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Or "Doin' the Joes - Blue Doggy Style!!"
Continuing our coverage of the progress of the "new GI Bill" through congress.
“Some of us oppose creating a new entitlement program in an emergency spending bill, whether it’s butchers, bakers or candlestick-makers,” said Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a founding member of the Blue Dog Coalition who serves on the House leadership team as a deputy whip.But have you ever heard of "Blue Dog Democrats" stopping a bill before this one? Probably not. Here's one explanation for that, from Travis Sharp "...the Military Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.":
Blue Dogs' opposition to GI money in supp is inconsistentSpeaking of "$3 billion in drought assistance for farmers", meet Ken Cook:
Restoring fiscal responsibility to Congress is a laudable goal, and Blue Dogs are to be applauded for insisting that responsible budgeting be a key issue within their party. However, a quick look at how Congress has dealt with recent supplemental funding bills shows that while Blue Dogs may object to the current GI proposal being off-budget, they have supported both war-related and non-war-related off-budget supplemental spending in years past.
Congress has stuffed billions of dollars of non-war-related spending into supplementals, especially since Democrats regained the majority in 2007 and began using war supplementals as vehicles for their domestic funding priorities. Surely Blue Dogs voted against the “fiscally irresponsible” domestic spending in these previous supplementals, just as they currently oppose spending on GI educational benefits, right?
Take for example the fiscal year 2007 supplemental approved in May 2007, which, at $120 billion, stands as the largest supplemental in history. Approximately $20 billion of this bill went to programs that, given their current opposition to GI benefits, Blue Dogs should have regarded as fiscally irresponsible. These included $4.8 billion in veterans’ health care, $6.4 billion in Hurricane Katrina relief, and $3 billion in drought assistance for farmers.
When House Democrats complained that they wanted to be able to vote against the $100 billion in war funding but vote for the $20 billion in domestic funding, the Democratic leadership charitably elected to split the fiscal year 2007 supplemental into two separate amendments and hold two separate votes.
Guess how many Blue Dogs voted against Amendment #1, the amendment chocked full of non-war-related money? Not one. In fact, only one Democrat voted against it, the always-contrarian Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
Why do some Blue Dogs think it is okay to abrogate fiscal responsibility on $700 billion in war funding to date, along with $20 billion in unrequested domestic pork-barrel spending in the Fiscal Year 2007 supplemental, but not okay to approve $5 billion per year in off-budget spending for GI benefits over the next decade?
If they want to use procedural excuses to explain why they don't want to add $50 billion in debt over the next ten years to finance veterans' benefits, they should at least be forced to explain why they have not taken such a principled procedural stance on previous supplemental funding.
Ken Cook is president of Environmental Working Group, a public interest research and advocacy organization known for its Farm Subsidy Database. The author of dozens of articles, opinion pieces and reports on agricultural, public health and environmental topics, "[Cook's] fingerprints can be found on nearly two decades of U.S. farm law"Ken says:
It seems that money spent on veterans is the first time some of these folks decided to just say no.
Maybe House Democrats riled up about the Blue Dogs' position on education benefits for veterans should stage a revolt themselves--by signalling support for Bush's promised veto of the farm bill.
After all, Blue Dogs are mopping up billions in that legislation, which Speaker Pelosi is strong-arming her caucus to support. We know that at least $5.9 billion in "direct payment" farm subsidies will go to farmers in Blue Dog districts over the next five years, despit the sky-high crop prices and record incomes that subsidy crop farmers will be earning.
How "fiscally responsible" is that?
Earl Pomeroy's farmers will get $1.1 billion from taxpayers. Marion Berry's will get $965 million. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin's will haul in over $800 million.
And Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who has been saying the payments are "hard to defend" when farmers' incomes are at record levels, will bring home $691 million in direct payment subsidies under the bill.
Here's a complete list of the direct payments Blue Dogs are projected to haul in over the next five years.
I think I'm inclined to agree with Paul Reickoff again - the issue the Blue Dogs are raising is moot:
The GI Bill belongs in the emergency supplemental because it is a cost of war, and it's part of our promise to care for our troops. It's no different from bullets, body armor or bandages for the wounded. This bill has the support of more than half the House and half the Senate, and we expect to get past these procedural hurdles. At the end of the day, no patriotic American would understand if a member of Congress votes for a $100-plus billion dollar war bill and then nickel-and-dimes the troops who are fighting that war.But in addition to "fiscal responsibility", the Blue Dogs might have other "concerns"
Leadership faces more than the normal Caucus reluctance that has come to define consideration of the war supplemental, with Blue Dogs remaining a major obstacle to bringing the bill to the floor.Meanwhile, The American Legion takes a stand:
Caucus sources said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., is particularly incensed that a veterans' tuition package by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., is in the measure instead of the bipartisan package she sponsored in the House.
The leader of the nation’s preeminent veterans organization criticized Congress for delaying a needed GI Bill because of cost. Improvements to the current GI Bill, like its predecessors, will serve as the ultimate stimulus package for veterans, their families, and for the nation.And the Veterans of Foreign Wars followed up its earlier endorsement of the bill with a call to action
“When The American Legion championed the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, even some veterans groups complained that it would ‘break the treasury,” National Commander Marty Conatser said. “Instead, the GI Bill transformed the economy and has been widely hailed as the greatest domestic legislation Congress ever passed. The critics were wrong then and they are wrong now.”
Conatser pointed out that while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill, S-22, would cost $51.8 billion over 10 years, “it is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sacrifices made by America’s servicemembers and their families.”
The debate over the cost for the original World War II-era GI Bill was unpersuasive to its author, American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery. “If we can spend 200 to 300 billion dollars to teach our men and women to kill, why quibble over a billion or so to help them to have the opportunity to earn economic independence and to enjoy the fruits of freedom?” he asked at the time.
Over the decades, the GI Bill has enabled millions of veterans to attend college and is estimated by some economists to have returned $7 to the economy for every $1 in cost. However soaring tuition and decreases in program benefits over the years has left higher education out of reach for many current veterans.
Concerns that the new GI Bill, proposed by Sen. James Webb, D-Va., would hurt military retention are unfounded, according to The American Legion. “This bill would encourage young men and women to join the military,” Conatser said. “As far as retention goes, the CBO estimates that a simple $8,000 bonus to personnel at their first enlistment point would increase reenlistments by 2 percentage points. Another way to encourage mid-level servicemembers to stay in the military is to transfer GI Bill benefits to family members so the servicemember can remain in the military and still benefit from the program.”
Conatser had a suggestion to critics who believe the GI Bill is too expensive. “Visit Walter Reed. War is expensive indeed and the bulk of that cost is paid for by the men and women who wear the uniform. Benefits are just a small, small cost of war.”
“The GI Bill is important enough to stand on its own merit,” concludes Conatser. “I have faith in the American people that they will demand that Congress pass the GI Bill, which truly expresses the thanks of a grateful nation for service above and beyond that of normal citizenship.”
VFW Washington Weekly, May 9, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008 at 07:50 PMby Missouri
1. GI Bill Call to Action: The VFW still needs you to urge your senators to support S. 22, and your representatives to support H.R. 5740, so that the VFW goal of creating a new GI Bill for the 21st century becomes a reality. As of this morning, 57 senators are supporting S. 22, a number that is unchanged from last week. Introduced by Jim Webb (D-VA), S. 22 has strong bipartisan support from fellow senators such as Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and John Warner (R-VA). Its companion bill in the House, H.R. 5740, increased by 27 to 293 co-sponsors, or 67% of the House. Introduced by Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), it, also has strong bipartisan support from fellow congressmen such as Bill Young (R-FL) and Chris Smith (R-NJ). America's newest Greatest Generation needs your help to bring educational benefits back in line with current day tuitions. Use this link to contact your members: http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/.
They won't receive G.I. Bill benefits for it, but note how quickly an Army of Davids has come together on this issue. If it isn't obvious from the variety of links above, this bill has strong support from a wide variety of groups. Opposing it at this point is political suicide.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured voters that the bill would eventually pass:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that stalling tactics by Republicans might result in the measure not coming up until next week.Whoops - wrong quote - that was Wednesday, before her fellow Democrats stalled the vote. I'll try again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said twice Sunday that Iraq “is a failure,” adding that President Bush’s troop surge has “not produced the desired effect.”Whoops - wrong again. That was Iraqi government inaction she was criticizing. One more try...
“The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “They have not done that.”
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi says "she is confident the impasse with the rebel Democrats can be ironed out."
Got it that time.
And if you're interested in the actual text (surprisingly brief) of that Congressional Budget Office report on the cost of the bill, it's at this link (and also below).
May 8, 2008Update: Obama goes for Joe
Honorable Judd Gregg
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
On May 5, 2008, you requested that CBO provide information about the cost of S. 22, the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, including its impact on the retention of military personnel. CBO has reviewed several versions of S. 22, most recently a modified version of that bill provided to CBO by Senator Webb’s office on April 23, 2008. We have completed a preliminary estimate of the mandatory and discretionary costs of that modified language.
Preliminary Estimate of Costs for S. 22
The modified version of S. 22 would increase the amount of the education benefits available to veterans and to active-duty and reserve servicemembers; expand the number of individuals eligible to receive such benefits; increase the period of time during which such benefits could be used; and allow the benefits to be used to cover an expanded array of education-related expenses. CBO estimates that enacting those provisions would increase direct spending for veterans’ and reservists’ education benefits by $51.8 billion over the 2008-2018 period (see attached table).
S. 22 (as modified) also would increase spending subject to appropriation in
several ways. CBO estimates that implementing the proposal would:
• Increase costs to the Department of Veterans Affairs for personnel and information technology,
• Decrease costs to the Department of Defense (DoD) to maintain current levels of enlistment,
• Increase DoD’s cost to maintain current levels of retention, and • Decrease DoD’s contributions to fund education benefits for reservists. In total, CBO estimates that the bill would increase discretionary spending by $145 million over the 2009-2013 period, assuming appropriation of the estimated amounts.
Impact of S. 22 on Recruitment and Retention
You requested specific information regarding our estimate of the impact of S. 22 (as modified) on the retention of personnel by the Armed Forces. CBO expects that both enlistment and retention would be affected by the proposed improvement in education benefits. The net impact on DoD’s discretionary costs for those purposes would be an increase of $1.1 billion over the 2009-2013 period. That net change reflects the expected cost of increased bonus payments for reenlistment ($6.7 billion), less the estimated savings for enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs ($5.6 billion). (The net discretionary costs described above include this $1.1 billion, as well as offsetting savings to DoD from other aspects of the legislation.)
To maintain current levels of enlistment and retention, DoD incurs costs for advertising, recruiters, enlistment bonuses, and retention bonuses. An enhanced package of education benefits would make military service more attractive, and increasing those benefits would allow the services to reduce other enlistment incentives while still enlisting the same number of recruits. However, because the higher educational benefits would reduce the costs of attending college after military service, enacting S. 22 (as modified) also would increase the number of servicemembers who would separate from military service to take advantage of those benefits. Additional reenlistment incentives would then be required to keep the number of reenlistments, and the experience profile of the military force, constant.
Educational benefits have been shown to raise the number of military recruits. Based on an analysis of the existing literature, CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits. To maintain the same force levels and thus the same number of recruits, enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs could be reduced.
The marginal cost of enlistment bonuses and the other expenditures necessary to attract an additional enlistment is about $35,000. CBO estimates that reduced spending for those purposes would result in a savings of almost $5.6 billion over the 2009-2013 period.
Literature on the effects of educational benefits on retention suggest that every $10,000 increase in educational benefits yields a reduction in retention of slightly more than 1 percentage point. CBO estimates that S. 22 (as modified) would more than double the present value of educational benefits for servicemembers at the first reenlistment point—from about $40,000 to over $90,000—implying a 16 percent decline in the reenlistment rate, from about 42 percent to about 36 percent. CBO assumes that to maintain the same force size, the services would offer selective reenlistment bonuses (SRBs). An $8,000 bonus to personnel at the first reenlistment point is estimated to increase reenlistments by about 2 percentage points. Thus, CBO estimates that SRBs of about $25,000 for each first-term servicemember who reenlists would offset the expected effects on retention of increased educational benefits, resulting in a cost of $6.7 billion over the 2009-2013 period for additional reenlistment bonuses.
You also asked about the impact on retention of S. 2938, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act of 2008. CBO has not yet completed its estimate of the impact of that legislation on costs or retention rates.
The Dems oppose the G.I. Bill? But that puts the lie to their Presidential candidate's talking point that the Dems will make sure they take care of the troops, far better than Bush has. This seems to fly in the face of that assertion.
They've continually said they support the troops if not their mission, and the GI Bill is the perfect way to show that. Perhaps they feel the constituency worried about the military is so small and without power that they can get away with it.
Now their candidate won't be able to mouth that one without drawing laughter.Posted by jordan at May 11, 2008 01:50 AM
Great article and analysis. Run for office. Throw the bums out sir!Posted by Thomas Jackson at May 16, 2008 11:31 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)