Monday, September 24, 2012

Excuses, Lies, And Responsibilities

Excuse us if we're a bit slow today. Over the weekend our staff members took a break to recharge their physical, mental, and emotional batteries. We slept in, spent time with family, got out and exercised - even built a bookcase. We did a little work too, as we began to look over Mitt Romney's taxes, which we'll likely tackle tomorrow.

We also ran into a few friends over the weekend, including a veteran of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's what's jokingly called a "short-termer" by at least a few of our more recent veterans, having only spent two tours of duty "over there," one in each foreign nation. Having been deployed overseas more than once, our friend is back home now, but still a part of the Army Reserves.

What amazed us is that he's also thinking about re-enlisting as a full-time soldier and going back for yet another tour of duty. His current employer, fed up with all the time off he's had to give our friend, is making the vet's life a living hell. At least his employer has followed the letter of the law (so far) by holding our friend's job open for him when he returns from his tours of duty, something many employers have not done for other returning members of the military.

How America has treated our veterans over the last decade - especially over the last few years - is more shameful than most Americans know or should accept. We're more than willing to admit, though, that conditions for our returning vets are not nearly as shameful as they were for those who returned after serving during the Vietnam war.

That said, too many Americans - especially those putting party over country like Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns - still aren't willing to work as hard for our service members when they return as our military volunteers have worked for us when we send them "over there."

Last week was a perfect example of this kind of cowardice currently on display in the U.S. Senate.

After helping to craft a bill that would have assisted returning members of the U.S. military to get jobs, rejoin the regular workforce, and help cut the unemployment rate, four Republicans in the U.S. Senate - including Nebraska's own Senator Mike Johanns - decided to block the vote against the same bill they helped create. Each Senator seemed to give different excuses for their changes of heart.

The biggest excuse given was the false claim that the bill wasn't paid for. The bill was indeed paid for, in the same way virtually every bill in Congress is; over time, not all at once. Just as almost no individual pays for a house completely, up-front these days, multi-year government programs are also not paid for up-front, out of the current year's budget. That's not how either business or government is run in America today - and has been the case for longer than the life of anyone reading this commentary.

Both current Sen. Ben Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Kerrey - a veteran himself - were livid at the Republican voting blockade. They each noted that any procedural excuse that was made was something that could have been worked out, had the Congressmen been willing to put the needs of our service members above their slavish devotion to the Republican party.

To us, this sorry episode reminded us that some politicians are willing to act like our service members, fulfilling their responsibilities even when it's hardest - like in an election year, with an economy still struggling upwards.

Others, like Senator Johanns and his chickenhawk Republican cohorts, are still ducking their responsibilities to our military, and their own constituents, because of their fear of the extremists who currently control the Republican Party.

With an atmosphere like this, how any responsible American could vote for a Republican for Congress this year is beyond our understanding.

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