Tuesday, September 7, 2010

America has a cow over Alan Simpson's candor on deficits

By Dana Milbank http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302961.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
Sunday, September 5, 2010

There was a time, not too long ago, when a politician could talk about tits in public.

In 1992, Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, complained in a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures about how Social Security, veterans benefits and other programs had made America "like a milk cow with 250 million tits." As best I can tell, the remark drew no attention or complaint.


Dear Mr. Milbank
By John Cory, Reader Supported News

05 September 10

I read your column today and was saddened by your defense of Alan Simpson and your belief that Vets and veteran’s benefits are “special interest groups … the real sucklings at the public teat …” I must have missed that in my Vietnam combat brochure.
I don’t know much about you, Mr. Milbank. I’m not a big reader of The Washington Post,but I did see a couple of YouTube videos that you and another fellow made in your smoking jackets and wingback chairs, ala Masterpiece Theatre. It wasn’t very funny, and neither is your article on behalf of the miserly skinflint.
You obviously agree with Simpson’s declaration, “The irony that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess.”
Translation: we don’t make war like we used to – too many survivors nowadays.
Of course, if you want to avoid the debt of paying veterans for their service to the country, maybe you all should stop making so many of them by waging endless dishonest wars. Just a thought.
I noticed you pointed out that Simpson was an Army veteran. Yes, he was. Maybe you read this People Magazine profile from 1991? He tells how he had problems. “They made me assistant adjutant of a regiment and I didn’t even know what I was doing …” Plagued by anxiety, high blood pressure and suffering a mild depression, Simpson was transferred to the infantry where he recovered by “being out in the woods and shooting again.” Of course that was 1955 Germany and no one was shooting back. And what lessons did Alan Simpson learn? Here are his words, “I couldn’t administer my way out of a paper bag. I could never be a governor or a President.”
And this is the guy you think is “spot on”? The guy you describe as, “The folksy and salty Simpson … has long been one of my favorites in politics.” Seriously? Wow.
Let me introduce you to a couple of other special interest “sucklings,” Mr. Milbank.
My old high school chum, Jim West was as gentle a soul, as you could ever know. But the Big Green changed him in ways that shocked even me when I first saw him on the Psych Ward at the VA Hospital where I worked after the war. On good days, Jim’s eyes danced with life and dreams and that warm easy smile. Other days his eyes were vacant as he sat still as stone, lost on a trail he humped out of nowhere toward somewhere but it never led anywhere.
I took Jim to the VA disability office to fight for his PTSD claim. But in those early days, PTSD was just a bunch of hippie Vietnam Vet crap to scam the government cause hippie vets were a bunch of babies who didn’t want to work for a living. I remember the man who looked us square in the eye and said, “That’s the trouble with you vets today, you want something for nothing. Get over it. Get a job. Move on.”
That VA “counselor” was not there the day we found Jim in his freezing cold apartment. Windows open to the winter. Jim crumpled on the floor. Alone. Suicide. A simple note: “Today, I’m not crazy anymore.”
When I suffered my first attack of peripheral neuropathy, the VA doctors spent two weeks drawing lines on my body – feeling side, numb side – and puzzling over cause. When I ended up bleeding from orifices you’re not supposed to bleed from the VA doctors once again were puzzled. No answers. Kind of crazy.
And then I learned about Paul Reutershan, who spent the last year of his life advocating for veterans, spreading the word about Agent Orange, battling for his band of brothers against Dow Chemical and the VA for care and disability benefits. He was 28 years old when he died in 1978. In his appearance on the Today Show earlier that year, Paul uttered those chilling words, “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.”
When I sought help from the VA I was set aside and told it was no big deal. I got sprayed with a harmless chemical. Nothing to worry about. Call again if your symptoms reappear. Bye-bye. Don’t ask for money.
Years of Dow Chemical hiding data, fighting to keep its studies secret, and the federal government covering up the revelation that it had knowingly sprayed troops with a carcinogenic agent that could and would have long-term health issues for Vietnam Vets took years and decades to gain recognition and validation. Agent Orange is deadly and debilitating with a vast array of symptoms and diseases. My friends and brothers are dying long, lingering, painful deaths from service to their country – but perhaps it is not their country any longer.
If Alan Simpson and you, Mr. Milbank, think we Vietnam Vets are adding to the deficit of America then maybe America suffers a more serious deficit than money.
I made a new friend recently, an Iraq Veteran who has been battling the VA for disability benefits. She lost an eye and suffers TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) but she tells me the VA ratings system has the same attitude of the VA from my day. Veterans are trying to get something for nothing.
Support The Troops! – Until they come home. Then sweep them under the rug because as we all know – old soldiers never die, they just cost a lot.
Vietnam Vets battled, begged, and raised hell for recognition and treatment of PTSD and the lethal legacy of Agent Orange. We fought to be treated as equals to those WWII vets who used the VA and often received better care and higher preference than we did. We fought for our country only to spend forty years fighting for our rights and benefits at home. Be all you can be – but do it for free.
The new generation of constant unremitting war, repeated deployment and multiple tours of war and more war are going to come home to a country that was willing to enrich the defense industry, the chemical companies, write blank checks for bombs and drones and huge embassies and bases and no-bid contracts for corporations but cannot spare a dime for a veteran.
The coming wave of PTSD and TBI disabilities are the signature of Iraq and Afghanistan. The hundred-year war doesn’t stop in your head just because the bullets stop flying. The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Riots become habit. Close your eyes and watch your worst nightmares become midnight entertainment. Watch family become strangers. Watch friends shrivel and fade away from chemicals or depleted uranium or a dozen other unknown secrets of war.
Mr. Milbank, I hope you do something journalistic and investigate before you next endorse a miserly, arrogant man who sees himself as above “the lesser people” and more patriotic than “suckling” veterans. Or not.
Slogans are good. Snarky old guys are fun. I get it.
Not to worry, my friend Jim West never suckled on the teat of government. Neither did Paul Reutershan. They had the decency to pass over without becoming a financial burden on “good” government.
Patriotism on the cheap is cost effective.
Support The Troops – buy a Welcome Home greeting card.
Paul Reutershan died for the sins of war but he never forgot his brothers.
He never left a man behind.
How about you, Mr. Milbank?
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


  1. Right on my friend in Arms. The VA changes policies more often than I change my socks. In one year I went from a 60% hearing loss to normal. A minor example. I did 4 tours in Nam, 2 on the DMZ on minesweepers, exposed frequently to Agent Orange. A matter of time after we die off, there's no problem.

  2. Thank you so much John for speaking out for all us Vet's. You put into words what many of us are unable to do. That includes some of us who fail in doing so.

    We must demand the President remove Simpson from his cabinet. Simpson is no good for the country and out of tune with the nation and it's people.

  3. We did not make any war, we have no right to say no,without a huge dent in our lives, meaning usually jail. So I say to those who made and voted for the wars we have fought for them, IF YOU WANT TO PLAY YOU GET TO PAY. We have.

  4. Shawn your comments were on the mark. I had two tours in Nam and did not what the hell agent orange was, still don't. Except that our grateful government used in on its own troops. The Vietnamese government is having more success with the U.S Government getting treatment for their civilians than most of us who were the "invited guests" there.