Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran Victory

Today is the day to recognize the men and women who service our country in uniform. It is not a money making proposition and it is dangerous. So it is appropriate that the rest of us take some time at least to let people know we appreciate their efforts.

It is also a good idea now as we are in a mess of historic magnitude to remember how returning veterans from World War II were treated. In 1944, Congress passed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act to provide for college and vocational education as well as one year of unemployment compensation. Most importantly it provided loans for veterans to buy homes and start businesses, sparking a housing boom that lasted through the 1950s.

The GI Bill as it came to be known was even more popular among soldiers returning from Vietnam. Over 70% of Vietnam Vets used the education benefits, almost double the number of Korean War veterans who sought higher education. It is still the education benefits that curry the interest of most present day veterans - especially since military service is sold by recruiters as a means to pay for higher education. Earlier this year, Congress approved an expansion of the benefits, adding $1,000 per year for books.

Maybe President-elect Obama and Congress need to return to the G.I. Bill benefit package and add some incentives for veterans to soaks up those repossessed homes on the market place. Better yet provisions to keep veterans from going into foreclosure in the first place seems like a great way to extinguish all those toxic assets the big banks want to get off their books.

In my view, that approach seems like a better value for the taxpayers dollars. So far Congress has spent over $200 billion dollars to rescue the banks and they still have their hands out and we still seem to have a clogged up credit market. We have not yet seen the bills at the state and local government levels for the social services required to support the people the banks tossed out of their homes for non-payment of house loans.

Have taxpayers been snookered by the big banks? Time will tell. For certain the dollars spent on the GI Bill have been well spent.

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