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Let’s not make life harder on our veterans

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Leon Burzynski
November 10, 2011

This year as we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s with a heavy heart over the economic hardships that so many veterans and Americans face.


I enlisted in the U. S. Navy because I loved my country, wanted to serve it and wanted to keep America strong. Like today’s young veterans, I hoped to have a bright future when I came home.


Fortunately, I did. I secured training and a job as an electrician, raised a family, and was able to earn health care benefits for my family and a pension for my retirement. Back in those days, the middle class was fairly robust. In those days, American corporations operated manufacturing plants here at home, and heads of companies were compensated at a fair rate for their expertise. There were reasonable opportunities to work hard and earn a decent living in return. Things are different today.


Today, 20 percent of veterans between ages 18 and 24 are unemployed. For those who are able to find work, their futures are less definite. When I served in the U.S. Naval Submarine Service, our threats were external. Now, it seems our quality of life is threatened by internal forces.


For example, this month, a “supercommittee” in Washington tasked with reducing the federal deficit will conclude its negotiations. It will submit recommendations that Congress must vote on by the end of the year. There is talk this supercommittee will advocate lowering Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) and raising the Medicare eligibility age. So many people in Wisconsin, and across the country are already hanging on by a thread—this would be a difficult change for them. But more than that, it would be a hardship for future generations. The way things are going, our young people will need programs such as Social Security and Medicare more, not less.


It also shows our priorities as a nation. Not only do corporations and the top 1 percent seem to be the only ones profiting from the wars the rest of the nation are sent to fight, they also seem to be among the only ones profiting from the wealth 99 percent of us help to create, while being immune to shared sacrifice.


The corporations that outsourced our jobs, laid off workers, and avoided paying taxes, while at the same time exponentially increasing their salaries and bonuses, continue to get a pass. Veterans didn’t fight so only the top 1 percent could afford to live and retire in dignity. Americans do not work their entire lives building their communities, contributing hard-earned tax dollars so only wealthy executives are represented and have a decent quality of life.


The unrelenting attack on Social Security is a perfect example and analogy for the attack on the middle class. Social Security did not cause the budget deficit—the program is funded by the payroll taxes we paid all our working lives. By law, the program cannot contribute to the federal deficit. But politicians are creating a false narrative and using the program as a scapegoat to avoid addressing the real issues, such as how corporate greed has run our country into the ground. These same politicians do not want to admit the tax breaks and loopholes for the rich and big corporations are truly jeopardizing our nation’s economic health.


Some of us fought for our country in the armed forces, and many of us contributed to building this country in other ways.


Veterans Day 2011 will mark a day of remembrance for all who served. I hope we can show our honor and appreciation for those who fought for and helped build this country by preserving the basic programs that ensure Americans a decent quality of life.


Leon Burzynski of Pewaukee is president of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, 6333 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213; phone (414) 771-9511. WIARA represents more than 103,000 Wisconsin retirees and is dedicated to the health and economic security for current and future retirees. www.wisconsinara.org.

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