Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Is Norm Coleman Using Soldier’s Families while Pawlenty & DFL Propose Real Assistance?

Maybe I’m being too cynical, but is Norm Coleman resorting to gimmickry in his proposal to address the financial plight of our soldier’s families ?

Coleman’s Press Release of January 5, 2007 identifies the problem :
“All too often, the families of reservists and National Guard members must contend not only with the physical absence of a loved one but also with the loss of income that makes meeting house payments, car insurance, medical and other bills too great of a burden to bear without help. Some 55 percent of married Guard members and reservists have experienced a loss in income, with nearly 50 percent experiencing a loss of $1,000 in pay per month and 15 percent experiencing a loss of $30,000 or more in pay a year. With our Guard and reservists putting their lives on the line, they should not also have to put their families' financial lives on the line due to their service.”

In a previous commentary, I stated that the best book I read last year was David Kuo’s Tempting Faith – An Inside Story of Political Seduction. Kuo was Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He was drawn to Governor Bush as a Christian who cared about the issue of poverty and his fellow man, but after serving in the White House, he came to realize that many issues were just window dressing to entice religious groups of voters to support him.

Kuo’s essential thesis is that politicians understand the benefits of talking up issues in terms of legislative proposals, funding goals and methods yet realizing that Congress, or the Administration, will never agree to the funding levels. Want proof, read any State of the Union address.

So Coleman has identified a real problem … one that most citizens realized much earlier when Reservists were put on active duty, not years later. His solution is not a Government Funded Program … but a Voluntary Donation Program. Specifically, Coleman plans to propose legislation entitled the Voluntary Support for Reservists and National Guard Members Act which would provide taxpayers the option of contributing part of their tax refund to an income support fund that will help those families who have experienced an income loss due to a call-up to active duty.

Does the Coleman solution, of asking citizens to donate money to the government which would coordinate spending for a specific needs, sounds familiar?
Do you remember in June of 1999 when Governor Ventura proposed to set up a state-run gift fund for new sports stadiums? Taxpayers were given the option to donate their rebate checks – and/or make a cash contribution – so that baseball and/or football stadiums could be built. Ventura kicked in $1,000 to the fund. While Ventura described the proposal as "democracy at its finest," others responded that it was “laughable.” When asked by reporters then St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman did not comment on Ventura’s proposal. We know now that voluntary stadium fund did not work.

Bush campaigned for the US Government to send government funds to faith-based groups and according to Kuo, the program has not been supported by Congress. If charities could obtain ample donations, they wouldn’t have needed government involvement.

Voluntary contributions are at the whim and financial capablities of the donors. When 9/11 happened, many people shifted their donations to 9/11 funds in lieu of their regular sponsored charities. Income tax check-offs may be a simple way to designate a few dollars to a government election campaign fund (or monies to support Wildlife) but there is no guarantee that citizens will contribute the monies that are needed.

Coleman’s proposal is weak in that it does not address how many families could receive assistance. Nor, how much would be available. Nor, who would administer the program. Nor, the requirements that families would have to meet to receive the aid. Since Minnesota already has a program Comfort For Courage that assists families, would there be an overlap such that some of the 2,981 Minnesota National Guard troops currently deployed, may not receive any benefits.

At the same time Coleman is offering his limited proposal, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota DFL members
are proposing real changes that could impact military families significantly. The key elements of the proposed legislation are : a 100 percent exemption from state income taxes for military pay and pensions; and a state version of the GI Bill, providing additional financial benefits to veterans and some dependents who attend college. It would affect 33,000 National Guard members, reservists and retirees and an unknown number of Minnesotans serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. There is a cost of $75million funded by the State’s taxpayers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You grossly over rate Comfort for Courage as a program helping military families, when what it mainly does is send care packages with items like chapstick and sunscreen to deployed soldiers. Check out their webpage for the specifics. They also have a center for vet students at the U of M Minneapolis Campus, but this doesn't necessarily work to serve military families statewide.

On their Links page, C4C shows Alliant Tech Systems as one of their friends. While they probably donate funds to the C4C cause, ATK also produces military munitions containing Depleted Uranium that is a heavy metal (DU-238), exposure to which has potential to cause health problems related to radiation poisoning.

I think you may have confused C4C with the Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund, which is a statewide organization with co-chairs including well-known names like Walter Mondale, Wendell Anderson, Rudy Boschwitz, Arne Carlson, Dave Durenberger. This organization gives grants up to $10K to military members and disabled veterans.




"The Minnesotans' Military Appreciation Fund (MMAF) is a state-wide fundraising initiative by the Co-chairs citizens of Minnesota for the Minnesota military personnel and their families.

Founded by area business and community leaders, MMAF calls on citizens to show their support and appreciation for the sacrifices made by Minnesota military personnel deployed in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.

MMAF shows our troops how much we appreciate and respect their efforts by providing cash grants to all soldiers, and to the families of soldiers who are killed in combat. It also shows the nation we're a proud state, dedicated to our troops.

From Pipestone to Ely, from Roseau to Rochester , MMAF is a way for all Minnesotans of all beliefs and backgrounds to demonstrate their enduring appreciation for the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons, and daughters who have served on our behalf.

In order to provide appropriate grants to every eligible soldier, it will take the kind contributions of as many caring Minnesota citizens as possible."