VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
About VVAW
Contact Us
Image Gallery
Upcoming Events
Vet Resources
VVAW Store


Page 4
Download PDF of this full issue: v40n1.pdf (10.4 MB)

<< 3. From the National Office5. "Days of Decision" and "I Refuse" Now Available as Kindle eBooks >>


By Bill Shunas

[Printer-Friendly Version]

When the GIs came home from World War II there were ticker tape parades, kisses from unknown women and pats on the back all around. Then came a very solid GI Bill which rewarded these veterans with a middle class life. Not much was known about PTSD at the time and medical care was pretty basic, but in general, they were treated well.

Then came Korea and Vietnam and the general decline in respect for veterans and the ignoring of our problems. In the late seventies and in the eighties a movement to honor Vietnam veterans came into being. This has resulted in respect for the veterans of the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the kind of respect not seen since the welcoming of the World War II vets.

This change in attitude has resulted in a change in the social and political atmosphere. Now it could be possible to provide veterans with all the needed benefits, ranging from medical care to PTSD support to schooling. The ironic thing and the sad thing is that this positive atmosphere has come at a time when the economy has tanked, and the government will be trying to spend less on everything. So, while the political will to support vets is there, they'll still be telling the same excuses for why this or that benefit is impossible.

The government is good at pretending veterans' problems don't exist. Only recently did the government recognize that World War II Filipino veterans who fought for the US were to receive reparations for the benefits promised them in 1944, only then to be denied. Think of how many died off and how much the government saved from that. Reminds you of the denial of Agent Orange benefits for so many years.

This situation brings to mind the Civil Rights era in the sixties. African-Americans fought to gain civil and political rights. They then moved into the area of economic rights, working to end job discrimination and creating an opportunity to move into the middle class. Then in the seventies good jobs started to disappear, and real wages started to decline. So just about the time the door was opened, there wasn't much behind it.

The door for veterans is now open, but there is little behind it. Money is short. There won't be government money for many things. So-called discretionary spending will likely be inadequate across the board, and this will negatively affect what's needed for vets.

The reasons for the lack of money for needed social programs include spending too much money by the Defense Department, fighting unnecessary wars, tax cuts for the wealthy and bank bailouts. Change some of these things and you might secure better benefits if only in the short term. Such changes, however, do not seem forthcoming. They'd rather choose inadequate and unfair solutions such as cutting Social Security or Medicare.

The larger picture is also bleak. Our bubble economy burst, and there is no bubble in the forecast. Not that it would help. What is needed are all the jobs that have been lost. Over the last couple of decades our nation's wealth has been increasingly invested in financial markets as opposed to the manufacturing area where it would have ensured jobs. This has meant the disappearance of good paying jobs and the movement of jobs out of the country - all leading to a reduction in the tax base.

It now looks like unemployment figures of 5 or 6% (official) and 9-10% (unofficial) are a thing of the past. Now the best figures we'll probably see are something like 9% (official) and 17-18% (unofficial). This country's economic gurus and upper class pirates let it all go. I'm no economist or historian, but my best guess is that no country in history has willingly shed so many jobs and good jobs as has the USA. None dare call it treason.

If one thinks in terms of what is the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. The wealthy are separating themselves off from the rest. Indeed, economic reports suggest the recession ended last quarter. There was only one glitch. Jobs were missing. Mortgages couldn't be paid. Homes were lost. And last year the number of millionaires went up 16%. At least some Americans can receive the best health care money can buy. Jobs for the little people? Let them eat Twinkies.

Both parties are complicit in this decline which is why we're seeing the development of things like the Tea Party. It's good that people are on the move. Unfortunately this populism is of the right wing kind. I suppose the Left is still waiting for the Democrats to bail us out. I hope Obama can develop millions of green jobs, but best guess is that even if he gets it started it won't make a big enough dent.

And veterans again have to suck it up. Money for veteran's needs is being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan where ironically more veteran's problems are being created because of those wars. As usual vets get screwed by these political decisions.

So now the hopey, changey thing is in the hands of people who believe 9-11 was a government conspiracy and Barack Obama is a Muslim Maoist born in Kenya. Pretty soon we'll be hearing that they made an alliance with the black helicopter people.

During hard times, many people seem to gravitate toward the easy solutions. It's the illegal immigrants. It's Big Government spending. It's the Chinese. Really it's class warfare. The wealthy are winning and will continue to win until there comes the kind of involvement seen in the 1930s and the 1960s.

Bill Shunas is a Vietnam veteran, author and VVAW member in the Chicago chapter.

<< 3. From the National Office5. "Days of Decision" and "I Refuse" Now Available as Kindle eBooks >>