Category Archives: Op-Eds

Veterans Day: “Appropriate Homage”

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Loui...
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1926, a concurrent resolution of the US Congress held it “fitting that the recurring anniversary of [the armistice which brought World War One to an end] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations …”

In 1938, Congress enshrined November 11 of each year as an American holiday “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'”

Somewhere between 15 and 19 million human beings — 1/3 of them civilians — perished in World War One. Fitting, don’t you think, to set aside a day each year for remembrance of the tragedy and for resolve against its repetition, however vain the latter hope might prove?

But Armistice Day is a thing of the past. In 1954, Congress acted yet again, striking the word “Armistice” from the 1938 law and inserting the word “Veterans.” Why? “[I]n order,” wrote president Dwight D. Eisenhower, “that a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars.”

What does that mean, 63 years after Eisenhower’s proclamation and 99 years since the guns fell silent? USA Today reports that it means Free Stuff.

Should I care to cruise town with my DD-214 in hand this weekend, I could avail myself of free car washes, free haircuts, free flu shots, free food (including, no kidding, red, white and blue pancakes), and discounts on everything from toys to shoes to lumber.

I’ve got nothing against Free Stuff, of course, nor against anyone offering it or taking advantage of the offers.

But when I mentally stack up those red, white and blue pancakes next to a pile of human corpses tens of millions high (including the bodies of more than one million US military personnel since 1775), my appetite deserts me.

I’d rather have Armistice Day. “Prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace” seem far more appropriate to the occasion than a free car wash. Far more respectful, I feel, to all those whose lives have been cut short by war, and for that matter, to veterans in particular.

On a different armistice day — VJ Day in 1945 — my wife’s father and my grandfather were serving aboard (different) US Navy ships in the Pacific. By way of honoring the memories of Bill Millay and Woodrow Knapp this Veterans Day, we’ve donated $11 to Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeace.org) to help make EVERY day Armistice Day. I hope you’ll do the same.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

Cadet Trump
Donald John Trump, pictured on page 107 of his 1964 New York Military Academy yearbook. [Public Domain]
On November 3, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was sentenced to dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank to private, and a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Without hesitation and displaying reckless disregard for his own reputation, US president Donald Trump courageously mounted his keyboard and charged Twitter to pronounce the sentence “a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

There’s certainly a complete and total disgrace to discuss here, but it’s neither Bergdahl nor his sentence. It’s Trump and his hypocrisy.

Although I’m a veteran myself, I don’t consider military service a special qualification for holding public office. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that it’s a handicap (if not for the officeholder, for the public that officeholder claims to serve).

The skills one learns in the armed forces do not speak to political and philosophical questions such as whether or not a war is justifiable. Nor, except at the level of generalship, do they equip one with a grasp of grand strategy. They do, however, feed the entitled attitude and seeming impunity that accompany government employment.

Be that as it may, if there’s anything worse in public office than a proud veteran who learned the wrong lessons, it’s a gutless but grandiose chickenhawk like Donald Trump.

In 2006, 20-year-old Bowe Bergdahl enlisted in the US Coast Guard, but was discharged after 26 days for what the press characterizes as “psychological reasons.” Two years later, despite that record, Bergdahl was allowed to enlist in the US Army and deploy to Afghanistan as an infantry trooper.

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl left his post in Paktika Province for reasons that remain unclear and disputed. He spent the next five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. Now he’s a dishonorably discharged private with a $10,000 invoice in hand.

Bergdahl may have been delusional, or he may have become disillusioned. His Coast Guard discharge should have made it clear to the Army that he wasn’t cut out for military work. But he at least made the attempt.

Donald Trump styles himself “Commander in Chief.”  As a candidate he called himself “the most militaristic person there is.” He “always felt that” he was in the military because his parents shipped him off to a military school as a teen to curb his bratty behavior. He loves military pomp and pageantry. But he actively avoided military reality when it counted.

Instead of enlisting and putting his vaunted warrior spirit to the test during Vietnam, Trump took five draft deferments: Four for college and one on a claim of “bone spurs” in his feet (they hadn’t stopped him from participating in athletics, of course).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame Trump for avoiding Vietnam. I blame him for not learning a little bit of humility from his experience.

If military service is a standard of fitness, Donald Trump isn’t fit to shine Bowe Bergdahl’s boots.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Sorry, Republicans: If You’re Not Cutting Spending, You’re Not Cutting Taxes.

Hundreds (RGBStock)

President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders rolled out their new tax plan on November 2. Since all bills must have titles, they’re calling this one “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

Republican “tax reform” theatrics have worn thin over  many months of waiting, but I still prefer a more theatrical title. “A tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing” rings true. Four centuries later, Shakespeare’s MacBeth is a better description of the matter than any coming out of Washington, DC.

Yes, there’s plenty of quibbling across the aisle over everything from top rates to the home mortgage interest deduction, but neither party’s politicians seem willing to tackle the most basic, indisputable, and relevant fact: Since Congress isn’t cutting spending, Congress won’t be cutting taxes either.

In 2017, the US government will spend more than $4 trillion. That’s 21.5% of Gross Domestic Product, more than one out of every five dollars in wealth created by the US economy.

In order for that wealth to be spent by the political class, it must first be taken from the productive class. To spend a dollar, one must have a dollar. There are three ways to get the money, and all of them are taxation whether they’re called that or not.

The first and most obvious way, and the way dealt with in “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” is through overt taxation. Personal income taxes. Payroll taxes linked to Social Security and Medicare. Capital gains taxes. Corporate taxes.  Tariffs. Etc., etc., ad nauseam.

The second way is borrowing. Government borrowing is more accurately described as deferred taxation. Borrowers have to be paid back. When government borrows a dollar, it is promising its creditors that it will, sooner or later, tax that dollar out of you (or your descendants) to pay back the principal, and that until then it will tax you a little bit each year to keep up interest payments.

The third way is inflation (which is tied to borrowing in ways too complicated and boring for a short column to cover). For all the murky descriptions of what inflation is, it’s simple: The government creates more dollars out of thin air, making each dollar in your pocket worth a little less. Inflation is a tax, too. A sneaky tax, but a tax nonetheless.

For every dollar a government spends, a dollar must be taxed. The only exception to that rule is if the government collapses and leaves its creditors unpaid.

In order for Congress to truly cut taxes, it must first balance the budget, then begin cutting that balanced budget. Until and unless it does so, your taxes can only go down in the political imagination, not in reality.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY