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Sunday, October 07, 2007

War on the Cheap

Since we're talking about who pays the costs of the war, here's a way the costs are being reduced: by making sure soldiers who served in Iraq are not eligible for education benefits after they return. This is not how we should be saving money or treating our soldiers. This is from George Borjas:

Kinked Constraints, by George Borjas: Every microeconomics student learns that sudden changes in opportunities--which are usually represented by kinks in the constraints facing decision makers--generate outcomes that cluster on those kinks.

Examples abound: Workers retire at age 65 (and not at age 64 years and 364 days) because of the substantial change in retirement benefits that kicks precisely when the worker turns 65; employers recall workers from temporary layoffs just before the government-provided unemployment benefits expire; and so on.

Well, here is one particularly pathetic example of the behavioral impact of kinked constraints:

When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill...

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school. "Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.

I no longer believe in coincidences when it comes to stuff like this. Whoever wrote the order for 729 days knew precisely what he or she was doing.

While sticks and stones are breaking bones, we're more interested in whether words have hurt us. I'd rather see the press focus on issues such as who wrote this policy and under whose direction, how widespread the practice is, and so on, than to hear another word about what Rush or anyone else said that might have hurt someone's feelings. Rush is a buffoon who deserves to be ignored, not catered to when he craves attention and makes the latest outlandish statement. Writing a policy to avoid paying education benefits under the GI bill (and other things such as providing access to needed health care when soldiers return from duty in Iraq) says more about support for soldiers who have served than anything he might say and all of the attention devoted to Rush et. al. crowds out more important discussions from the public dialogue.

    Posted by on Sunday, October 7, 2007 at 11:16 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Policy | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (15)

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