Friday, June 30, 2006

At Veterans Affairs, Another Hopelessly Amateur Screw-Up

ContractwithamericaThis is a Congress with no sense of their routine work or collective responsibilities. If they are the ultimate result of Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, then they should (at the very least) be sued for breach of contract. They are a wild-eyed collection of elected legislators so tied in knots over the partisanship of their every move that they’ve forgotten what the meaning of election is all about.


Not the coming election, or the fear of mid-term elections, or the panic over the next election down the calendar. Those they must breathlessly prepare for (fundraising) and finance (fundraising) and lie for (at fundraisers) and, if necessary, steal for (if the money doesn't come in). No, I mean the election that initially sent them to Washington, full of high hopes and avarice, presumably to at least minimally represent the interests of their constituents.


Veterans‘Interests’ and ‘constituents’ are bloodless descriptions of mothers with sick kids and soldiers just back from the latest war and trying to deal with their wounds, either physical or emotional.


It’s certainly an interest to provide free credit-monitoring for the vets whose personal info was lost by a careless department employee. Probably a good idea. $160 million. A lot of money for taking home a laptop full of statistics and losing it, but hey, what ya gonna do?


It ceases to be an interest and becomes just another Congressional piece of play-acting when the Department of Veterans Affairs decides to ‘cover’ the cost of their screw-up by taking the 160 mil from accounts that pay health and other benefits for the veterans they represent. Democrats protested and that line of unreasonable reasoning suddenly didn’t sound so reasonable.


VetaffairsnicholsonNot all that surprising, as yet another sterling appointment, made by President Bush, serves (in what is a parody of service) as Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs. Bush just can't seem to do the secretary-thing right. James Nicholson, a Colorado residential building developer, is probably a nice enough guy and no doubt a big contributor. But that doesn’t mask the fact that he can’t find his ass (or his office) with both hands and, like Brownie at FEMA, read about his department’s disaster in the newspapers.


So, Rob Portman (handling the ball for the White House) came up with another sleazy scheme for covering VA’s self-inflicted wound—give to the vets by taking from


  • A food-stamp program

  • A farmers-assistance program

  • Student loans and

  • A program for those recently released from prison

RobportmanPresumably, he then went to lunch. Hey Rob, way to go. Who’ll notice? It would be a shame to trim Rummy’s multi-billions, currently paying for a missile-shield that doggedly continues not to work, when you can grab it from some college kid who’s already waiting tables.


Nor does it serve any ‘interests’ to find out why the Pentagon can’t account for a trillion dollars in expenditures, when the White House can simply hose a bunch of young kids just out of prison by no longer giving them a hand. What the hell, they’ll probably just be back in the slammer anyway.


Trimming Big Agriculture’s corn subsidy might offend Cargill. Far easier to look the other way as some small farmer tries to save his heritage. His ‘interest’ isn’t as pressing as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland ‘interests,’ so cadging a buck or two from the little guy makes sense. How many votes do small farmers constitute any more? Get on with the yard-sale and rip out the wind-breaks for more industrial corn.


Food-stamp programs oughta be done away with anyway. If the poor need food, it’s their own slack habits keep them from getting it. The entire $18 billion annual cost of feeding these bums is equal to two weeks worth of additional national debt. Somehow, when the nation desperately needs to balance its budget, the slacker-habits of Congress aren't worth a mention.


Slackerly habits, of course, are in the eyes of the beholder. In this particular case, the beholder is a Congress with its shirt-tails out, a bleary look in its collective eye and a severe dependence on tax giveaways in place of balanced-budgeting.


In short, if Congress were your uncle, you wouldn’t let him in the house.
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