We are about half way through the year. The Presidential election process for 2016 is underway with a myriad of candidates. The budget is supposedly being worked out and there are a lot of questions which the budget could answer, but probably won’t.
A few years ago, sequester became a reality. Mitch McConnell has claimed that was a major victory for the Republican Party. But, as always, things have changed since then. We have seen the rise if ISIS in the middle-east. We have seen the Ukraine problems and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
These have all sent the war hawks into a tizzy. They ask: “How are we expected to fight all these things with the Defense Department hampered by sequester?” So, the new budget being proposed by Republicans in Congress will increase the Department of Defense budget by about 9 percent.
Unfortunately, that increase isn’t really going into the Defense Budget. It is a gimmick where the money is going into a special fund used to “fight wars.” That is a whopping $38 Billion dollars. In the meantime, non-defense spending is supposed to remain under sequester.
We have seen a tragic accident on Amtrak. Yet, under a bill just passed by the House, Amtrak’s budget is going to be cut by $242 million. TSA has made the headlines because of failed tests of the screening they do at airports. Yet, under sequestration, the TSA budget has been regularly cut.
Since the report of the tests became public, Republicans, the very party that insisted on TSA in the first place, now say it would be more efficient to turn it back over to the same private security that failed on 9/11. By the way, when a Republican says something would be more “efficient” what they are really saying is “cheaper.”
In the past few years, we have seen bigotry raise its ugly head again. It isn’t just about black and white anymore either. It is about sexual orientation, it is about immigration, it is about women’s rights. The same Republican Party that claims to defend the Constitution is working tirelessly to void rights to these groups of people simply because they are different.
If you just look at immigration, you can see the total hypocrisy in their arguments. People like Ann Coulter say immigration, of any kind, should be stopped. She doesn’t just hate undocumented immigrants, she hates legal immigrants, too. Yet she is more than happy to show up on an immigrants news network to spew forth her hatred for immigrants. Yes, I am talking about Fox News which is owned by an immigrant.
Since the 1970s we have seen our infrastructure start falling apart. Our roads are overcrowded and dangerous. Our bridges are collapsing underneath us. Our dams are in danger of collapse. Our electrical grid is antiquated and just waiting for the next trigger to cause a major blackout.
For example, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted, and got passed the Interstate Highway System. He used public money and said it was for Defense purposes. Having such a highway system, he argued would make it easier to transport troops in times of need. Yet, that very highway structure supposed to make it easier to transport troops is so overburdened that it almost useless.
Additionally, our railroad system is suspect as well. Look at all of the train derailments we have had just in the last couple of years. This country lags the rest of the developed world in high-speed rail systems. As a matter of fact, we DON’T HAVE a high-speed rail system. These all hurt our economy as well. We don’t transport our goods as fast as we should.
To make matters worse the only export business being conducted by our corporations, supported by Republican policies, is to export our jobs to China and other foreign countries. All the while taking advantage of tax loopholes in the tax code so they don’t have to pay any taxes in this country. Over half of the Fortune 500 companies in this country pay nothing in taxes!
We lead the developed world in the number of uninsured people, even with the Affordable Care act. We are at the bottom of the developed world in terms of pensions and care for our retired people. And, we are forced to work longer, because of our poor pensions, than anyone in the developed world.
The EPA is, as usual, under fire because it wants to do its job and protect our drinking water and the air we breath. It wants to protect our planet’s climate. Republicans claim climate change is a hoax. Yet, the one department’s budget they want to defend the most, the Defense Department, has said that climate change is a severe threat to our national security!
Yet, all of these things are being sacrificed in the name of the Defense Budget. We must remember, as Republicans tell us, we live in very dangerous times. We must be prepared to defend ourselves from those evil people in the world. That may all be true. But, as a veteran, I am compelled to ask a simple question. What exactly are we defending?
Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that treats its own people like they are the enemy? Why should anyone be willing to put their lives on the line for a country that is willing to throw away any injured veteran?
We always hear Republicans talk about “American Exceptionalism.” What is so exceptional about a country that says it costs too much to ensure everyone has health coverage? What is so exceptional about a country that treats minorities like they are second-class citizens with no civil rights? What is so exceptional about a country that treats its elders like they should just die off and make things cheaper for the survivors?
What is so exceptional about a country that asks its young to defend it, and then treats them like some leper when they need the physical and psychological help after fighting in wars? What is so exceptional about a country that allows its infrastructure to collapse possibly killing people when a bridge falls down or a dam breaks? What is so exceptional about a country that had an education system that was the envy of the world only to let it fall off the charts reducing the opportunities for those who graduate from that failing school system?
What is so exceptional about a country whose policies are driving good paying jobs overseas instead of fighting to keep them home? What is so exceptional about a country that allows its working class to fall behind the cost of living while giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and arguing that the minimum wage isn’t necessary?
There is nothing exceptional about any of those things. Yet, that is our reality today. I served my country for 20 years. I have never looked for praise or thanks. I served because I believed I was doing the right thing. I enjoyed my years in the Coast Guard. I help save countless lives which was what I wanted to do. It was a pleasure to serve my country… then.
But, things are a little different now. When I was in the Coast Guard, I served a country that was in favor of better living standards for the poor and elderly. I served a country that was proud of its educational system. I served a country where working class people had bargaining rights that ensured them fair pay for fair work.
I served a country that was fighting against bigotry at home. I served a country where immigrants were welcomed and not spat upon and called names. I served a country that was far closer to that fairy tale of “American Exceptionalism” than the one we live in today. The country I served was not perfect. We had a lot of problems. But, it was different in that it was trying to solve our problems, not just blame someone for those problems.
Yes, all of these items I have mentioned costs money. Yes, taxes may have to go up, especially for the wealthy, if we are to face reality and fix our problems. Yes, civil rights must be more than a slogan or catch phrase. They must be defended for ALL of our citizens.
Immigration policies must be reformed. We must make it more costly for a company to “outsource” our jobs and cheaper for them to keep those jobs here in America. We must ensure our poor and elderly are helped and not criticized for “being takers.” We must protect our environment and our planet’s climate.
If we do all of these things, we will have something to defend.