All posts by KayDrah

And the Waste Goes On…

So, apparently there’s another contracting company to add to the list of tax dollar abusers. They’re called the Parsons construction group. They were supposed to do improvements on a prison in the flatlands north of Baghdad, but Parsons continually fell behind schedule, causing the Pentagon to cancel the project.

The big problem? The prison was part of an almost $1 billion contract to build border posts, courts, police training centers and fire stations, all in hopes of restoring Iraq’s infrastructure. Yet Parsons only completed 18 out of the 53 project stipulated in its contract, and although they were paid for the minimal work they did on the prison, the structure is now empty and useless, due to structural weaknesses Parsons did not fix. In the end, Parsons made out with a barrel full of cash, and the much blood-stained region of Diyala never got its infrastructure.

“In the pecking order of corruption in Iraq, the dead-end prison project at Khan Bani Saad is nowhere near the biggest or most tangled. Bowen estimated up to 20 percent ‘waste’ or more than $4 billion from the $21 billion spent so far in the U.S.-bankrolled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.”

So reported Brian Murphy and Pauline Jelinek in the Huffington Post. I read this right after I read a headline about how President Bush will have compiled the largest federal deficit in U.S. history — $482 billion to be exact. So I have to wonder: how much of our tax dollars have been wasted in this same careless manner?

The Bush administration has taken outsourcing of essential government services to new extremes, especially in Iraq. Yet the record is so riddled with waste, corruption and other abuses that you have to wonder: Are these people really that incompetent? Or was the point along to enrich their friends and cronies?

Along those lines, the Wall Street Journal reports that Iraq war architect Richard Perle is part of a group negotiating a deal to invest in oil fields in . . . wait for it . . . Iraq! This, despite the fact that the Bush administration has argued against any oil deals until Iraq passes a new oil law governing the distribution of resources among Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions.

You can find out how much you paid for the Iraq war last year with Progressive Future’s Invest in US Calculator. And while you ponder how much of that money went to enrich KBR, Blackwater, Parsons and the like, you can also see what that money would buy in terms of health care, clean energy and better care for our troops. And when you do, please consider signing our Invest in US petition. We’re planning on  distributing this petition far and wide, from Congress to the Party Platform Committees to the media. It’s time for a new direction for America, where all citizens can be proud of how their tax dollars are spent.

Hidden Casualties of War

Last week, I shared a tragic story of a veteran who committed suicide less than three hours after being assessed as a “low risk” patient, and was released from VA care. The carelessness of his assessment was largely due to a standardized questionnaire that was used to identify high risk patients. This is a serious oversight, especially when you consider the statistic that by the end of the day, 18 veterans will have taken their own lives.

Since these troops make it home from Iraq, Afghanistan or other battlefields alive, they are not counted as casualties of war. In 2007, 6,256 veterans committed suicide. That’s about two thousand more than the number of troops who died in Iraq since the beginning of the war. And yet, these deaths are not counted among the war casualties.  

But what else can you blame for these suicides? Concerns over the rising rate of PTSD among veterans have been escalating. An even more telling statistic of this problem is the fact that the suicide rate among veterans is twice that of the civilian population, evidence that the war is a decisive factor in these suicides.

While Bush and Republicans have kept the troops at war in Iraq — and have gone to great lengths to keep them there, through extended tours of duty, stop/loss, refusing to talk about a timeline for withdrawal — they’ve been less willing to go the extra mile to help the troops when they come home. Witness Bush’s, McCain’s and other prominent Republicans’ refusal to support the Webb G.I. Bill extending further educational benefits to veterans, as well as McCain’s record of voting against increasing health benefits to veterans in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

We need to bring our troops home on a reasonable timeline, but we also need to start taking better care of our returning soldiers — a challenge that would be greatly eased if we weren’t wasting $10 billion a month on the war in Iraq  Imagine the kind of care we could provide our veterans if we weren’t wasting all our tax money on the war.

How much of your tax dollars are going to the war in Iraq? And what could that money buy for a veteran in need? Find out by using Progressive Future’s Invest in US Calculator. The calculator takes a person’s 2007 income before taxes and tells you how much of that person’s tax money went to fund the war (average: $235), and how many seconds of war that bought (average: .04 seconds). Then it tells you, with that money, how many days of veterans’ higher education benefits (average: 5) that money could have paid for, as well as other much needed initiatives at home. Then we are asking users to sign our Invest In US petition, which we plan on taking to Congress, the Platform Committees, and the media to push for new priorities for tax spending.