Letter: Veterans deserve continued care

On Sept. 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on the United States. October 2001 marked the beginning of the war in Afghanistan with the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom; the war in Iraq began with the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. The aggregate costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have exceeded $2.4 trillion, as of the end of last year, with a projected $600 billion in costs for veterans’ medical and disability care through 2051.

According to the Department of Defense, as of Sept. 27, U.S. military fatalities have totaled about 4,409 in Iraq and 2,114 in Afghanistan (and other areas), with about 31,926 U.S. service members having been wounded in Iraq, and 17,644 in Afghanistan. A significant number of those wounded will require life-long medical care due to the severity of their wounds.

The “Bush tax cuts” were enacted through legislation passed by Congress and signed by then-President Bush in May 2001 and 2003. While significantly reducing taxes on U.S. taxpayers – especially the wealthy – Congress chose to finance the costs of the wars by increasing the national debt, to be repaid by future generations of U.S. taxpayers.

Instead of “deficit-financing” the two wars, Congress could have covered their costs by requiring taxpayers to pay additional taxes, as was done during WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The sad result of deficit-financing is that the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been borne by only about 1% of the American people, with the rest sacrificing little.

About 280 members of Congress are signatories to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge (TPP), in which they have pledged to oppose any income tax rate increases for individuals and businesses, and any “net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

Recent comments by politicians in the national news clearly raise the specter of another war in the Middle East. The TPP ensures that in any future war, as it has done in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress will ask only a small percentage of Americans to bear the burden. That result is neither just nor patriotic, and betrays our men and women in uniform.

As a Vietnam Veteran, I believe that we need to elect members of Congress who have the courage to reject the TPP and, instead, adopt the following Taxpayer Shared Sacrifice Pledge:

Whereas, it is just and patriotic that the costs of any war be borne by all Americans while such war is ongoing, with provision made to pay the future costs of caring for our military veterans wounded in such war;

In consideration of the foregoing, I pledge to the taxpayers of my district/state and to the American people that if elected and as long as I serve in Congress:

ONE, I will never ask our men and women in uniform to fight a war unless the rest of us Americans are willing to sacrifice to support our military services fighting such war and to pay the true costs of such war, including the present and future costs of medical and disability care and other support for our military veterans wounded in such war (the “War Costs”);

TWO, within 60 days of the initiation of any armed conflict in which U.S. military forces are participating, I will either (i) publicly declare my opposition to our participation in such conflict, or (ii) sponsor legislation that appropriates the required funds to pay the War Costs;

THREE, I agree that appropriated funds to pay the War Costs shall be matched dollar for dollar by decreasing spending on other budget items and by increasing taxes to be paid by individuals and businesses; and

FOUR, I will oppose any effort to finance the War Costs by directly or indirectly increasing our national debt.

In Witness Whereof, I make the above pledge to the American people.

How can we ask our men and women in uniform to sacrifice so much in fighting a war to protect our citizens, our country, our government and our economic system if we are unwilling to pay the costs of that war, including the future costs of caring for our wounded veterans?

John Pomeroy

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