It's true that unions were essential to the creation of the American middle class in the post WWII era, but the impact of the WWII GI Bill was likely as significant. My Dad went to a private university with his books, fees, tuition and supplies fully paid, as well as a living allowance for his growing family. There was no time limitation on his benefits. He took some time off between war and school and took his time with his studies. It was a hell of a deal for him, and, it turned out, an even better deal for the country which benefited from the best educated generation it had ever produced.
By the time I got back from Vietnam, the GI Bill was a modest monthly stipend which could be used for school or living expenses as long as you carried a full load at an approved school. Of course, the stipend typically covered neither living nor school and it disappeared if you took a semester off or couldn't get a full roster of classes during summer sessions. As I recall, you had two years to complete each year of eligibility, which meant I had eight years from discharge to get all I was ever going to get. Interestingly, my Dad was still eligible for his GI Bill while I was collecting mine.
It's even worse for newly minted veterans today, especially for the reservists and Guardsmen who make up so much of the fighting forces in Iraq. VA Senator Jim Webb thinks we can do better
. The Preznit doesn't think vets deserve it.
The Bush administration opposes a Democratic effort to restore full educational benefits for returning veterans, according to an official's comments last week.
Senate Democrats, led by Virginia's Jim Webb, want the government to pay every penny of veterans' educational costs, from tuition at a public university to books, housing and a monthly stipend.
Such a benefit was a major feature of the historic 1944 G.I. Bill, which put more than eight million U.S. soldiers through college and is now credited by historians as fueling the expansion of America's middle class in the post-war era.
But in recent years the benefit has dwindled; under the current law, passed in 1985, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can expect Uncle Sam to cover only 75 percent of their tuition costs. That's not enough, say Democrats and veterans' advocates.
It would be expensive, no doubt, but, because of the relatively small number of Americans who are serving today, less so in many respects than the WWII GI Bill. Given the increasing importance of higher education in our society and economy, it might prove to be an even more productive investment than the earlier effort, itself a monumental success. It could be a step toward building an even greater generation.
There shouldn't be a cost/benefit measure applied in the first place, though. For those who serve, we as a society should be doing whatever we can, simply because we should.
George Bush, of course, doesn't care what should be done, because George Bush doesn’t care about veterans.
And he doesn’t care about you, either.
Hat tip to Joe Sudbay at AMERICABlog
Labels: Bush, Jim Webb, Veterans