These Aren't Toy Soldiers

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This post should have been up last night. Long story.

Given that, thanks to Balloon Juice, who thanks Obsidian Wings for this post. As Cole on Balloon Juice says, my first reaction was "this has me so god damned mad I can’t even write a restrained and reasonable post."

But I did some thinking about it, and am basing my response on what I know Executives do to budgets at the State and Federal level, drawing on my experience as a lobbyist. It is equally infuriating and equally depressing, but I see why it is happening, or at least it's what I think is going on. To set the stage for those of us who are a little lazy to click the links:

Iraq War veteran Christopher Carbone said he wouldn't mind a decrease in his medical benefits if it meant that additional federal dollars would be used for armored Humvees on the battlefield.

But Carbone, a survivor of an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in October 2005, couldn't help being a little jarred when he learned the Bush administration planned to cut funding for veterans' health care by 2 percent in 2009 in order to balance the federal budget by 2012.

"It's kind of surprising," Carbone, 28, of North Haledon, said Monday. "It's one of those things that you always expect to be taken care of after everything you do." (...)
That's where my blood begins to boil. To the men and women who are shot, blown up, depressed, etc., we at least owe them the resources to become whole, or as close to whole as they can become. I disagree with the Chairman's explanation and thoughts on what this surprising cut means.
The proposed cuts are unrealistic in light of recent VA budget trends, sowing suspicion that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better, critics say.

"Either the administration is willingly proposing massive cuts in VA health care," said Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, chairman of the panel overseeing the VA's budget, "or its promise of a balanced budget by 2012 is based on completely unrealistic assumptions."
OK. Maybe I can see that this Administration might base something on unrealistic assumptions. They kinda have that track record. But I don't think they are willingly proposing massive cuts in VA healthcare.

A common tactic from the Executive level when introducing a budget proposal is to cut deep into some sacred cows. You do some sacred cows of your opposition party to show solidarity within your own, and you do some of your own to provide political cover to your own party for them to support a program that may not be possible to pay for without cutting the opposition's sacred cows.

So Bush proposes a cut to VA benefits. This throws people into fits while at the same time forcing them to vote for increases in the VA and DOD budgets that they may not have otherwise. It provides cover to the Rs to go the way the President needs them to go; it allows them to "buck the President" and become hometown heroes by restoring funding to VA benefits. It's good for the Rs because it allows them to again separate themselves from the Prez and add it to the "stuff they've done right." It allows the Ds to beat the shit out of the Prez a little more, but it certainly diverts their attention away from the Rs in Congress.

Thus, the plan all along is to fully-fund VA benefits. Other stuff is going to have to get cut to do that, and the Ds will suffer themselves some of their own sacred cows so they don't have to cut VA benefits. The Rs get to buck the Prez, show some leadership, and also increase VA benefits. The Prez? He gets an increase in VA benefits on his watch. Everybody wins, and the Rs may come out a little on top in that the Ds may have to cut some other Really Important Programs in order to fund the VA benefits.

The depressing part here is the field the game is being played on. They're not cutting Bridges to Nowhere or corn production studies at Mid-West Universities. They are playing an unbluffable poker game on the backs of our troops that got broken. In my mind it is more cynical and shameful that a common budgetary game is being played on the emotional ties of the troops and their families who want to see them fixed. A game of this magnitude, on the backs of these types of programs, have devastating results. Play this game with Corn Studies. Then, a grad student has to wait a little longer before she gets her project funded. This poker game takes a while to resolve itself. Given the time it takes, this is what happens.

Sad, and infuriating.


Mike 12:22 PM  

Just impossible for me to talk rationally about this.

Political cynicism is one thing. But this . . . ?

Smitty 3:40 PM  

That's sort of the point. That cynicism is one thing, but this is a new low...a low low. It seems that to the admin, all of this is some sort of power struggle game. In their world, there are no consequences. We're all little wooden chess pieces. "Oh well. Lost another pawn."

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