Not Just a Bill


A surreal debate is playing out on Capitol Hill over a proposed expansion of the GI Bill of Rights.    Bi-partisan coalitions in the House and Senate want to increase college support under the law to give a new, promising start to veterans who've served at least three years in the military.  President Bush and John McCain oppose the bill, ostensibly on the ground that it would motivate too many soldiers to seek college over re-enlistment.  But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that an augmented GI Bill would increase the number of new recruits by about the same amount that it would coax out of the armed forces.

So what's really going on?  The GI Bill is not just a bill.  Through its values, its language, its history and impact, it embodies a profoundly progressive vision of opportunity, linked to a populist form of patriotism.  That combination is especially threatening to the conservative elite.

First, it's a "bill of rights"--a phrase and idea that derive from our most cherished constitutional foundation.  The bill conveys not benefits or privileges, but rights that veterans hold by virtue of their service to our country.

Second, it's an economic bill of rights, tied to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's vision of a "Second Bill of Rights" for all Americans that included not only "the right to a good education," but also "the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;...the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; the right of every family to a decent home;...the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; [and] the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment...."

That vision connects us to internationally-recognized economic and social human rights, embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that recognizes a similar range of economic and social rights, as well as civil and political rights like the right to freedom of speech and religion.  While the United States, led by Eleanor Roosevelt, helped to craft and elevate the Universal Declaration at the end of World War II, presidential administrations of both parties have largely opposed the notion of economic and social human rights since the start of the Cold War.  Polling by The Opportunity Agenda shows that large majorities of Americans, however, recognize and support the economic rights that the Roosevelts worked to advance.

Fourth, the history and impact of the original GI Bill of Rights demonstrate how expanding opportunity advances our national interests and the common good.  The GI Bill helped an entire generation of Americans--and America itself--to take a giant leap toward shared prosperity.  It instigated a wave of ingenuity, innovation, entrepreneurship, productivity, and mobility from which our country continues to benefit sixty years later.

Finally, expanding the Bill of Rights today will make plain the connection between those progressive ideals and the men and women now serving in our military--a connection that conservatives have successfully undermined (often with progressive assistance) since the days of the Vietnam War.

The original GI Bill of Rights was almost defeated by Southern conservative lawmakers, Democrats, who opposed higher education and economic mobility for returning African-American veterans.  Today, conservatives' objections may be expressed differently, but they rest on similarly ideological grounds.  Today, as in 1944, the GI Bill is not just a bill.

Tags: human rights (all tags)

Comments

12 Comments

What's going on with this?

I thought we already won this one with 75 votes...

by Dracomicron 2008-06-05 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Not Just a Bill

McCain will skip the vote on this bill. No way he wants to actually be on record voting against it.

Though, to his undying shame, he is placating Republic Conservative Chicken-hawks by being against it in the press....

by WashStateBlue 2008-06-05 12:58PM | 0 recs
Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GIBill

Would they do it again? I don't think that they would. The US came very close to chaos in the 30s, with Herbert Hoover, the crash of 1929, the Bonus Marchers, then Roosevelt's election, the New Deal and the attempted fascist coup of 1934. (If it wasn't for the real and unsung American hero General Smedley Butler, the US experiment with democracy might have ended right there)

When the GIs cae back from Europe and the Pacific there was a very tangible fear that something like the Hoovervilles and Bonus Marchers would happen again. (there were typically pieces of folk art in GI encampments that made fun of this fear, they had signs quoting directions and distances.. there were also predictions for future journeys to real or often hypothetical places.. a popular one was "soup line in 49" The GIs were afraid that they would return to the America they had left, oe in which the Depression was a very recent memory.. The nation had a huge debt to repay them. They had saved the world from fascism. Also, the US was the only nation that had survived the war largely unscathed. The world needed us and our factories to rebuild.

So, the GI Bill was a deal between groups that needed one another, just as the New Deal was in a sense, an actual unwritten contract between government, industry, and the workforce that was at that time necessary for American industry to function.

It gave people the confidence to buy, to have children, even though they were still afraid.

Now, its not the same situation. The 'new deal' that the right hated from the beginning - enough to try to overthrow the government to eliminate, was never really codified.

There is a HUGE opposition now even in the Democratic elite, to any new entitlements because good jobs are disappearing.

People do - they are really going to need - help!

But they don't have the bargaining power they once did in this situation. Strikes dont apply when people are unemployed. About the only thing that would strike fear into industry would be if people all over the world stopped buying. The US is no longer as big a piece of the picture as we imagine. Many businesses make more money in their export trade.

Also, paradoxically, people most often GET help when they DON'T need it. We are seeing that with universal healthcare. The people who are probably going to get help from Obama are the ones who don't need it.

I am afraid that supply and demand may at some point even make getting any help out of Washington for GIs besides simply giving them a job difficult!

What makes more sense is self-sufficiency. Creating alternatives to consumerism.

by architek 2008-06-05 01:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GI

The people who are probably going to get help from Obama for healthcare and any number of other issues are lower and middle income... and if you think they do not need help, you have not been paying attention.

As to the G.I. bill, anything we can do for our veterans is the right thing to do.  These people go so others do not have to.  These people make sacrifices so others do not have to.

I hope an expansion of the G.I. bill is just the start.

by JenKinFLA 2008-06-05 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GI

As a vet who used the GI Bill in the 90s, it is not enough.  The lower ranking soldiers don't make enough money to save very much - if anything at all.  College is unaafordable without the current GI Bill.  I worked through school and still have student loans even though I had the GI Bill.  When these guys come back, they will have enough issues to deal with without worrying about their future.  Call your congressperson, etc. and support this bill.

by futbol dad 2008-06-05 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GI

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for your service....

by JenKinFLA 2008-06-05 01:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GI

No problem.  The army was sometimes even fun - in a sick demented sort of way.

by futbol dad 2008-06-05 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge economic boost in the 50s and 60s from GI

Dad was career Air Force and he says the same thing.

by JenKinFLA 2008-06-05 02:43PM | 0 recs
I support doing everything we can for ex-GIs

I think we could do far, far more.

We should set up a national center to do research on injuries to the brain that are still not fully understood, like PTSD, some brain trauma, chemo brain, biotoxin illness, mercury and lead poisoning, CFIDS, etc.

They have many similarities and I think that a Center of Excellence that could bring a body of scientists and their respective communities together could be very productive.

They are clearly all involved with the hippocampus and amygdala.

Don't forget, many, many people have these issues.

Ted Kennedy, Elizabeth Edwards, John McCain, etc. would probably benefit from any discoveries on chemo brain.

When I hear Elizabeth Edwards speak, I recognize some of the same issues.. she clearly has chemo brain.

I think prolonged, extreme stress creates similar problems.

By not addressing the healthcare issue, we are creating some SERIOUS longterm healthcare issues with the stress.

by architek 2008-06-05 06:44PM | 0 recs
Oops..

I don't know if its clear..

I was mentioning this because I think that PTSD causes issues with the hippocampus and neural stem cells that mimic chemo brain. I feel that there is a cluster of illnesses that are related. MANY soldiers returning from war would benefit from this.

BTW, low dose Procrit might help, if its given no more than 3-4 days apart.. (not once a week) is anybody researching that?

by architek 2008-06-05 06:48PM | 0 recs
And this supplemental for the Iraq War needs help!

We were particularly pleased that both Houses of Congress included the provisions of H.R.5613 into the supplemental appropriation for the Iraq War.  We are alarmed that despite passage of the bill by large margins in both houses, it may be compromised to allow some of the regulations to go through.

H.R.5613 is legislation that would delay implementation of new regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Those who rely on Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus for essential, life-saving health care services will be devastated if these regulations are allowed to go through.

We were particularly pleased that both Houses of Congress included the provisions of H.R.5613 into the supplemental appropriation for the Iraq War.  We are alarmed that despite passage of the bill by large margins in both houses, it may be compromised to allow some of the regulations to go through.

We applaud you for recognizing that, taken together, the new regulations would reduce federal Medicaid funding to states by billions of dollars, with Medicaid beneficiaries bearing the brunt of those cuts.  It is not acceptable or appropriate to do anything less than delaying all of the seven regulations, rather than pitting one against another in the name of incremental steps.  Given the large and growing number of New Yorkers who are without health insurance, regulations that would erode public health insurance programs are particularly ill-advised, especially in this economic climate.

The corrosive nature of the new regulations would undo years of allowing states to craft a Medicaid system that works well and provides for the needs of those who rely on it.  Thank you for making the right decision and standing up for New York on this important issue. Please contact Speaker Pelosi and Oversight Chairman Obey and demand that all seven regulations be delayed together.  Your support really makes a difference.

by Jeter 2008-06-05 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Not Just a Bill

This is a great diary, and a really great bill. We cannot allow either Democrats or Republicans to compromise or amend this to be meaningless when passed. Both the SEnate and the House can not let this be compromised.

by Jeter 2008-06-05 01:28PM | 0 recs

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