Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with an extraordinary list of problems: Two wars, a failing economy, the collapse of our largest financial institutions, a massive number of home foreclosures, a failing auto industry, high unemployment, rising deficits and rising debt. Those are just the problems he inherited the day he took office. In addition, he’s faced a multitude of other issues: An obstructionist and do-nothing Republican Party, a racist and increasingly angry Tea Party, a porous southern border, belligerent leaders in Israel and Russia, rising poverty, and a vanishing middle class.
You may not believe the President has done enough to solve our problems but, in reality, his performance has been nothing short of remarkable. Without the leadership of his administration, we may have experienced a second Great Depression – a fact that is clearly spelled out in Timothy Geithner’s new book Stress Test. Of course, Teapublicans don’t want to talk about that. They call it the “Blame it on Bush Syndrome,” and they hold Obama responsible for all the problems he inherited.
Similarly, the Obama administration is now being blamed for delays at some VA health facilities. Yet VA problems existed long before Obama took office. Indeed, he appointed General Eric Shinseki to fix the problems and reduce delays. By most accounts, Shinseki has had some success. But no one can hope to change a health system that serves more than 8.6 million veterans overnight. The problems could be the result of a few incompetent bureaucrats. If so, they must go.
A larger issue is what led to the crowding at VA hospitals…the willingness of too many politicians to send our youth to war for questionable reasons! When we continue to pursue military actions around the globe, we are going to create more veterans – many with serious and expensive-to-treat health issues. Yet it seems that Congress has not fully recognized that reality when it comes to the VA budget. It’s estimated that, in addition to the trillions spent on the Iraq and Afghan wars, the cost of treating our wounded soldiers could also run into the trillions…a fact that has been little discussed.
When the Bush administration took us to war more than a decade ago, few Americans were asked to make sacrifices. Instead, Bush asked us to go shopping. And, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his misadventures, he actually cut them! If it weren’t for the yellow ribbons, ribbon decals on cars, and the obligatory “thank you for your service” statement recited to anyone in uniform, there would have been little indication that we were at war. The Bush administration controlled the news media by forcing reporters to be imbedded in military units. It even banned news media from photographing the flag-draped coffins of those killed in war.
Out of sight…out of mind.
The lesson in this is that if you want to go to war, you better be willing to pay the price. Everyone should be asked to make some sacrifices. Everyone should be asked to pay for the sacrifices of those wounded in war. And those costs should be made abundantly clear. Indeed, such costs are the only real deterrent to cause voters and politicians to hesitate before waving the flag, beating the war drums and sending our troops into yet another foreign conflict.