Thursday, April 10, 2008

Modernizing the G.I. Bill

Looks like McCain hasn't signed on yet...

From the LA Times:

McCain must lead the charge

A new GI Bill needs his support, yet the war-hero candidate appears reluctant.
By Wesley K. Clark and Jon Soltz
April 10, 2008
Sen. John McCain served his nation with honor in Vietnam, and he is right to be proud of his service. But by hedging on whether he will support a "GI Bill for the 21st Century," he is casting doubt on his own commitment to the newest generation of American heroes.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), will restore the promise of a cost-free education to those who serve in the military. The original GI Bill transformed American history, providing education for returning soldiers. 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 But the original GI Bill has become woefully outdated, to the point where the average benefit doesn't even cover half the cost of an in-state student's education at a public college.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 53 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.

Instead, McCain has said he hasn't had time to read the bill and isn't sure if he could support it. It's hard to believe that neither he nor anyone on his staff has had time to read such an important bill, which has been around since before he started running for president. But, even if true, McCain must do the right thing now.
Frankly I'm surprised he hasn't taken a position on this bill. It seems right up his alley after all. One could could argue that its too expensive right now. In my opinion that would be a short sighted point of view. Given the difference in wages between high school grads and college grads we are effectively enabling people to pay more taxes when the nation invests in their education.

One thing I'm certain of is that if McCain either fails to vote for this bill or votes against the Dem's 527s will be reminding us of it repeatedly once election season officially starts.

Then there's this gem...
The White House has voiced concern on the bill, arguing that if returning troops are offered a good education, they will choose college over extending their service.
And thats wrong in what way? The GI bill is more or less a quid pro quo arrangement. They agree to take care of America in return for us agreeing to take care of them. Once the military appears to be unable to take care of their end of the bargain then suddenly Job Corps starts looking like a better alternative to military service for those seeking money for college.

Of course all of these retention, recruitment, and education issues would be a moot point if we paid our soldiers the same as their private contractor counterparts.

H/T to OTB

Thanks to The Political Cat for linking to this post