Unemployment is high. The recovery is steady but slow. Good people are suffering. A high proportion of working Americans have become not-currently-working Americans. Even higher is the proportion of American war veterans who are out of work. Military people who fought for us, lived in peril for us, and survived to come back, are without work.
Earlier this week, the United States Senate took up consideration of a jobs bill for veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Pretty much all sides agreed it was a desperately needed measure. Democrats and Republicans, in a rare instance of bipartisanship, worked together in crafting the measure. At the last minute, key Republicans changed their minds and voted against allowing it to come to a vote.
The filibuster is the favored method in these modern times, which is to say the years following the last Presidential election, to keep popular legislation from going into effect. So the vote was not on the bill itself. 50 votes would have passed that and there were more than 50 votes. The filibuster vote was a vote on whether to vote. It takes 60 votes to get to a vote, if a minority of Senators choose to oppose it. There were only 58 Senators who wanted a chance to vote for jobs for veterans. 40 Senators voted against voting. All 40 who voted against voting were Republicans.
The proposal was to create a Veterans Job Corps. Veterans would be put to work right away on public lands projects. Training centers would be set up to streamline a path into the private sector. It would have cost a billion dollars over 5 years. That would come out to 200 million dollars a year. The Obama administration came up with a way to pay for it.
It seems a number of corporations owe taxes they haven't paid. A lot of those are health care providers and suppliers. A program of collecting those corporate taxes, along with penalties for not paying those taxes to begin with, would have covered the cost.
Republicans, at the last minute, said they objected to the cost, and also objected to making those corporations pay the taxes they owe.
Most everyone agrees the real reason was politics. They didn't want the President of the United States to get any appreciation from veterans and those who support veterans. So they voted no. Nothing personal against veterans, but politics is politics, for Pete sake.
When he isn't behind closed doors with wealthy folks, Mitt Romney expresses impressive empathy for those who are unemployed. In public, when he knows he's on camera, all talk is absent about workers refusing to receive Romney instruction in personal responsibility.
In fact, ads appeared this week, the same week the Senate voted no on jobs for war veterans, showing Governor Romney speaking before an audience of coal miners. The rally was filmed in August in Beallsville, Ohio. The miners don't look happy. That is understandable. Natural gas is getting very inexpensive and utility companies are switching away from coal. That puts a lot of miners out of work. In the ad, Governor Romney accuses the Obama administration of a war on coal. EPA anti-pollution regulations are the campaign target.
The Romney message is complicated by the fact that President Obama has been pushing hard to get technology developed for clean coal, and by the fact that Mitt Romney conducted his own effort against coal mining in Massachusetts when he was governor. "I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people," said Governor Romney, pointing at a coal plant. "And that plant, that plant kills people."
Well, folks do sometimes change positions in politics.
A bigger problem with the Romney coal ads is that the miners have another reason to be unhappy. They were not with Romney voluntarily. They were ordered to show up at the Romney rally, and they lost a day's pay while they were there. Local miners called a radio station to complain, and the station contacted the employer, the Pepper Pike company. Pepper Pike owns Century Coal mines, where the miners work. A company official confirmed that attendance at the Romney rally was mandatory, and that the miners would not be paid.
As with veterans, the unintended message this week carries more truth than what is presented on purpose. Working men and women, veterans, those without jobs, as well as those afraid of losing the jobs they have, are regarded less as human beings to be respected than as advertising objects.
Republicans are playing to a larger audience and their political play has need of theatrical props. Workers and veterans will do just fine.
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This is one of the big problems I have with Democrats: all of their solutions involve choosing the winners and losers and deciding who gets preference over others.
Veterans have a lot of skills and some very useful experience that applies well to corporate culture. Why isn't that enough? Why do we need a federal law that gives them some special status?
And this is one of those issues that Democrats turn into a political issue when Republicans vote against it. "You're going to vote against jobs for veterans?! What's wrong with you?"
Our politicians have way too much time on their hands if this is how they're spending their time.
You articulate well the contemporary conservative position concerning what, if anything, the nation owes to those who risked their lives in combat on our behalf.
If we agree that it would be good to adjust the compensation, we have to decide how to do it. Should we increase the compensation for no further effort? Should we give servicemen preference for public sector work so that they are paid for additional effort? Should we offer incentives for businesses to hire them so that they are paid for additional work for the private sector?
I am not sure what the GOP's plan would be. I was inclined to think that Republicans would prefer to help veterans through improving their employment opportunities instead of simply spending more tax dollars (or doing nothing at all), but perhaps they don't believe that this issue is a priority. It would be impolitic for them to say so, but that's only because helping servicemen is a popular idea.
Perhaps HR will enlighten us.
The plan just voted down in the Senate would have provided immediate jobs in infrastructure to last through training for the private sector.
I think Heathen's outlook is an accurate representation of contemporary conservative thought. He likes US combat veterans. They have done us a great service.
But that's over and conservatives believe our relationship with those who put their lives at risk for us should end with our verbal thanks.
Conservatives are sincere, I think, in saying veterans do not merit "some special status".
You, on the other hand, would have one group given special status under the law. That's the liberal way and I believe that you are also sincere. To you it feels right, but you don't seem to understand that, once again, you are choosing who the winners are; you are choosing who gets preferred status. And you would enshrine it in law.
Because it's the military, you think you can make Republicans look bad who support equal protection. I'm all for holding our teachers and soldiers in high esteem. They do very thankless jobs. I oppose writing laws giving any group of people special treatment. You do not. Got it.
We are motivated by principle; you by your strong feelings for the military. Good for you, but we can't run a nation and we can't write our laws based on your feelings.
As I said, you accurately represent contemporary conservative thought. Republican officials have been, with some exceptions, opposed to additional educational or job training opportunities for combat veterans.
This has also extended to health treatment. The principle apparently applies to 9/11 rescuers as well as military personnel.
Republican lawmakers have consistently supported your position. No special status.
Health problems contracted on behalf of the rest of us join unemployment as a private matter, not to be considered a concern.
Principles do not motivate. Desires do.
In this case, you value maintaining consistency in the law with regard to equal treatment more than you value doing more for veterans. For Burr, it is the opposite. Neither is more noble at face value, so any argument over which desire to pursue should weigh the pros and cons of each.
Moreover, it may be the case that Burr operates according to a principle as well, such as: "Those who serve in the military deserve special treatment of some kind." Would his case be better if he simply expressed himself in terms of principles?
Finally, as I wrote in my previous comment, we can help veterans in a few ways. If you agree with Burr that we should do more, yet you oppose giving veterans training or preference in employment, then you probably are in favor of simply giving veterans more money for their service. (If not, please explain what you would do and how it would not qualify as giving veterans "special status." In fact, please explain how compensating servicemen at all, which I assume you do support, is not "unequal treatment.") If you do not agree with Burr that we should do more, then say so. After all: whether or not we should do more for veterans is the primary issue here; determining what to do is secondary.
I think this is bullsh*t, Ryan*. Of course I can be motivated by principle. But if it makes you feel better, I can have the desire to be a principled person, and I do.
In this case, there is a principle under U.S. law that justice is blind, that we are all equal under the law. I hold that principle to be correct and the pros outweigh the cons.
I don't mind debating the merits of the principle -- or a principle you made up on Burr's behalf -- but his is in direct contradiction with (what I'll call) mine.
But it isn't my principle; it is a principle of classical liberalism, which I think both you and Burr would claim to ascribe to. I don't understand why the principle of equal protection under the law can be tossed out so easily in the name of a new group of individuals whom we want to call favored.
*I don't say that out of any hostility; just trying to make the point as effectively and concisely as I can.
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