Q&A Friday #104: Should We Cut Veterans’ Benefits And Health Care Now?

My submission for Q&A Friday: The Army Times recently ran a story about Michelle Bachman’s proposal to cut spending, including making substantial cuts in Veterans’ benefits. (The story is linked here for reference:
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/01/military-michele-bachmann-veterans-budget-cuts-012811w/
Naturally, many Veterans and current service members do not like this idea. Do you think this is a wise move, fiscally or politically?

[Disclosure: I am in the US Army currently serving in Afghanistan and found out about this story from fellow Soldiers who had a less-than-favorable opinion of Rep. Bachmann. I write a blog about my experiences in Afghanistan at http://freedomtrombone.blogspot.com. I hope you don’t mind the shameless plug.] — SSG David Proctor

Right now, Republicans in the House have a large majority, but they don’t have the votes to get anything through the Senate. Additionally, with the massive spending increases that have been instituted since Obama got into office, there’s even more low hanging fruit than usual to cut from the budget.

So, with that in mind, although Republicans need to pass large cuts through the House to show that they’re serious, they also need to be smart about it. At this point, there’s no need to push unpopular cuts that will be used against them in 2012, when there’s zero chance of getting those cuts passed and there are plenty of more popular cuts to less worthwhile programs they could make.

Now, let’s get to the specifics of What Bachmann wants to do,

Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has unveiled a plan for cutting $400 billion in federal spending that includes freezing Veterans Affairs Department health care spending and cutting veterans’ disability benefits.

Her proposed VA budget cuts would account for $4.5 billion of the savings included in the plan, posted on her official House of Representatives website.

…In a statement, Bachmann said her plan is intended for discussion purposes as an example of ways to cut federal spending to make it unnecessary to increase the current $14.3 trillion limit on the amount the U.S. government can borrow.

Specifically, do I think we should be “freezing Veterans Affairs Department health care spending and cutting veterans’ disability benefits” when we have troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan? No, I don’t.

That being said, do I support cutting the defense budget in places where it’s wasteful to save money? I do. Could the time come when we need to do the things Bachmann is suggesting to get spending under control? Yes, absolutely. If we get in the same situation Greece is in, which is a real possibility, I can practically guarantee you that veterans will take a big hit. Better to trim with a scalpel now, than slash with a hatchet later when our backs are against the wall.

But again, we get back to low hanging fruit. The first and most important job of our government is defending our country. We have soldiers being wounded in combat in Afghanistan every day. We have tens of thousands of soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few years. Right at the time when these programs are more needed than at any time since Vietnam, we should be VERY reluctant to take out that scalpel.

So, while I admire Michele Bachmann greatly for treating our budget problems seriously, I’d have to part ways with her on this particular cut.

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