Stand with the troops

I propose several ideas to provide strong support for troops and military families that should unite supporters and opponents of the president’s policy. Let’s designate $20 billion of unspent bailout money for bonus payments to financially stressed troops and military families, which would also stimulate the economy, and for temporary jobs programs for members of military families or those who provide vital services for them.

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I renew my call for a Patriot Bond, modeled after the old war bond, where Americans invest in an interest-bearing bond and proceeds go to programs serving troops and military families. Let’s enact a 15 percent excise tax on luxury purchases with monies used to finance war policy.

I reluctantly support the president’s plan with the hope it succeeds and the desire to help it succeed. Above all, when the president speaks of goals, exit strategy and benchmarks, they must have real meaning and power.

There should be monthly reports detailing the number of new Afghan troops trained, specific steps that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has taken to combat corruption and initiatives aimed at achieving political solutions. If these goals are not met, increased troop deployments should be ended.

What all Americans should understand, and address together, is that even before the president’s new deployments to Afghanistan, our troops and military families endure major sacrifice and hardship. From the epidemic of post-traumatic stress to rising homelessness among troops returning from active duty, these problems will become even worse.

Supporters and opponents of that policy should unite behind measures to support those who heroically serve in uniform and their loving and patriotic families back home who make great sacrifices. They follow orders, do their duty, bear the burdens and pay the price.

Even before the coming deployments, there is a crisis of post-traumatic stress that is not close to being adequately addressed. There is financial hardship in families of troops receiving modest pay in a jobless economy. There are critical problems of childcare for kids of deployed troops. There is rising homelessness, often accompanied by post-traumatic stress, among troops returning from overseas duty.

This list only begins to scratch the surface. We owe it to our troops, their families and our honor as a nation to address these challenges strongly, and now.

America should no longer wage war where 1 percent accept all the sacrifice and 99 percent are virtual bystanders. Let’s give meaning to the phrase “All give some, some give all.”

1. A Patriot Bond would raise tens of billions of dollars through a conservative investment deeply rooted in American traditions such as the war bond of the 1940s. It would be both voluntary and powerful.

2. We can enact a general war surtax to be effective when jobs return to our economy. Until then, Congress could promptly enact a 15 percent luxury tax that would immediately raise revenue. Wealthy consumers who can afford $200,000 platinum watches and $15,000 getaway weekends can afford a 15 percent luxury tax to do their patriotic duty.

3. Religious leaders of all denominations could work together in voluntary programs to provide childcare assistance to military families and seek donations to help homeless veterans.

4. A portion of the Troubled Asset Recovery Program monies that remain could be used for a temporary jobs program aimed to help military families and wounded troops. There could be emergency bonus payments to financially stressed military families that would help stimulate the economy. There could be Peace Corps-like stipends to seniors, grandparents or jobless workers caring for military children or helping wounded troops.

These projects would provide substantial support for troops and military families from those back home of all political viewpoints. While the troops and families do their duty for us, we should do our duty for them.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.