Protecting veterans

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” says the gospel of St. Luke. The Bush administration’s heart appears to be more in the tax cuts and multi-billion dollar war contracts it’s awarding than in the veterans who will live the rest of their lives with the war’s effects.

Two hundred thousand working class youth have been pressed onto a bloody battlefield, many forced by lack of job and educational opportunities. They will become America’s next generation of veterans.

The Bush budget, which slashed $20 million from the Veterans Administration (VA), reveals just how little it intends to stand up for today’s troops in their future as veterans. In fact, plans are to cut $15 billion from veterans’ programs over the next 10 years. Even before this war, the VA was only budgeted to provide care for 4.8 of the 6.5 million patients enrolled in 2004. Amvets reports that in January, 200,000 veterans had waited six months to see doctors at veterans’ facilities. The VA system has started drastically rationing its health care; some veterans get care, other don’t. How will the cuts affect health benefits for troops returning from Iraq?

In Chicago, Rep. Danny Davis, who has fought the closing of veterans’ hospitals in his district, charged, “While veterans are sleeping under viaducts and the VA hospitals are closed down, … [Bush is] saying we just love our troops.”

A mighty coalition of the mainstream of the American people – religious, union and peace organizations – is fighting to end this bloody war and bring our troops home to safety.

For the working class people of the U.S., our precious youth are both our hearts and our treasure. We strongly feel our obligation as a nation to care for our veterans of all generations

While the Bush administration is only too eager to kick veterans to the curb, we must see this fight as an integral part of the struggle for peace and justice.

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Bush suffers Senate setback

A day after George W. Bush sent a bill to Congress for $75 billion to pay for the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Senate voted 51 to 48 to reduce by half his tax cut for the rich.

Three Republican senators, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, and George Voinovich of Ohio, joined Democrats in handing Bush a rare defeat.

Earlier, the House approved Bush’s full $726 billion tax giveaway.

Bush is certain to twist arms for reversal of the Senate vote. The Republican leadership is fanatical in its zeal to slash taxes on the wealthy while starving Medicare, Medicaid and other vital programs. But Bush’s plan to eliminate taxes on dividends on top of the skyrocketing federal, state and local deficits, combined with his initial request for $75 billion to fund the Iraq war, was just too much for the handful of moderate Republicans.

The White House has not forgotten that control of the Senate shifted to the Democrats in 2001 when Vermont Sen. James Jeffords bolted the GOP. Perhaps they are asking themselves: is the decision of three Republican senators to break with Bush on his tax rip-off a harbinger of the things to come?

In a March 26 statement, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the vote to halve the president’s tax cut would save billions that could be used for programs to help working families, such as desperately needed emergency jobless benefits, an increase in child care assistance for working parents, increases for after-school programs, and strengthening homeland security.

Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) argued that the entire Bush tax cut plan should be rejected and reluctantly agreed to support the final compromise bill.

Should Bush succeed in overturning the Senate action and pushing through his original tax plan, reliable estimates say that the national debt will balloon, resulting in mounting interest payments to the transnational banks and Wall Street. Reason enough to keep the heat on both the White House and Congress.