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That's G.I. Joe - but who knows where Joe goes come November?
Barack Obama's brief appearance in West Virginia should serve as a warning to John McCain. The Charleston, West Virginia Gazette headlines their story on his appearance there "Obama pushes for new GI Bill":
"I'm honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton," he told the crowd at the Civic Center.That's a telegraphed punch. Obama acknowledges he expects Hillary Clinton to get as much as 80% of the West Virginia primary vote. So he quite wisely turns his focus to his next opponent, and the issue that will ensure the Vietnam veteran loses the military/veteran vote in November - the new GI Bill.
"But when it's over, what will unify us as Democrats - what must unify us as Americans - is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who've served this nation and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they've risked their lives."
In response, McCain and other Republicans are busy creating "kick me" signs to wear throughout the upcoming political season.
The proposed 21st Century GI Bill would allow soldiers to receive free tuition for college. Obama said it is one of a number of upgrades to GI benefits and healthcare the federal government should provide.In fairness it must be noted that McCain supports a hastily contrived Republican alternative to the Webb bill that offers lower benefits and covers fewer troops - and has no chance of passing in a Democrat-controlled congress. But while he simplifies the issue here, Obama's characterization of McCain's opposition is on the mark.
"It would provide every returning veteran with a real chance to afford a college education, and it would not harm retention," Obama told about 1,500 people at the Charleston Civic Center. After that, he stopped to shoot a game of pool with a veteran at a South Charleston pub.
The Illinois Democrat said McCain, whom he added he greatly respects as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, doesn't like the new plan.
"He is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it's too generous," Obama said. "I couldn't disagree more.
"At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue the American dream."
Here's a comparison of the competing GI Bills in Stars and Stripes - the semi-independent military newspaper. Note that in addition to Senator Obama, mainstream veterans' groups (including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) have strongly endorsed the Webb bill.
If McCain doesn't act fast (specifically, endorse the Web bill before this issue expands nationwide) my forecast will prove correct. And once newspapers and evening news stories begin headlining the growing (and glowing) military (bear in mind that active duty folks won't be specifically endorsing candidates) and veteran support for Obama a cascade among other voters (at least those swayed by military-related issues; war for example) is likely to begin. Talking points, sincere explanations, and rationalizations won't change that at all.
Update: The Latest
Previous entries (please read before explaining to me how little I know about this issue)
Just goes to show... Democrats are still campaigning to be everything to all people. In West Virginia it's all about the veterans. In Manhattan it's all U.S. needs to be knocked down a level, anti-war this, military is bad, etc. Then at the Israel supporters gathering. Dems love Israel. Then to San Francisco. Yes, Hamas deserves half of the Israel territory, it is only fair.
Fortunately the public will not go with the Mudville Gazette which loves great rhetoric and will back an honorable patriot, John McCain. Otherwise, watch out, you will not know what you are getting.
Mudville embraces the folks that say let's lose the war... but at least you get good benefits when you come back.
Democrats will spin ANYTHING into a reason for folks to vote for them. Obama is all things to all people. Democrats like Mudville eat it all up.
Please troops come home. We are declaring you lost. But here's a bag of treats from the only good person in the world, Democrat Jim Webb.
It would be nice if Obama just voted to fund the troops first. It doesn't take much money to give college educations to vets when they return if you abandon and endanger them in the field. All things to all people, yep that is Obama... I'm all for the college tuition, but I know Obama isn't. How is it that Wright put it, he's just a politician that has to say certain things to get elected.Posted by Irish Gal at May 14, 2008 12:29 AM
Pumping more government money into the university system is going to raise tuition across the board. That is a basic economic fact. Increased demand plus a static supply equals higher prices.
If the point is just to buy votes, give them a big fat severence check and let them spend it however they like. At least that way the effect would be spread across the economy instead of concentrated in one sector.
Heh- over 5 years of blogging and that's the first time I've been accused of being a Democrat. That makes the voting about 5600-1 in the "guess Greyhawks political affiliation" contest.
Please believe me - I'm being completely politically neutral in this post, and not trying to sway opinions on candidates. I thought I was offering advice to Republicans based on my insider's view (and a LOT of experience) of what the average "Joe" is talking about "around the water cooler." That can be used or ignored as the receiver sees fit.Posted by Greyhawk at May 14, 2008 12:54 AM
By the way, the war was effectively won last year. It's possible that by November even the Democrats won't be able to screw that up.Posted by Greyhawk at May 14, 2008 12:58 AM
The Webb Bill is smart politics. McCain is being typically dumb not to support it. He's doing so for budgetary reasons, and he's trying not to blow out the budget, but sometimes Republicans do stupid things.
This is one of those times.Posted by section9 at May 14, 2008 01:20 AM
For now, the bill will have the effect of providing an inducement for serving soldiers to leave as soon as their enlistments are up, or force DoD to significantly amplify the re-enlistment bonus, contingent upon Congressional appropriation. Think that will happen, anytime soon?
In the long run, it will likely decrease military effectiveness as a greater proportion of military personnel serve their initial tour and bug out for college benefits instead of pursuing a career. The Army in particular will be adversely affected as newly minted squad-leading E-5s depart for freshman year at home-state university.
There's no question the G.I. benefits need to be improved; the question is how do we do it in such a way we maintain force readiness. I think this is Webb and the Democrat's way to undermine the war in Iraq by offering troops a better bribe to leave, notwithstanding your assessment that the war is won.Posted by Tim at May 14, 2008 01:43 AM
Tim: Arguing that a GI Bill is too good because people might actually use it is pretty much self-defeating. When I first heard that claim from Secretary Gates I called it "the best endorsement the bill could get."
The CBO has evaluated/estimated what they believe the dollar cost will be - re: increased re-up bonuses. The offset is a reduction in initial enlistment bonuses (and other costs) the GI Bill will make possible.
Full text here.
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.And has been oft-noted throughout the past couple weeks, the WWII era GI Bill is estimated to have pumped 7 dollars back into the US economy for every one it cost. Posted by Greyhawk at May 14, 2008 02:06 AM
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.
Overall it is a good discussion for the Republicans. No one will be fooled by Obama and his lefty buddies pandering, although I think Webb is sincere.
McCain really can't be outgunned on this by Obama or on anything military.... I had a guy pull it on me in a cigar bar the other day and it was just amusing to hit him around on it. I am a moron on this stuff, but if I can handle it, so will McCain.
It is everything else that worries me on McCain..Posted by mark at May 14, 2008 02:06 AM
Mark, do you think the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been fooled by pandering?
Democrats thought they had a "sure thing" in '04 - that John Kerry's war hero status would unseat George Bush. The problem with that - at least among military/vet folks - was the perception that fellow veteran Kerry had betrayed them post-war. (The Winter Soldier Hearings - not the Swift Boat accusations, were more of an issue for military folks.) The key word is "perception", and if you read that Stars and Stripes story you'll appreciate the uphill battle McCain will be facing on that.Posted by Greyhawk at May 14, 2008 02:19 AM
Just popped in from Insty. So no regular here. But that is too generous a benefit. Folks above covered the major issues. If you want to do that for 20 year veterans fine. But for four years on the line... across the board, it's overkill. and nothing but political vote pandering. I did get my twenty in... four active, sixteen reserves. I feel I might need to mention that.Posted by Luther McLeod at May 14, 2008 02:19 AM
Luther, thanks for your service. I've got 23 active and still going. I actually come out ahead on Graham's Bill over Webb's.
A guy signing up for 4 today can look forward to 6 (stop loss and IRR recall) and will probably spend at least 2 in Baghdad, Mosul, or Kandahar.
College tuition (and higher income and higher taxes the rest of his life) is "too generous" a perk, eh?
And just imagine the effect of an influx of veterans on campus - real "diversity" that would go a long way to destroying a certain status quo...
While vets would definitely benefit, this is one-part "pander" and one-part "transfer payment to a long time constituency", namely, "the Academy."
Obama's not proposing putting the check in the vet's pocket.
At least in part, this is about insulating Obama's friends in the teaching profession from accountability in the marketplace.Posted by BD at May 14, 2008 02:43 AM
Yes, you're right. But being in close contact with enlisted men, I knew months ago that the GOP had lost the enlisted man. This is just one more nail in the coffin. I don't know how the officer corps will vote, but the enlisted man is not going GOP this year. It is a bad situation for the GOP.
I support the bill, of course, but to be honest and clear, the Pentagon opposes the bill for the reason that the full benefit acrues after only three years (so the incentive to re-enlist is gone). Now, again, I support the bill, but yet another problem here is that the national support for the long war is vanishing. Suppose that this bill was matched by re-enlistment bonuses that made it overall attractive to re-enlist? We wouldn't be having this discussion. But this will not be forthcoming because neither party wants to tell the hard facts and fund the long war.
HPSPosted by Herschel Smith at May 14, 2008 02:46 AM
I don't know the merits of the bill and, generally speaking, I'm always in favor of giving more to people who risk life and limb for my benefit. But come on! Do you REALLY think that an Obama presidency is going to be better for the military? REALLY???? If you do, well, I hope it's what you hoped it would be. I'd wager it won't be . . .Posted by rrm at May 14, 2008 02:59 AM
You're welcome Greyhawk... and thank you for yours. I had just mentioned this discussion to a friend of mine who then had the same thought about 'diversity' on campus. That is a good point and would perhaps do a lot of good.
But still, for a four year tour there is something about this plan that smacks a little of mercenary. I did my two tours in SEA, volunteered for both, and did them for the greater good. Don't misunderstand, I know that most enter the service for that very reason... but it seems to me that such a 'generous' benefit might dilute that particular motivation. I think we need to keep the spirit of service and not succumb to payback. Call me old fashioned.Posted by Luther McLeod at May 14, 2008 03:34 AM
If I was calling the shots and needed to compete with the expanded GI Bill I'd offer up a very attractive and greatly expanded path to a commission for prior enlisteds - maybe cut down on the ROTC numbers and "promote from within" (moreso than now). Guarentee someone a job with O1E pay after college, offer something on top of the GI Bill while they're finishing the degree...
Just a thought.Posted by Greyhawk at May 14, 2008 04:28 AM
The percentage of people who will vote for Obama, or against McCain because of any GI Bill stand is miniscule. For those of us with an already established GI benefit, it's pretty much OBE.
At any given time in the last 10 years, little more than 1.5% of the voting population was in the military. Of that 1.5%, there are some who will have no GI education benefits to worry about (ROTC Scholarship/Academy grads) and some for whom the GI education benefits are not a top concern. Add into that a very few non-military for whom this might be a concern (moms and dads who want to see their kids earn their college tuition). That amounts to a miniscule percentage of voters in America who will consider anything at all about the GI education benefits when they vote. And some, like me, prefer the McCain bill because I already have a Masters degree and don't plan on using any of my educational benefits (right now at 100%), and the McCain plan will allow me to transfer some of my accrued benefits to my four kids. If I can't transfer the benefits, they are pretty much worth zero to me, no matter what the theoretical monetary value in tution. At least under McCain's plan, my educational benefits rise from zero to some amount. Under Obama's plan, they stay a very unappealing zero.
Rule #1: You can't outspend a Liberal.
This bill says something quite simple. "Hey G.I. You're nearing the end of your first enlistment, what would you rather do, quit and come to our nice cozy soft campus full of young women where we can properly modify your mind, or return to that darned dusty dangerous Army?"Posted by Georg Felis at May 14, 2008 12:18 PM
I haven't looked at the text of the bills, but either bill also ought to make sure that GI Bill benefits won't affect eligibility for Stafford loans. Veterans are automatically considered independent students and if you go to a private school or grad school (including many expensive state ones like UVA in Webb's own state), you are going to need Staffords on top of even Webb's bill. There is a cap in the current law that prevents veterans under the old law from fully using both the GI Bill and the Stafford program. Basically, I had to drop my GI Bill in order to borrow sufficiently to complete my education. That needs fixing.
My other thought is somewhat reflexive. Jim Webb is damaged goods in this veteran's eyes because of his last bill mandating R&R that was designed to make the war unsustainable in the guise of helping the troops. I'm willing to be persuaded, but I am suspicious his real motivation is again to hand out a poison pill.Posted by Simon at May 14, 2008 01:34 PM
I think this is Webb and the Democrat's way to undermine the war in Iraq by offering troops a better bribe to leave, notwithstanding your assessment that the war is won.
How about giving anyone who serves a big bonus at the beginning of their enlistment then after a particular amount of time served give them and their immediate family members tax-free Federal-State-City status for life.Posted by syn at May 14, 2008 02:02 PM
I am finding it amusing, in an evil sort of way, to imagine the manifest in-class effects a big new wave of GI-Bill vets might have on a number of the postmodern relativist profs and asst profs I had to endure in the mid '70s. Of course, the question is how much trampling them with objective truth can you do and still get a passing grade? Still, I'd love to be a "fly on the wall".Posted by Uncle Ralph at May 14, 2008 09:17 PM
I find it interesting that anyone would think that a university is going to mold the mind of a twenty-two year old easily. It didn't mold me when I was eighteen, my opinions were pretty well set. Most students will say what they must to get through class and get the grade. Then it is on to more important things - women and beer.Posted by Mikey NTH at May 14, 2008 10:07 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(24) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)