From Volume 38, Issue 22 of EIR Online, Published June 3, 2011

United States News Digest

Shocking Effects on Veterans of 10-Year War

May 29 (EIRNS)—CNN's "State of the Union" today exposed the shocking treatment of America's war veterans. Some examples:

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, confirmed that more veterans have killed themselves over the past two years, than were killed in combat. "We have been fighting for a decade," he said, "and I don't think we, as a nation, we, as an army, and we, as the armed forces, know the total effect of a decade of war. But, I think that's what we're seeing. These hidden injuries of war, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury, and other behavioral health issues have been with us forever. But we've been fighting now for a decade in a different kind of fight where everybody that finds themselves in theater finds themselves in danger.... In the U.S. Army last year, we had 162 suicides in about a force of 725,000 folks.... We just don't know as much as we need to know about the brain. And the effects that these long deployments and repetitive deployments are causing for the brain...."

Half of the suicides had seen a mental health professional, Chiarelli reported, and there has been a perception of soldiers, at least in the past, that "we are relying too heavily on drugs." Chiarelli called for research, and said, "I got to tell you, I worry, given the fiscal situation, that some of the money that's being used to do this critical research is going to dry up."

Tim Tetz, legislative director of the American Legion, and Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), appeared next. "What is the biggest problem a returning veteran faces today?" host Candy Crowley asked. It's unemployment, said Rieckhoff—the unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan officially is at 11%. When we talk to IAVA members, it's 20%. Tetz said the largest number of unemployed veterans is in the 35-50 age category—that's over 500,000 veterans.

The VA is "atrocious" in getting benefits in a reasonable time to those who have signed up, Rieckhoff said. A young vet coming back from Iraq-Afghanistan must wait six months to get disability benefits. If the vet appeals his benefit level, that adds another two years before benefits start.

Although good people have headed the VA, Tetz said, "When you sit there and look at a transitioning service member whose goal is to get benefits in 295 days after separation, and the reality was 404 days, that's over a year where that person is sitting there ... waiting for any kind of benefit. And that's why you have the 14,000 calls to the hotline for suicides."

Austerity Only Begets More Austerity

May 28 (EIRNS)—Budget-cutting is an exercise in entropy, and can only lead to more budget-cutting, leading to the disintegration of essential local functions, such as schools and public safety.

For example, thousands of firefighters have been laid off by municipalities all across the country, in the name of balanced budgets, but the near future only promises more layoffs and other means of eliminating jobs.

In Tucson, Ariz., a fire department spokesman warned that response times will increase by about a minute because the city will not be replacing 60 firefighters scheduled to retire this Summer.

In Sacramento, Calif., about 150 firefighters and their families protested a city budget proposal that would cut $9.1 million from the Fire Department's budget. The proposed cuts "will put neighborhoods at risk, lengthen response times, and stand in the way of our ability to deal with real life-and-death emergencies," said the vice president of the fire union.

In New York City, the firefighters union is planning a June 3 rally at City Hall, to be kicked off by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, to protest Mayor Bloomberg's plan to close 20 fire companies.

Public education seems to suffer the most, however, because, it takes up a greater proportion of local budgets, and employs the most people. Local education budgets not only suffer from loss of local revenues, but also the loss of state funding, as many state governors are cutting state aid to education. A survey of 692 school administrators late last year by the American Association of School Administrators found that 48% of them laid off employees last year, and 66% anticipate doing so this year.

Budget-Cutters on the Rampage

May 26 (EIRNS)—In the wake of the Democratic upset in the May 24 special election in New York State's 26th District (near Buffalo), Republican advocates of further cuts to budgets at all levels are in a flight forward. Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate, won in this district, which had been staunchly Republican for more than four decades, by campaigning to defend Medicare from the GOP/Paul Ryan campaign to privatize it.

Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich (a former Lehman Brothers executive) told Fox News today that House Republicans need to go speak to their Senate counterparts right now, to ensure that they hold firm on cutting entitlement programs, or that agenda might run into problems. "When I was chair of the House Budget Committee," he said, "we were always living in fear that the Senate would be weak."

"This is not the time to go wobbly," cried Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), echoing then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's prodding of George H.W. Bush. Ryan is the designated leader of the anti-Medicare pack. South Dakota's Republican Sen. John Thune demanded that Republicans "get out there and fight" to defend the Ryan plan. And Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) tried to macho it up: "We knew that the first person that threw something on the table was going to get the living crap beat out of them [and] we might be beat up in the elections in the future. But you got to be willing to take that if you want to reform the system."

Support from Dick Cheney will not help this cause. "I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on," Cheney pronounced in a talk at a KPMG Global Energy Institute event in Houston.

New York's Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, declared today that after the District 26 election result, he is now willing to say that the 2012 election for the House is "in play" again, if the Democrats campaign strategy nationally continues what was done in New York.

But if Democrats don't want to be tarred and feathered along with the Republicans, they will have to break with President Obama's equally fascist budget proposals, including Obamacare, and his bailout mania.

Apollo Astronauts: Is Obama Grounding JFK's Space Legacy?

May 25 (EIRNS)—On the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's address to a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961, in which he declared the mission of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth before the decade was out, former astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Gene Cernan, all of whom commanded Moon missions, published a column which was published in newspapers around the country, entitled, "Is Obama Grounding JFK's Space Legacy?"

The three astronauts put the blame for killing JFK's commitment squarely on Obama. The column details how an administration-appointed review committee concluded that the Constellation program was "not viable," due to inadequate funding. Then, "President Obama's proposed 2011 budget did not include funds for Constellation, therefore essentially cancelling the program."

The astronauts detail how members of Congress attempted to reverse the President's decision. "However, the President's 2012 budget reduced funding significantly below the authorized amount," and shifted funding in the direction of a partnership between government and commercial entrepreneurs. The column points out that the costs, "including funds to insure safety and reliability, can be expected to be substantially larger and more time consuming than the entrepreneurs predict."

As a result, "today, America's leadership in space is slipping. NASA's human spaceflight program is in substantial disarray, with no clear-cut mission in the offing. We will have no rockets to carry humans to low-Earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years. Congress has mandated the development of rocket launchers and spacecraft to explore the near-Solar System beyond Earth orbit. But NASA has not yet announced a convincing strategy for their use. After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent."

The column concludes: "Kennedy launched America on that new ocean. For 50 years we explored the waters to become the leader in space exploration. Today, under the announced objectives, the voyage is over. John F. Kennedy would have been sorely disappointed."

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