Presidential candidate Senator Lindsey "I will drone you" Graham has given a slobbery wet kiss of approval to another giant legislative "screw you" to U.S. servicemen and women. It's not the first time, and I doubt it will be the last under the South Carolina Republican's tenure on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
As reported by Brendan McGarry in Military.com, the SASC's nine-member Subcommitte on Personnel, which Graham chairs, recently approved a disastrous plan to privatize military pensions while gutting a modest pay increase for active duty personnel--a plan that had already received almost unanimous bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
What a shock--not! Once again, the Senate Armed Services Committee gives a giant hosing to the people they're supposed to be looking out for. This has become such a common occurrence, I'm beginning to wonder whether they're secretly on Alex Jones's payroll.
Not long ago, Graham and his Republican cronies killed the $1 billion Veterans Job Corps Act, which would have helped returning vets retrain for civilian employment. (Veterans currently have the highest rate of unemployment and suicide of any demographic in the U.S.) Instead, they chose to give that $1 billion to BAE and General Dynamics to develop the useless, doomed GCV (Ground Combat Vehicle) program, which the Army eventually got sick of and cancelled due to budget overruns and technical failures. (Why waste $1 billion helping returning vets find jobs when we can use that money to enrich defense contractors with projects that never even make it off the ground?)
Now, the SASC is offering what amounts to a slap in the face by suggesting a measly 1.3% pay raise (I use "pay raise" in its loosest possible sense)--a downgrade from the slightly more reasonable 2.3% already approved by the House--which they justify by saying their "hands are tied" due to things like budget cuts and sequestration. Blah, blah, blah.
I've often wondered how they can walk, with balls that big. When I was married as a young submariner, the first thing my chief told me was how to apply for foodstamps and WIC, because it was impossible to support a family on what I was making at that time, even with sub pay and hazardous duty pay. That was 20 years ago. Nothing has changed. Much as the bureaucrats in Washington love to spend billions on defense contracts, and much as they like to send us in harm's way, they're still notorious cheapskates when it comes to pay.
According to the Pentagon and the SASC, the lower 1.3% pay raise will save taxpayers $4 billion over the next five years compared with the 2.3% pay raise. They say this with a perfectly straight face and a furrowed brow, as if we're supposed to take them seriously after they spent $9 billion on the Navy's fleet of lightly-armed puddle skippers called "littoral combat ships" that look cool, but are essentially useless in a heavy engagement.
Perhaps they need that extra $4 billion to help defray the cost of the F-35, which is still lethally unreliable, and which is expected to exceed $300 billion, or over half of the entire national defense budget. Or the $22 billion we spent on the killer goose--sorry, V-22 Osprey--which also killed 30 perfectly good marine pilots. (31 if you count the marine who was just killed in Hawaii.)
I love military hardware as much as the next guy, but it's immoral and unconscionable to spend billions on bloated, sketchy (translate: failed) defense projects while nickel and diming our people to death.
As if that isn't enough, Graham and his bureaucrats are deep-sixing the old government-guaranteed retirement and insurance plans in favor of privatized programs, like 401Ks. Not that there's anything wrong with that if you're a Wall Street hedge fund manager, but our men and women in uniform deserve better; if the economy craps itself again the way it did in 2008--or worse--our veterans will be screwed.
Not that that's anything new...