Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) gave an error-riddled address on his economic policy vision. Today — as a prebuttal to President Obama’s prime time address on Iraq this evening — Boehner tried his hand at national security policy.
Leaving his perpetual confusion about foreign affairs aside, Boehner also used the speech to take another whack at Obama’s economic program, saying that the steps the Obama team took to pull the economy back from the cliff, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, actively made things worse for military veterans:
Today, as thousands of our warriors come home seeking to provide for their families and realize the American Dream they have volunteered to defend, they confront an economy that affords neither opportunities nor jobs. Veterans’ unemployment is now at 11 percent. That is why I have called on my colleagues in the Congress and the president to join me in supporting a series of immediate actions to end the ongoing economic uncertainty and help more Americans find an honest day’s work. ‘Stimulus’ spending sprees, permanent bailouts, federal mandates and government takeovers have failed this nation and have failed our veterans.
It’s nothing new for Boehner to criticize the stimulus, despite it having helped save or create millions of American jobs and been a key factor in the U.S. avoiding another Depression. But it is something for him to place his criticism in the veterans affairs context, as his professed desire to repeal unspent stimulus funds would have a noticeably negative effect on veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was granted $1.8 billion in stimulus funding, all of which has been committed, and $916 million of which has been paid out. So canceling the unspent money would rescind nearly one billion in funds already designated to serve veterans.
The projects funded by this money include renovating, repairing, and upgrading veterans’ hospitals across the country, including one in Boehner’s home state of Ohio. The money is also being used to improve claims processing units for veteran health benefits (by hiring more workers and upgrading equipment).
The stimulus also provided $250 payments to disabled veterans and gave private sector employers a tax credit for hiring unemployed vets. Is Boehner willing to say that none of these steps were worthwhile, or to pull the plug on projects improving veterans’ facilities that are already planned and underway?
Sadly, veterans affairs was one of the areas that came under the cutting knife, as those crafting the stimulus sought to get it under an arbitrary $800 billion to swing a few Republican votes. In fact, $2 billion for VA construction was thrown out entirely during the negotiations. And if he had his way, Boehner would take away the funding that is left.