Americans appear to have their fill of tax cuts for the filthy rich at the expense of the country’s less fortunate. It takes a rare brew of incompetence and stupidity to merit an approval rating below 30%, but the Walter Reed hospital disgrace has ignited the conscience of most Americans, regardless of party affiliation. It may well drive administration poll numbers even further south.
I also believe many are weary of the “support our troops” decals on our cars, which are in reality an ad for the G.O.P., who has done everything but support our troops.
For five years, we’ve seen only one financial constant in this country…constant tax cuts, in time of war, with American kids still waiting for proper armor, and still being rotated in and out of the most unnecessary war we’ve ever fought, in a country we need not be in.
Behind the Walter Reed fiasco lays one of the greatest lies of current conservatism; the mantra that privatization of all government issues is by definition a good thing. Nobody illustrated this better than Paul Krugman, who said, “The…administration has treated veteran’s medical care the same way it treats everything else: nickel-and-diming the needy, protecting the incompetent, and privatizing everything it can.”
This isn’t just war profiteering, as insidious a crime as that is; this is a systematic, brutal, extension of the Grover Norquist-inspired strangulation of the benefits of the nation’s veterans, which might just create a stumbling block for the tax cuts of the rich. You know the people I’m talking about, the ones who never lose kids in this war being fought by the nation’s underclass. Don’t believe me? Take a closer look:
- To keep intact the tax cuts for the top 1%, Salon reported in 2005 that vets, including some harbored at the rodent-infested Walter Reed are now being charged for services that were previously free, including their daily meals.
- Because of the ongoing costs of the Iraq war, and refusal by this administration to reinstate tax cuts for the top 1% to cover it, the Army came up short by $530 million for post maintenance, including hospitals. This is reflected in the outrageously poor outpatient care as seen at Walter Reed.
- The disastrous reign of Donald Rumsfeld is coming home to roost, particularly in the concept of privatization, which swells the pocketbooks of corporations, their executives, and of course, campaign donors, but unfortunately, not the men and women who are being shot up daily in this war which nobody wants.
- With the Reed scandal mushrooming hourly, a decision was made to require patients in the Medical Hold Unit to arise at 6AM, preparing for a 7AM daily inspection. They are being moved to better quarters, which, incidentally, are in an area where unescorted media are not allowed. How convenient!
- Here’s the crème de la crème. You recall Halliburton, the Company which gave us Dick Cheney, and took God knows how many billions of tax dollars to be squandered on non-bid sweetheart contracts? They just announced they are moving their world headquarters from Texas to Dubai, most likely for even more tax breaks. When is enough ever enough?
- Rummy and crew decided to outsource the management of Walter Reed to a company named IAP, which was founded by…you guessed it…two former Halliburton executives. IAP picked up a tidy sum of just under $400 million in pentagon contracts in 2006. Oh yeah, IAP is part of the Cerberus Capital Management Group, an umbrella asset-management firm chaired by recently-retired Treasury secretary John Snow. The incestuous war profiteering multiplies daily within this administration.
- While the Walter Reed contract was worth $120 million in 2006, the facility dropped from 180 to 100 facility management workers. I imagine it improved the bottom line, but did little to help the broken kids being trucked in their daily. IAP lost a competition with the Army itself back in 2004 to see who would best manage the hospital, but the decision was reversed under intense pressure from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Major General George Weightman, one of two Generals who, along with the Secretary of the Army were dumped last week in an effort to cover up the misdeeds of Rumsfeld and his cronies, testified to the congress that privatization “absolutely contributed” to the problems at Walter Reed.
On February 18th of this year, I wrote in the Idaho Falls Post Register; “The obsession with privatization of government by GOP conservatives is not only silly; it’s destroying the country. This administration has followed their anti-government ideology to great extremes, creating a causal relationship between this and war profiteering. In part because of this, we are spending $8 billion every month for Iraq.”
The national disgrace of Walter Reed is but yet one more example. Taking care of shattered American soldiers is not a business…it is the most serious of moral obligations.