On Monday, President Bush signed a $162 billion war spending bill into law. The new bill will increase educational benefits for service members who have served at least three years on active duty. Veterans will be eligible for up to 100% of their full tuition fees and will receive a monthly housing stipend, a tutoring allowance of up to $1200 and $1000 dollars per year for textbooks and supplies.
On the surface, this bill seems like a much needed improvement to the benefits our armed forces receive, but will the benefits really outweigh the costs to our country and our troops?
The new bill will:
- Increase the dollar amount servicemembers will receive, making it much easier to afford a four-year degree.
- Loosen enrollment requirements for servicemembers and extend benefits to reservists and guardsmen, as well as the spouses and children of servicemembers.
- Potentially boost the number of recruits by 16%, allowing the military to cut its enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs by $5.6 billion over the next five years.
- Make it easier for the military to recruit servicemembers with a high school diploma, a strong determinant of a recruit’s military success.
- And in theory, increase the number of US college graduates to help fill the significant degree gap the nation is expected to face.
All of these benefits make a strong case for the bill, but the implications are unnerving:
- The bill could actually make it more difficult for the military to recruit because it allows servicemembers to be released after three years of service. Opponents claim this will reduce troops enlisting in the military by 16%.
- The bill approves $162 billion in spending without raising taxes, and this is in addition the nearly 650 billion dollars that have already been spent on the war.
Although the drawbacks are small in number, their implications are extreme. At a time when military morale is questionable and our deficit is out of control, it is hard to understand why congress would pass something that may both reduce the number of available troops and further threaten our economic security.
This bill delivers well deserved benefits to our troops and in my opinion — education is always worth the investment. However, without raising taxes or cutting spending in other areas, could this bill be more beneficial to the enemy than the troops?
It is times like these that I hope our nation’s leaders know something that I don’t. The logic of unbridled spending defies everything I’ve ever learned and is a mistake that has been repeated throughout history. It is hard for me to believe that the leaders of the most powerful country could lead us into bankruptcy, but I suppose the Romans never thought their empire would fall either.
It’s funny. We are so afraid of the violence Iraq might inflict, but the war’s economic impact may be a much stronger weapon than Iraq’s alleged WMD’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that money is more important than a potential loss of life, but economic stability is the strongest proponent of peace. If our economy collapses, we are likely to face far more blood shed than this war will ever see. I am more than happy to give up my SUV and flat screen TV to prevent violence, but I am not willing to stand in a bread line with a wheel barrel of money. The kind of violence that ensues in a crumbling economy is certainly not worth the cost of protecting ourselves from the questionable threat of Iraq.
If it were up to me, I would give these much needed benefits to our troops, but I would find a way to pay for it. Perhaps our nation should learn from the mortgage and student loan crisis to understand that excessive debt never pays off. But as I said, I sincerely hope our nation’s leaders know something that I don’t.
This is just my opinion; I would love to hear yours. For a more detailed analysis of the eligibility criteria and benefits of the bill, read this article from military.com.