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Opinion: Our Veterans Should Not Be At Risk In Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

The Buck Starts Here

This Veterans Day, American leaders should make a few simple commitments.

First, America should not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans. Any budget deal has to protect the benefits that our veterans have earned. America does not have a great track record of making sure that everyone who wore that uniform and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country lives the life of dignity that they deserve.

Our Department of Veterans Affairs does not have the resources to do their job today. Cutting discretionary spending includes unmanageable cuts to the VA and VA hospitals.

As a country we have a duty to meet those obligations.

Second, no leader, political or otherwise, should ever repeat the horrible Mitt Romney line about 47 percent of Americans not paying taxes and not taking responsibility for their lives. Some of those people are active duty soldiers and others are retired or disabled veterans living off a small amount of money.

They should not be denigrated.

Tragically, others in that 47 percent are homeless veterans that have not been properly cared for by the country they risked their lives for. It should be unacceptable for our veterans to live on our streets.

Third, wealthy Americans ought to pick up some of the tab for the decade long war we put on a credit card.

A lot of things should have happened when George W. Bush was president. But nothing was more pressing than the need for Americans, especially those at the top of the income scale, to forego a tax cut when America could not afford to pay for the wars they were waging.

No war needs to be paid for in order for it to be authorized by Congress. It would be irresponsible of America to put an artificial cap ahead of our soldier's safety.

But we should have all sacrificed something.

While the super wealthy were busy hiding money overseas and paying accountants large sums of money to dodge taxes, America was at war. We could not even get it together before the Iraq war to ensure that enough of our soldiers had the life saving Kevlar vests they needed.

It is time to make up for that mistake. It is time to raise taxes today on the wealthiest Americans, draw down the wars, lower defense spending as America always has done in a post-war period and pay down some of the debt and "do some national building here at home" as President Obama says.

There will be spending cuts. There should be investments that save us money over time.

There will be revenue increases. There should be no delay in removing the Bush cuts for the wealthy and a return to the tax rates from the Clinton administration.

But most importantly, when the deal is being made to change the tax rates and cut the deficit we must remember to keep our commitment to our veterans.

About Bill Buck

Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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