by James Boyne
Guest Commentator for Irregular Times
June 1, 2004
I read today in an article by the Associated Press that President Bushís 2006 budget (if he is re-elected) has a provision in it that will cut funds for Veterans Affairs by 3.4% or roughly $1 billion. The total VA Budget is $28.7 billion a year.
Letís put this in perspective.
Many (although not all) veterans are pro-Bush, pro-Republican, and pro-Iraqi war. They are patriotic in the sense that patriotism is often confused with "supporting your President in time of war no matter what." President Bush therefore can take advantage of this fact and can continue to cut the VA program with little regard about whether or not a majority of veterans will vote for him. A majority will. After all, he is the Commander-in-Chief and as Commander-in-Chief he gets to distribute a load of his P.R. and give a load of campaign speeches to orchestrated and controlled groups of our young men and women currently serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines as well as prime time TV coverage at the War College. This plays well on TV on the nightly news and on the major newspapersí front-page photos of President Bush.
In return for Veterans' lost lives, the sacrifices, the suffering, the dislocation, the burdens, the family disruptions and related family crises the President proposes a $1 billion cut in a $28.7 billion VA budget.
The only logic I could determine behind this significant budget cut is that the President needs more money to take care of his various fiscal messes:
While George W. Bush tosses money out the window like so many in the pursuit of bombing campaigns, tax cuts for the rich, and pharmaceutical payoffs, what is the state of affairs for the everyday people who make up America's active military and veterans?
Just think. $1 billion (One Billion Dollars) cut from the VA program. From hospitals. From doctors. From nurses. For what?
For a successful war? By the time the Iraqi war fiasco is over and we have liberated the 27 million Iraqis didnít want our liberating force it will have cost U.S taxpayers a half a trillion dollars or about $500 billion. If we stay there for 50 years like we have in Korea, Japan and Germany it will cost us much, much more than that.
For burgeoning American prosperity? I donít know what the hell taxpayers did with their $350 billion tax cut but I donít see people rolling around in the streets hooting and hollering about how rich they suddenly are. That is, of course, because most of us didn't see much come from that tax cut after all. There are still 9 million reported unemployed, another 9 million long-term and discouraged unemployed who aren't even looking for work, 45 million working Americans who canít afford health insurance, 1.6 million Americans who file for bankruptcy every year (many due to hospital, medical and prescription drug bills that have sucked their life savings away -- see the connections?).
For a better health-care system? June 1, 2004 is the day that the new Medicare prescription drug cards will be effective for senior citizens. The administration of this program is a nightmare come true for seniors. Participants must first pay a $35 a month premium, then a $250 deductible and then have to pay a co-pay of $20 or so. Then when their out-of-pocket reaches about $1250 the plan stops, and doesnít kick in again until they have spent over $3000 or so. Then when their out of pocket reaches $5000, the plan will pay for almost all. Participants have to choose a card that advertises partial coverage of some drugs, then commit to that card for months on end, even though the card providers can change their terms and coverage as often as they want, without warning.
I tried to explain all this to my 89-year-old mother -- but she fell asleep! I told her it was June 1st and asked her where her new drug card was. She looked through her pocketbook for two hours and said, "Well, I guess I donít have it. How do I get it?"
I can guarantee you that Aetna, United Healthcare, CIGNA, Pfizer, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Glaxo-Burroughs-Wellcome-Smith-Kline-Wells-Fargo-Whatever-it-is-This-Week, Pharmica, Eli Lilly, the large hospital chains, and prescription distribution and delivery corporations have had hundreds of accountants, lawyers, and administrative managers working day and night on the best way to extract their fair share of the $550 billion dollars.
But alas, Veterans Affairs is going to be slashed by $1 billion. Boy, that makes sense. Especially in light of the fact that it is the VA hospitals that provide prescription drugs to eligible veterans.
Oh, it makes perfect sense! With wars that cost $1 billion a week; wars that cost a half a trillion ($500 billion) to "liberate" people that hate us; $550 billion sham Medicare drug programs that prey upon the frailty and confusion of the elderly for the benefit of the pharmaceutical/health care insurance monster; the $350 billion tax cut that must have went "poooooff" since it didnít seem to make a dent in the unemployment rate other than a few extra retail jobs at Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts; the $200 million that President Bush has raised to get re-elected; with all these things and all these factors, veterans should be asking themselves, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, MR. PRESIDENT?"
I myself am a veteran, so I know from personal experience how important Veterans Affairs services are. And even though I'll never manage to be the President in a million years, I have some ideas I'd love to give him if he would ever listen. If I were President, I would demand $7 billion back from the $350 billion tax cut (since a $343 billion tax cut would have been just fine). I would take $7 billion back from the farcical Medicare drug program; the fictional nature of its cost has been exposed since the appearance of a $200 billion mathematical miscalculation (so whatís the difference if the program only has a fictional $543 billion instead of a fictional $550 billion?). Thatís $14 billion extra I would now have as President.
Then from the $89 billion that I requested for Iraq so we could bomb them into oblivion, I would extract $7 billion and re-direct it to the Veterans Affairs Department. We'd just bomb Iraq into $7 Billion less worth of hurt. Thatís $21 billion so far I have found. Then I would take $7 billion from the next half trillion ($500 billion) that Iraq is going to cost us (since what the hell is $7 billion subtracted from a half trillion?). Now I am up to $28 billion. This is obviously just pocket change to President Bush when it comes to all the other things he spends money on. To the VA it is a matter of critical, urgent needs in order to survive and operate.
Then, if I were President, I'd do something really savvy: taking about $50 million from my $200 million in my campaign contributions and just donating it to the Veterans Affairs Department. What a public-relations coup that would be! Finally, if I were President, I would go on TV and instead of just thanking veterans families for sending their loved ones to Iraq to get their asses blown off, I would call on all wealthy Americans to send donations (possibly taken from their $350 billion tax giveback) and donate something to the Veteran Affairs Department.
Yellow ribbons tied around trees, American flags draped around coffins, and somber music played by military bands sure looks impressive, but money talks, as they say.
Never once have I actually seen President Bush stand before a group of veterans or a group of active military servicemen and say, "Hey, let's slash the Veterans Affairs benefits program," and seen them jump to their feet and hoot and holler with joy. Iíve never seen President Bush stand in front of a big banner as a photo backdrop with the phrase "Slash VA Benefits," plastered all over it. Maybe it wouldnít make a good photo-op for the nightly news. Or, maybe itís a secret and your local Congressman or Senator doesnít want you to know that as a Republican he supports cutting Veterans Affairs benefits.
If I were President I could probably find a few billion more somewhere, too. Iíd stop that fake "tropical rain forest" being built in Iowa. Iíd stop subsidizing pharmaceutical drug research with taxpayers' money given to the drug companies that in turn charge outrageous prices to recoup the research money that was taxpayer money in the first place. I'd eliminate the phrases "pre-existing condition" and "exclusion" and "not covered" from the vocabulary of health insurance policies; if the health insurance industry is allowed to take its cruel absurdity any further they will be denying claims based on the fact that you are "sick," "ill" or needed to see a "doctor." With four more years of President Bush most health insurance policies probably won't cover doctor visits, hospital stays, in-patient or out patient procedures, or drugs of any kind. Coverage for mental health will be excluded entirely, since we will all be crazy by then.
In conclusion, if I were President, I would take the $28 billion I had cleverly "found" and double the Veterans Affairs Department budget. That would be $56 billion. That doesnít sound like a lot to me -- does it to you? We spend between $200 and $300 billion in Iraq already and the country looks worse than ever, with everyone in Iraq is running around with rifles, pistols, machine guns mounted in the back of pickup trucks, and rocket propelled grenades. The NRA (National Rifle Association) sure as hell doesnít need to open up an office in Baghdad. Those Iraqis are all set.
Do I have to yell to make myself heard? Fine, I'll yell. VETERANS UNITE! NO PRESIDENT DESERVES A SECOND TERM UNTIL HE CAN GET OUR COUNTRY IN ORDER. UNDER BUSH, OUR GOVERNMENT AND OUR ELECTED POLITICIANS ARE OUT OF CONTROL. DO THEY REALLY HAVE WORKING BRAINS? WE NEED TO THROW THE BUMS OUT.
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