Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.Of course, Lear, while not yet aware of the delusion that will lead him to madness and his "nation" into chaos, paves steps along that path when he rewards the obsequious (and obstreperous) phonies, Goneril and Regan, while disinheriting the honor- and duty-bound Cordelia. In Shakespeare, such actions lead to consequences and a kind of poetic justice gets served when Lear learns, too late after Cordelia has died, that in enfranchising the poseur and disenfranchising the true believer he has sabotaged self and country. Do corollaries exist between art and life in the U.S. budgetary debacle? I believe I've found some in relation to how our government has decided to distribute rewards and sacrifices via Defense Department cuts. I share the following for your consideration:
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age; (King Lear)
A good place to start with regard to what suspending military tuition assistance (TA) programs suggests about federal investment priorities is to consider what it cost last year to fund Army's TA program. Let's focus on the Army program, since it represents the government's largest TA investment. In 2012, over 200,000 soldiers (Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve) took over 600,000 classes at over 3,000 higher education institutions, in classrooms and on-line, in the U.S. and virtually, from around the globe, including soldiers serving in combat zones. The total federal investment in TA for the Army was $373 million. This does sound like a lot of money, but those are a lot of soldiers taking a lot of classes at many U.S. higher education institutions. Also recall that these TA funds were promised to soldiers as a means to encourage their enlistment or re-enlistment due to the Army's goal of attracting and retaining bright, motivated, college-ready and -educated recruits. Soldiers decide, then, to sustain the risk of possible deployment (or redeployment) to combat zones, and other inherent sacrifices therein to self and family, for the opportunity to continue their educations and to potentially preserve some or all of the Chapter 33 GI Bill benefits, which they can then use for advanced degree studies or pass on to their spouses or children, magnifying the impact of those federal investment dollars.
And just how effective of an investment are these educational funds? Well, consider the following: In Edward Humes' book, Over Here: How the GI Bill Transformed the American Dream the GI Bill enacted after World War II resulted in a $7-to-$1 return on investment and provided the country with
14 Nobel Prize winners, three Supreme Court justices, three presidents, 12 senators, 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 450,000 engineers, 240,000 accountants, 17,000 journalists, 22,000 dentists and millions of lawyers, nurses, artists, actors, writers, pilots and entrepreneurs.As I have said in an earlier diary in which I cited these data, not too shabby of a return on investment.
Then consider what meteor blades shared via a link to Ben Freeman's Salon article in the last night's "Open Thread for Night Owls" that
even if contractors absorbed all of the Pentagon sequestration cuts, they’d still be on track to receive more than $300 billion a year in new contracts, which is more than double what any other country in the world spends on its military.That's Billion, with a capital, "B." You might ask, aren't there other areas in which the government might consider cutting back on defense spending where the return on investment has not been so, shall we say, effective. Consider, for example, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet whose pricetag which, after various delays and cost overruns could result in a
total life-cycle cost for the entire American fleet is estimated to be US$1.51 trillion over its 50-year life, or $618 million per plane.(See more here.). Yes, that's over half a billion dollars for a single plane. Return on investment, not so good.
However, return on investment is not a primary goal here, I assume. There is yet another feature of this "darker purpose," to me at least. Consider Cup of Joe's excellent post from yesterday. Imagine once this promised source of TA funds gets cut off. What should soldiers do? Well, the promise of the Chapter 33 funds still stands. These were not an enticement to join or re-enlist but a reward for serving during the country's most recent wartime period. They are entitlements that are, as of yet, sacrosanct regarding cuts (we hope they remain so). Should a soldier opt to use up those funds, those dollars are not "renewed" (unlike TA, which is renewed to the tune of $4,500 annually if a soldier remains eligible). Should he/she not complete a degree using GI Bill, the soldier must then find alternate funding sources, and in this case, with the rising tuition costs cited in Cup of Joe's article, these soldiers/veterans can join ever-growing indebted student pool seeking work in a slow-job-growth economy. Their student debt load will add to the nearly $900 billion national student debt load, and should they default, since the loans are federally secured, the holders of those loans, (having been bought up by too-big-to-fail-or-prosecute) banks, get yet another federal windfall for their senior executives and shareholders. What a sweet deal.
So this is the connection I see with King Lear and the "darker purpose," in which a leader (or leaders) is (are) either seduced or simply quite mad with power. He is easily swayed by obsequious lackeys or toadies (or at least pretenders to these roles) whose true purpose is to bilk the kingdom. They "buy" access and influence with promises that the king will be "taken care of" after he abdicates power and responsibility. And chaos is sure to ensue, at the end of which all participants will blame each other and the innocent, devoted servant dies while not being appreciated in life.
On the day TA was suspended, a soldier called our office from Afghanistan. Perhaps I should call this soldier "Cordelia." Our office works with servicemembers and veterans with issues and questions concerning education. Basically, there was nothing we could do to help. The system is broken and the leaders are quite insane.