Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> First-class care, pay essential for military

The scandal over the shabby treatment veterans receive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and elsewhere tells only half the story. We’ve known for a long time that veterans often get second-rate medical treatment, but this scandal goes all the way back to when service- men and women sign up for the military and are paid far less than they deserve.
Washington tries to rein in spending on the backs of our military, offering low pay, inadequate equipment and second-rate health-care services that might make a Third World country proud.

They risk their lives every day — as many as 10 soldiers have died so far this week in Iraq — while defense contractors make billions — a couple of former Halliburton executives run Walter Reed — but ordinary service members are paid a pittance, about what an unskilled worker makes in the civilian word.

What’s worse, when service members lose their limbs and their eyesight, they’re sent to roach-infested hospitals with peeling paint and leaking roofs so the government can show the taxpayers that the budget is under control. What kind of saving is that? It would be better to cut bureaucrats’ pay and make contractors accountable and build hospitals and rehab centers that are the best in the world.

The White House and the Pentagon promise they’ll do better, but when Washington officials are constantly dodging accusations — Scooter Libby’s conviction on obstruction of justice charges on Tuesday creates more problems for this beleaguered administration — you wonder if anybody’s still in charge.

You get the feeling this administration can’t wait for its term to end and let somebody else solve the nation’s problems.
But there’s plenty more blame to go around:

Here’s a gallery of some of the worst legislators in Arkansas. They voted for the payday lenders who exploit service members:Senators Barbara Horn of Foreman, Bob Johnson of Bigelow, Paul Bookout of Jonesboro, Paul Miller of Melbourne and Terry Smith of Hot Springs.

Call them at the legislature and tell them our service members deserve better treatment. Get rid of the payday lenders and raise military pay — double it as far as we’re concerned — so service members don’t have to live from paycheck to paycheck.
To paraphrase the Russian writer Dostoevsky, the degree of civilization can be judged by how we treat those who have served their country.