A huge spending bill is winding its way through Congress to the tune of $1.1T. It is the bill that funds the government through October and provides much needed money for local Congressional projects and the Pentagon. Some notable items in the budget:
War Funding. FundedWait. What? No mention of restoring the COLA cut to all veterans in this massive $1.1T budget?
New aircraft carriers. Funded
Joint Strike Fighter. Funded
Disabled Veterans COLA cut. Reversed and funded
Veteran retiree COLA cut. No mention
Collectively, Congress sounded alarmed and shocked, shocked someone would sneak a clause in the Bipartisan Budget bill of 2013 that would cut military retirees COLA by 1% below age 62 without proper vetting. We heard many Senators and Congressmen wanted to get to the bottom of this and fix it. However, the fix, for many Congressmen, could only be done in the form of trade-offs. In other words, the repeal could only be accomplished by being paid for by cutting something else in the budget. As we've seen all too often this is a non-starter, and is nothing but a smoke-screen.
Its a smoke-screen because what Congressmen, who favor this kind of repeal, is banking on to tell their constituents: See, I tried to fix it but the other side killed it. Many in Congress understand America hold their veterans and military personnel in high regard.
But what is becoming clear Congress is dragging their feet and ready to ignore the pleas from veterans and military coalitions. Since their poll numbers are in the single digit, why would they care? The place is swamped with deficit hawk ideologues. They could have easily restored the COLA cut in such an enormous bill. The way they see things Americans who are collecting a check from the government, the payouts are too generous and must be cut. Unfortunately, there are many in Congress in this camp.
Because Congress poll numbers have suffered mightily in recent years, what is emerging is something more sinister. Rather than block spending bills because the other side submitted it, each side is agreeing on cutting the budget that effects Americans in profound ways. Some examples:
Cuts to government programs Americans rely onBy agreeing in a bipartisan way, Congress is able to do their damage without looking so soiled. Throw in the word bipartisan, market it as reasonable and it will sail through.
Cuts to military retiree pensions by way of COLA cut
Cuts to unemployment insurance
Congress is feeling buoyant with this new strategy. They are already patting themselves on the back for a job well done because they may have clinched an approach that may sell back home.
Message to Congress: there should be no more pay fors if you are not willing to raise taxes on the very rich. Repeal and fund veteran pension cuts and fund unemployment insurance in this omnibus bill. Do it now.