Today’s announcement of the Veterans Job Corps initiative is taking a leaf out of a book written by FDR back in the 30s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) took young men and put them to work building public edifices, roads and parks. Two members of my family were in that group – my uncle was in it for 2 ½ years. He needed work while he saved to go to college.
My dad was in the WPA in the summer, in the architectural department building halfway houses and park shelters. As my dad said to me today, “those were the only jobs there were” during the Great Depression. My uncle went on to serve in the Army, was wounded and decorated during WWII. My father is a very proud Coast Guard veteran of WWII.
We’ve been hearing for a while about veterans who were trained as Military Police, or had an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) as a firefighter but who are forced to go through training again, even though they received training from the military and have actually done the job for years, some under combat conditions. Many of them chose that training to help them get a job when they were released from the military, and many are members of the National Guard, who are activated to serve on a regular basis.
Many municipalities are laying off police officers and laying off firefighters because of budget cuts. From Miami to San Jose, from Jacksonville to the Chicago suburbs, police departments are being cut, and the crime numbers are climbing. Fire departments are scrambling to cover their cities and towns, with gaps in their ranks that will not be filled. National parks are cutting their hours, some are even closing, because there simply aren’t enough rangers. These parks are the crown jewels, these are the open space that we, as a people, decided should be put aside, protected and given to us as a nation. Allowing the park facilities to disintegrate is a shortsighted “savings.”
The unemployment rate of young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is an astronomical 13.1%. With the threatened cuts in military, predicted to be close to 100,000 personnel, the rate will soar. Doesn’t it make more sense to take these trained men and women and get them hired, helping the States and municipalities in turn and keeping our cities and towns safe, and our national parks open and healthy?
I see this proposal as a win/win. The money it will cost will translate into a reduction of unemployment, an increase in payroll taxes since those employed veterans will have to pay taxes on their income, safer cities and towns, parks for everyone that are open, safe and useable. As the President said today at the Virginia firehouse where he made the announcement, “They’ve already risked their lives defending America. They should have the opportunity to rebuild America. We’ve got roads and bridges in and around our national parks in need of repair. Let’s fix them.”
For those who say these are “just” pick and shovel jobs, I can only say that our veterans want to work. They want to bring home a pay check. For those with advanced training, there will be jobs as tour guides, park rangers, historical site specialists, inner city park program directors and workers, conservationists at parks and construction crews. As a bridge to other employment, or as a career, they are jobs. And in our current economy, that’s a good thing.