As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

x + y/2 = McCain

So a bipartisan group of Senators led by Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel presented a new GI bill for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. They achieved enough consensus on it that 57 Senators signed on, which in this Congress is fairly rare. But John McCain wasn't in on the bipartisanship, so he had to build his own GI Bill which rewards career military officers (like he was) instead of the young infantrymen who actually need the help. Brandon Friedman and the gang at VetVoice see through this. This is a good run-down.

The Republican bill would increase monthly GI Bill payments for active duty servicemembers from $1,100 to $1,500 as well as provide a yearly $500 book stipend (S22 would provide a $1,000 yearly book stipend). The Republican bill would also allow the servicemember to transfer up to 18 months of benefits to his or her spouse or child after 6 years of service or 36 months of benefits after 12 years of service, something that S22 lacks. Lastly, the bill makes military academy and ROTC graduates eligible for these benefits if they serve an additional five years beyond their initial service obligation.

Clearly the goal of the Republican bill is to provide enhanced benefits for servicemembers who make a career out of the military.

Senator Webb's bill, S22, however, seeks to bring the modern GI Bill in line with the spirit of previous GI Bills by expanding benefits for veterans regardless of whether they choose to stay in after their initial service obligation. Thus, unlike the Republican version, there are no "strings attached" to the GI Bill expansion of benefits. It also tries to ensure that these veterans have the means to actually USE these benefits--something the majority of contemporary veterans cannot do because tuition costs generally exceed GI Bill payments and there is no housing assistance.

Simply put, McCain's bill seeks to lock people into the military so that the pool of soldiers needed for his continued wars remains constant.

But this of course is McCain's modus operandi - creating a "bipartisan solution" that appears to address the legislative problem while having no teeth. It's "bipartisanship" on his terms, with his conservative beliefs intact. In other words, there's nothing particularly bipartisan about it at all. No wonder his media spinners lap it up.

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