Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. – Samuel Johnson, 1775
Most of our politicians — from the president on down — are five-star hypocrites when it comes to our nation’s military rank and file.
While we may not have served, nor have any of our children, we dutifully wear an American flag lapel pin to show our patriotism and support for our troops. Indeed, we never lose an opportunity to thank our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines for their service.
Of course, we would not want one of their jobs for all the tea in China, nor would we encourage our children to join the military. Indeed, we don’t even know anyone who has ever served – except maybe someone’s grandfather.
So, how then do the president and Congress show their support for our brave military personnel? By passing huge defense spending bills every year.
Regretfully, there’s just not enough money left over for substantial pay increases. It’s such a shame that so many military families – not to mention the families of veterans need to visit food pantries and even dine in soup kitchens.
Nearly all the military’s enlisted men and women come from working class and poor families. Few have credit histories or financial knowhow. Given the extremely low pay that new recruits receive – especially those who have started families – every year tens of thousands quickly fall into debt. In desperation, many seek help from predatory payday lenders, whose storefronts are often located close-by military installations. Charged usurious interest rates, they quickly get caught up into quickly mounting debt, which they cannot possibly repay.
One would think that the financial well-being of our military families would be a top priority of the folks running our government. Indeed, our nation’s number one patriot, President Donald Trump, feels so strongly about the honor of the military that he has demanded that all those disrespectful professional football players who refuse to salute our flag be summarily fired by their teams.
Although there isn’t enough money in this year’s defense appropriation to pay for a sizeable pay increase, the president was ready to spend almost one hundred million dollars for a military parade, the objective of which, of course, was to honor on troops. But even more importantly, there were other priorities.
The Trump administration and its Republican Congressional allies have pursued two broad economic objectives – cutting taxes and deregulating our economy. If these initiatives do initially favor the rich, that’s OK. Because in the long run, some of the benefits may actually trickle down to the rest of us.
Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who helped push through the massive tax cut bill through Congress late last year, also happens to serve as the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This watchdog agency protects borrowers from the predatory loan practices of payday lenders.
In the spirit of continued deregulation, Mr. Mulvaney has decided that the CFPB no longer needs to proactively ensure that lenders aren’t charging military members and their families usurious interest rates or lending money to borrowers who clearly cannot afford to pay off their loans. Since 2011 this agency has returned more than $130 million to service members, veterans, and their families.
Now, Mr. Mulvaney will allow the CFPB to take action against unscrupulous lenders only when a borrower complains. Well, good luck with that! How many borrowers in the military will want anyone to know that they’re falling into a deep financial pit which might even jeopardize their careers? How many even know that they can complain?
Because the families of service members and veterans are four times as likely as other Americans to be targeted by predatory lenders, you would think that Mulvaney would want to strengthen the powers of the CFPB – not weaken them. And just maybe, as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, he might even push for a huge pay increase for our brave military personnel as his way of thanking them for their service.