Republicans are likely to seize on the reintroduction of Rangel’s unpopular military draft bill. When they controlled the House in 2004, Republicans scheduled a vote on the Rangel measure, which was defeated 402-2. Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.) supported it, while Rangel voted against his own bill, claiming the GOP was playing political games.
A decorated Korean War veteran and a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Rangel argues that the burden of fighting wars falls disproportionately on low-income people and that cost should be borne more broadly.
If a draft had been in place in 2002 when members were making the decision on whether to support the war in Iraq, Rangel has said, Congress never would have approved the war resolution, because the pressure from constituents would have been too great.
With the Iraq war off the front page and the economic crisis taking center stage, nerves are not as raw on the topic of strain on the military as they were a few years ago, so Rangel’s legislation may not make as many waves this time around.
But some Democrats — even one who supported Rangel’s efforts in the past — are a little perplexed about his plans to reintroduce the legislation, especially now that President-elect Obama is poised to take over the White House.
“That was really a political statement at the beginning of the war that we continued,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), one of only two co-sponsors of Rangel’s draft bill. “I’m not sure we’re going to do that this time.”
Whatever their motives, which seem mostly to have been to harass outgoing President Bush, Rep Rangel and his cronies prove once again that facts don’t matter much to them.
A recent Heritage study confirms that, contrary to Mr. Rangel’s assertions that “the burden of fighting wars falls disproportionately on low-income people,” the current U.S. military is not composed of the losers in life’s lottery as Mr. Rangel posits. Instead:
1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Heritage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demonstrates that the same is true of the officer corps.
2. Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods—a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
3. American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted personnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18–24 years old, and 95 percent of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007. New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of Southern military tradition.
The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country.
Of course, the insistence on the part of the military that at least 90% of recruits have high school diplomas may have an “adverse impact” on the ability of the lowest economic levels of our society to join the services since that it is much more likely that high school dropouts will end up in the lower income levels. See the chart here – in which it appears that completing high school adds about $10,000 a years in income compared to the earnings of high school dropouts.
Perhaps Mr. Rangel should be less worried about who carries the burden of serving in the military (especially since he is completely wrong in his analysis) and worry more about how to encourage the lower economic levels of our society to finish high school so that they can be full participants in our society.
Perhaps someone can articulate good reasons for returning to a draft, but clearly, Mr. Rangel has the wrong ones.