It’s been quite a long time since I last posted. I find it difficult with my schedule and lifestyle to maintain a good blog any more, with the kids in or about to be in high school and the demands of family, work and our social life.
I also find it difficult of late, for some reason or another, to start a subject. I was actually asked to write for a conservative publication recently, but to be honest, I haven’t been inspired to come up with something original. I’m much better at responding to others who have more imagination than I, and then debating points I either agree or disagree with about their much more inspired work. So I didn’t really think I was the right guy, flattered as I am for the offer.
My lovely bride, who knows me so well, has been really pushing for me to get back to blogging, and suggested I pick subjects that someone else has written about that I want to respond to. Usually things that I see linked on twitter or Facebook. I haven’t done so for the aforementioned time constraints, but also because it feels a little bit intellectually dishonest to use someone else’s work just being a critic.
However…last week has changed my mind, at least for this post.
I’ve been a listener of Sean Astin‘s podcast, Vox Populi, since the second show he broadcasted. I discovered the show while poking around a podcast site it was formerly on, The Toad Hop Network, after listening to a comedian friend of mine. I really liked the concept of civil discourse, and Sean is just a fantastic human being. He not only takes a great deal of time and consideration to engage with the listeners of his show, but when I called in the first time he talked to my star struck daughter, aged 12 at the time, for 15 minutes during that show. Really boosted the dad bonus points with that one…thanks again Sean, heh.
Last week’s show was on a subject close to my heart…the treatment by the government of our Veterans. More specifically their treatment by the VA.
I got into a debate with a gentleman I don’t know, and who doesn’t know me, after the show, about the subject…something that’s quite common amongst those who listen to the it. In fact, I was debating/discussing things with 3 other people during this same time, but this particular discussion on Twitter went south very quickly, and started getting personal.
Where it took this turn was when the discussion veered into VA funding. This individual was quite concerned that VA funding is being blocked by GOP members, and I pointed out that VA funding has more than doubled in since 2002, with more than half of that funding coming with a GOP controlled house. Not only that, but a great many people, including former VA staffers, don’t believe that funding is the root problem for the VA. The conversation quickly devolved from here, 140 characters at a time, and culminated with this individual calling me a traitor.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I have a pretty serious temper…but I know this about myself, and rather than respond when I was upset, I bid him good day and blocked his account. I probably would have let it go at that, and just kept the individual blocked but for two things. First…I don’t agree with blocking people unless they’re truly abusive, which he wasn’t…anyone can get pissed off and say something they don’t mean or think through. I don’t block them permanently unless I see it become a pattern, or if I just forget about them and don’t unblock them. I certainly won’t block people that just disagree with me. If I did that, I wouldn’t see about half the Internet. The second thing was that Sean, bless his heart, decided to jump in and be the natural referee that he is, and call us out on our bad behavior.
Thus…the blog post.
I’ve had some time to reflect and cool down a bit, and I’d like to respond to this individual.
I come from a family of at least 4 generations of military service, on both sides of the family, in all 4 services. My father’s side of the family is almost exclusively navy, with one of my great uncles jokingly referred to as the black sheep of the family, who was a marine. My brother served in the navy. My father was in naval intelligence, as was my Grandfather. My uncle served as did my grandfather’s brothers, and my great grandfather and his brothers. My maternal grandfather was a Warrant Officer in the Air Force, and his father served in the Army in World War 2.
I’m almost 48 years old. I was a navy brat. I joined the navy while in the 3rd year of college and have spent half of my adult life working for the government in one form or another. From the Department of Defense on down to the 20th largest school district in the US. I’m a card carrying member of the Federalist Society, the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and the ACLU, as well as a regular contributor of time and money to the Wounded Warrior Project, the Boot Campaign, The Heroes Project and the Lone Survivor Foundation. I have served or worked with hundreds of military personnel. I was a civilian trainer for the Navy at the Fleet Training Center in Mayport, Florida. I count hundreds of current or retired military, from Navy Seals, to military and civilian intelligence agency members, to aircraft maintenance technicians, to Damage Control noncoms, to retired veterans now in law enforcement, as my family, close friends, and acquaintances. Any cursory look at my friends lists and those who follow me on social media will indicate this pretty quickly. As a result, I’ve had far more interaction with the VA over the last 40 years than I really care to, and have seen far more failures than triumphs in that time.
So being called a traitor is something I take pretty personally…even if the person who said it was just pissed off and arguing with some stranger on the Internet. It’s even more galling from someone who I don’t know has ever served, or has earned the right through to call out someone who has. But…it is the Internet…it was 140 characters at a time, not including hashtags and people included in the Tweet. So trying to get your meaning across, on either side of the discussion, is challenging at best…with great difficulty in conveying or reading tone. So apologies given, on my part, and accepted if they are given on his.
I take my commitment to this country very seriously. I take the commitment to those who serve this country even more seriously. Whether it be by putting themselves in harms way, or trying to get the next generation ready for the world that awaits them, or anything in between. I spent half of my professional life taking poor pay, dealing with inadequate resources, unrealistic plans, poorly trained coworkers, overly political management, greedy and power hungry employees and union representation at all levels. Just so I could serve my country. I’ve been a member of the rank and file, and a member of management. I’ve participated in budgeting decision making. I’ve been responsible hiring, motivation, training, disciplining and termination of employees, including civil service and union members. I’ve taken part in union negotiation and arbitration on both sides of the table. I also spend a great deal of my own money and time advocating for various veterans groups, civil rights groups, and being a constant reminder to those in congress that there are constituents out there that are actually paying attention. These constituents are watching what they do, and are not pleased with their actions the majority of the time.
So I guess you can say I have a bit more than a Sunday Sailor’s knowledge of how government functions from an insider’s perspective, how it’s funded, and how hideously inefficient it tends to be in nearly anything it does. And I know how it treats its people, usually poorly, as well…because I’ve been one of them. So has my family. So have those who are friends that I count as family.
If there’s one thing that those 2 decades of service have shown me, is that throwing more money at a agency that has a problem will do nothing to fix the problem, and cause even more problems than existed before you increased funding.
So the question of whether or not the VA needs more funding isn’t the right question. Because even if it does, it is so poorly run that more money isn’t going to make a difference. It’s been poorly run for 5 decades, with this latest bit of controversy being just another check mark in a long list of demerits against it. More money that doesn’t get spent correctly just makes the problem worse, and wastes taxpayer money, as the $28B increase in VA funding over the last few years has shown.
We need to fix the problem…not the blame. It isn’t about which party has refused to do the job of fixing the VA or who has blocked those who have tried. Both parties are responsible. In 50 years, both parties have been in charge. They have both enjoyed a bulletproof majority in congress while also holding the White House, at one time or another. Both in times of peace and in times of war, both parties have dropped the ball.
Congress has had an 11% average approval rating for years now. I get accused, as a conservative, of backing the GOP because they claim to be conservatives too. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think we as a nation need to fire them all…no matter what party. Get rid of every incumbent and let everyone who replaces them know they’ve got 2 terms as a House member and 1 term as a Senator to prove they deserve to stay and represent us. I hear and read every day of people complaining about one party doing this, or another party doing that, and that congress in general isn’t doing what we want.
Well, there’s an old saying. You get the government you deserve. If we keep sending the same idiots, that only 11% of the people approve of, back to do the job, expecting them to do something different…we are then very deserving of what we get.
Insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.
Welcome to insanity.