A 2006 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that, in 2005, CEOs of the largest U.S. private defense contractors continued to profit from the ongoing wars.
Defense CEO pay was 44 times that of a military general with 20 years of experience and 308 times that of an Army private in 2005. Generals made $174,452 and Army privates made $25,085, while average defense CEO pay was $7.7 million.
In contrast to wealthy individuals who became even wealthier, those who were sent to do the actual fighting comprised disproportionately high numbers of working class Americans. In the combined efforts of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, almost 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died. More than 970,000 veteran disability claims have been registered with the Veterans Administration.
Returning soldiers face higher unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts, particularly among male veterans age 21 to 24. Between 2009 and 2012, the youngest veterans had an unemployment rate of 21.6 percent, compared to 13.5 percent for civilians.
Veterans struggle to find proper healthcare in a system ill-prepared for the number of wounded, particularly those with catastrophic injuries and mental health issues that require long-term care. Private nonprofit organizations have been picking up the slack left by inadequate funding in the federal budget.
Like their ancestors who fought in and survived the Civil War, today’s soldiers return to find their situations either the same, or much worse, than when they left. Who would blame them for being angry? As soldiers go off to war we say, “God bless our troops.” Maybe we should add, “God help them when they come home.”
It reminds me of when 9/11 happened and there was a sea of stories about “why they hate us” and other stuff, like, how dare those illogical people blame America for the fact that their kids are killed by bombs we sold to their enemies, what crazy talk. To profess surprise at Donald Trump’s message taking hold is to admit you were asleep the entire last half of the last century and the entirety so far of this one.
And the veteran piece is a critical one because for a lot of people, including a lot of people I know, service was the fastest and most reliable way out of a dead-end situation. So they join up to escape poverty, and then get plunged right back into poverty when they get home, only now they’re minus a leg and need medication the VA can’t give them for three months. You’ve taken what is already a monstrous situation — go to war so your family can eat, kids! — and made the best case scenario end of it (that you come home alive) a horror show.
I don’t blame anybody at a Trump rally one bit for being pissed the government doesn’t listen to them. Because you know what? It doesn’t.