UPDATING THE GI BILL….Wes Clark and Jon Soltz write about John McCain’s curious indifference to congressional efforts to update the GI Bill:
The GI Bill not only recognized our nation’s moral duty for the enormous sacrifices of our World War II veterans, but it helped create America’s middle class and spurred decades of economic growth for our country. Economists estimate that the original bill returned anywhere between $5 and $13 for every dollar we spent on it. But the original GI Bill has become woefully outdated, to the point where the average benefit doesn’t even cover half the cost of an in-state student’s education at a public college.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Act, which has an estimated cost between $2.5 billion and $4 billion, is common-sense legislation. With 51 cosponsors, including nine Republicans, the three other Vietnam War veterans in the Senate and former Secretary of the Navy John Warner, the bill simply updates what the late historian Stephen Ambrose called “the best piece of legislation ever passed by the U.S. Congress.” Yet, faced with unprecedented filibusters, it needs 60 cosponsors. As de facto leader of the party, McCain could signal to other Republicans to sign on to the bill and assure passage.
This whole thing is peculiar. Updating the GI Bill seems like a political no-brainer. Even if it were a bad idea on the merits, it seems like the kind of thing that would get huge bipartisan support. After all, who’s opposed to a college education for returning Iraq vets?
Well, the Department of Defense, for one. They’re afraid that updating GI benefits will hurt retention rates as soldiers leave the service to go to college. Charming, no? And of course, it would cost too much. Can’t have that when it comes to programs that involve actual help for actual people. Apparently we’re better off spending money on sugar subsidies and mediating gang wars in Iraq than we are helping vets get an education. Where’s Mr. Straight Talk when you need him?