June 18, 2004


Bush's 'respect' for vets
by Jim Hightower

Does George W get up every morning and gargle with a big glass of political cynicism, or is he genetically cynical and just can't help himself?

Take his recent radio address on Memorial Day weekend. Bush wrapped himself as tightly as possible in the flag and blathered on at length about how much he loves those veterans who have gone to war and fought for our freedom (a noble stand that he personally avoided taking when his time came, using family connections to keep him safely out of harm's way but that's another story). In his address, George told the nation that we can acknowledge the debt we owe these veterans by "showing our respect and gratitude."

I don't know if he gargled before delivering this radio sermon, but I do know that just hours before it, Bush's budget office announced that it would cut a billion dollars out of existing veterans' health care programs next year if Bush gets elected this fall. There's gratitude for you!

These programs have already been so shortchanged by Bush that his own secretary of veterans affairs has criticized their inadequacy. At present, nearly 350,000 injured and ill vets are having to wait in line get admitted for health care because the VA system is so backed up. The average wait is more than six months! Yet, rather than cutting the backlog, as Bush promised to do when he took office, he now proposes to cut 540 VA staffers who review disability claims to speed up the line and help veterans get the care they need.

This billion-dollar cut comes on top of Bush's ongoing attempt to close veterans hospitals across the country, his $50 million cut in medical research on new prosthetic technologies for dismembered vets and his cutting-off of 164,000 veterans from their existing prescription drug coverage.

Is it too cynical to suggest that veterans could use a little less rhetorical "respect" from the president and whole lot more tangible support?

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale July 19 from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com.


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