Veterans Benefits VS. Entitlements Others Feel Due

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by Ed Mattson

 

Great Depression Soup Kitchens. No entitlement back then. Everyone was in the same boat.

It seems as the debate goes on between the warring political factions. I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time responding to e-mail on all sides of the many issues that are brought up.

It is almost impossible to discuss any issue today that isn’t somehow linked to the budget deficit battle going on in Washington DC and state capitals around the country. Our legislators at all levels have been running around like a reckless housewife on a shopping spree with a no-limit credit card for decades, and it’s all coming home to roost. Programs of importance to everyone are under scrutiny, knowing we have to reign-in spending or we will soon be relegated to a much reduced living standard.

Last night as I heard a New York representative flat-out state the US does not have a budget deficit problem…say what? He is under the belief that all are problems are to be blamed on unemployment. Right…and how did that occur?

Reckless government programs, promises made to special interest groups to garner votes, inadequate oversight from government committees assigned the task of protecting us from abuse, and an ambivalent block of voters trying to “get their fair share” of the bureaucrat pie. Such naivety is the insanity that legislators get from too long in office. They don’t even recognize the  havoc their policies do to the citizens.

To my way of thinking, the word “entitlement” has come to represent a thought that because one claims a right, the right being claimed is automatically justified.  I don’t consider veterans in this category as our so called “entitlements” are actually contractual arrangements whether explicit or inferred, when we signed on the dotted line and raised our hand to protect and defend this country from all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC.

I kind of feel like we did the first part of that and are now in Phase II, defending ourselves from domestic foes. While many citizens should get and need help, the issue of helping those in need  versus those who feel entitled to unending support has gotten out of hand.

Let’s take a look at the educational system in the US. We spend considerably more per student than any country on earth, from about $18,000 per year in New York to $9000 in many states with an average across the board of $12,000. Detroit spends $13,000 per year on its students and is typical of what we see. Half of the population of Detroit is functionally illiterate.  Of the 47% of Detroit residents who can‘t read, half of them hold Detroit City School System diplomas.  All of them made it past the elementary school  years, where basic reading is taught.  Can anyone justify these results? So let’s agree the education is an “entitlement”, but where does the money go? Why do we have tenure (built-in job security regardless of the competency of the teacher)?  Of the salaries paid to teachers, about $1100/year ends up in the union bank accounts which help perpetuate this obvious problem. Where ever you sit politically, how can we condone this inefficiency?

Welfare and other “entitlement” programs are handout programs. Some folks honestly cannot take care of themselves and need assistance, but to many it has become a gravy-train promoted by politicians trying to ingratiate themselves with benevolent voters. The very poor in our country would be living quite well by other country’s standards, yet they want more.  It is your or my fault that we have our next round of welfare families already in the making because near 50% drop-out in high school, join gangs, do drugs and commit crime, or that we have parents that won’t marry and take responsibility for supporting their families because we’ve made it too easy for mom to stay at home, continue to have more kids, and collect benefits, while dad works for cash under-the-table? Come-on.

I didn’t want to go into the support of illegal immigrants and the benefit package we throw to them as they shouldn’t be here in the first place, and what a slap in the face it is those who have gone through the legal process to become card-carrying residents of the US.  The fraud, waste, and abuse in these programs defies justification on any account

Of all the groups trying to maintain the status quo, only a few come to mind that are truly worthy a seat at the table. We need to expand our horizons to look at other views, not just views that make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy.

We have all paid into the government endorsed Ponzi schemes named Social Security and Medicare. Like veterans benefits, these are contractual obligations folks love to call entitlements to diminish the importance of the programs if they are not currently participating. Social Security was never meant to be one’s only retirement stash, but it should be enough to keep people out of the gutter.  Means-testing, reducing payments to those with taxable income over $50,000 could be a ways to deal with the shortage of funds for those who are receiving a monthly check, because what was paid-in and what is being paid-out simply don’t equate. In 1935 our average life span was about 65-70. Today it is nearly eighty for many. Increasing the age to collect benefits for those aged 20-45 by 2-3 years may well improve the solvency of the system. The government improperly invested the so-called trust funds by loaning it back to the government. It’s not the fault of the citizen, but it is the reality we have to deal with. Medicare oversight to prevent fraud and dismantling the recent prescription program in light of all the new $4.00 pharmacy programs could save billions.

We have unemployment insurance, another contractual obligation, not an entitlement. Money is paid in to insure some semblance of family solvency during a period of unemployment. The government runs out of program money because it is not treated as insurance, but unemployment really is insurance, not a handout. Maybe the government shouldn’t have anything to do with or be a part of these kinds of programs. When a real insurance company faces a disaster and has to pay claims, they have built in protection though a series of re-insurance partners, and in most cases remain solvent. Not our government…no back-up plans, just jobs for more bureaucrats, and a slush fund to spend the money until needed.

Now to us veterans who have earned our benefits…Thank God we have dedicated supporters that recognize our situation and organizations which are supporting our position. This past week I received a great e-mail from Julio Martinez thanking me for sticking up for veteran’s rights, but the thanks should really be directed to all veterans group. I will discuss his comments on Monday but to paraphrase his thanks for supporting veterans…

“We have made great strides in meeting the needs of veterans of today, while keeping our promise to yesterday’s veterans. We must not be lured into turf battles, but instead rise above the political fray to fight for America’s wellbeing. Out of control spending is crippling our country, and we need to slow the growth of government and take responsibility for our bills. As we do this, our veterans deserve better than to be used as shields in political warfare. Instead, we have an obligation to work in a bipartisan manner to better serve veterans and their families. No one should disagree this is the least we owe these men and women”.

An AMEN would be appropriate. In coming articles I will discuss suggested solutions posed by readers of my column, and try to do justice to those ideas.

 

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Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.