama. The right likes to broad-brush him, but I think I can make your decision even harder if you give me a chance with an open mind.

Jim said...


If you credit IAVA, here's a further breakdown. I think Carter just found himself following his own math.

Senate Dems worst grades:
C (Menendez, NJ)
C (Chaffee, RI)

Senate Dems best grades:
A- (13 Senators)

Senate Republicans worst grades:
F (Sessions, AL)
F (Isakson, GA)
F (Vitter, LA)
F (Burr, NC)
F (Inhofe, OK)
F (DeMint, SC)

Senate Republicans best grades:
C (2 Senators)

Joementum and Sanders (VT), Independents, both scored B+

My homestate senators:
Snowe (R) C
Collins (R) C-

Barth said...

I am glad to have been directed to this site, since this post is outstanding. Sad. But right on point and posted on the right day for it.

Barth said...

But, Chaffee, no longer in the Senate, was a Republican. He supports Sen Obama today, but he and his family have always consierd themselves Republicans.