Now that the new Congress is seated, what will its priority list look like?
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan says he wants to raise the minimum wage and institute debt-free college educations for students attending public, four-year universities. President Donald Trump wants a $5 billion wall of some sort erected along the Mexico-U.S. border, and his Department of Agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, wants to crack down on what he describes as an epidemic of people receiving food stamps who won’t go to work.
There is a lot of talk about kids dying while in custody at the Mexican border and the need to establish an immigration policy that is humane and effective. And, what about the Dreamers who just want to continue to contribute to a nation they were illegally brought to as children?
These are all worthy issues which Congress should spend time on. To accomplish that, our elected representatives in Washington will have to spend more time on problem solving and less on tweeting and acerbic sound bites on MSNBC and Fox.
While the ongoing cat fight continues in Washington, our soldiers are being treated like chess pieces amid political disputes about where they should be deployed. Many veterans attending school under the GI Bill haven’t received benefits because of computer problems. Payments were incorrectly reduced in some cases and delayed by as much as six months in others. A Veterans Affairs spokesman told the Chicago Tribune the VA’s 50-year-old IT platform is to blame. These failures occurred despite $30 million allocated by Congress to fix the computers.
I have yet to hear anyone with any standing in Congress or the Trump administration declare that our brave men and women on the battle lines and the veterans who have sacrificed to keep us free are priorities.
I am biased. I served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in 1968. The Vietnam soldiers were not welcomed home. They were scorned or, at best, ignored. The late Sen. John McCain was the first person to thank me for my service, nearly 30 years after I left active duty.
Thankfully, the nation’s attitude toward veterans has changed. There is a common thread of respect for those who are and have served. But is it all lip service?
Suicide among veterans continues to rise, despite millions of dollars authorized by Congress to address the issue. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reports that Veterans Affairs canceled millions of dollars for veterans outreach programs to deal with suicides amid bureaucratic confusion and vacancies in key areas.
Twenty veterans a day die by suicide.
This is a shameful situation. More shameful is that nobody in Washington is willing to stand up and declare that veterans are a priority. Veteran benefits should not be viewed as government subsidies. Veterans have earned every penny they are entitled to.
If Democrats now in control of the House want to make a difference, how about shelving impeachment hearings for a few weeks and call VA officials in to clear the air and then implement legislation and oversight to ensure that veterans are respected?
By the way, in my Dec. 23 column, I made a mistake. I’m glad it happened then because I’m only allowed one mistake a year. I now have all year to make another one.
I reported that the coach of the Waunakee girls junior varsity team decided to run up the score on Janesville Parker with a resulting 82-2 final score. I was wrong. It was worse. The final score was 83-2.
I apologize for the mistake. I do not apologize for calling out a coach who puts winning at all costs above basic civility and sportsmanship.