Memorial Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the sacrifices of our men and women in the armed services. Regardless of whether we agree with the war in Iraq or how it is conducted, we must never forget that the troops engaged in the conflict do so because they are fulfilling their duty. They feel it is an obligation and an honor to serve their country. We have no right to question that obligation and owe it to them to support them as best we can.
I have never served in the military but my father and grandfather both served in the Army. My grandfather served in France during World War II. Drafted at the age of 27, this young father of two suddenly found himself among the citizen soldiers bound for Europe. He traveled aboard the troop transport Cheshire in a two ship convoy ferrying infantry from England to France. The other ship, the Leopoldville, was sunk five miles from Cherbourg. Before his division reached the soil of Europe more than 800 of them had perished.
He arrived just after Christmas 1944 and was swept up in the last great German offensive of the war, the Battle of the Bulge. He doesn't talk much about that experience. If pressed he will give you scant details about what he feared during the fighting. The mortars exploding in the treetops, splinters and branches driving down into his foxhole and how the smell of freshly dug earth bothers him to this day. That's all he has to say.
Dad served in Texas, luckily mustering out before Vietnam ramped up. Both of them are fiercely patriotic but temper their patriotism with common sense. They are critical of the government they served when they feel poor leadership is causing harm to the country.
Their sacrifices and experience are worth taking to heart. The overriding lesson to take from both of them is that war kills young men and women who have better destinies to fulfill.
As we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice we would do well to remember that the politicians in Washington are the decision makers and that we put them in office. Just as servicemen and women feel an obligation to the country, we have an obligation to them. This November we would do well to remember that.
No matter who wins in November, we're on our own. Gas prices are hovering around $4.00 per gallon. By the time the general election gets here that price could be closer to $6.00. I can't tell for sure because my crystal ball is on the fritz and I can't afford to get it fixed because of sixty dollar fill ups. One thing I do know is that when we wake up on November 5th, 2008, the price of gas will be pretty much what it was on November 4th. The change from Bush to McCain, Clinton or Obama will not magically make gas affordable. Their election will not make groceries more affordable. Changing the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will not force your employer to give you a raise.
It's all up to us.
If the price of gas is too high, you have to use less so you don't have to spend as much money on it. This is where Mahoning County voters who let the WRTA levy fail feel that short sighted decision come back to bite them in the rump. Maybe the votes will change if fill ups cost $75.00. Regardless, to spend less on gas, we can only drive less and drive smaller vehicles. Trading in that SUV and buying a Cobalt can save you money and help Valley workers at Lordstown.
Times are tough and they'll probably get tougher as the year goes on. John McCain won't even vote to give veterans of the Iraqi disaster a G.I. Bill that will pay for all their college expenses so you can forget about him helping your kids. If you are punching the clock at Wal-Mart or McDonalds and you are in your mid-twenties, you need to get to school. Working for minimum wage or just a little over it will pretty much consign you to a life where you are working for the gas it takes to get to work and the food on your table. Get an education or get a trade. Anything else is stagnation. Making more money and spending less of it is the only way to succeed.
The United States debt is nearly 9 trillion dollars. The budget cannot be balanced while we are at war so the deficit grows each year. The dollar has taken a beating lately so it may not be the investment of choice for cash rich countries like China. If we find it harder to borrow money then something will have to give. Eventually some of the social programs we depend on may be cut. And believe me, welfare for people will be cut long before welfare for corporations. If you are currently receiving benefits, use this time wisely to get back on your feet.
McCain wants to give us health savings accounts and tax breaks. Big deal. The national savings rate averages negative 1/2 percent and the people who really need help with medical costs don't pay a lot of taxes because they don't make a lot of money. Obama and Clinton want universal health care mandated so you will be paying for your policy unless you're lucky enough to get it through work. It will probably be in your best interest to make sure you can afford the good policy. I'm not saying the health care industry treats people differently based on money or status but I can't recall a member of Congress complaining about hanging out in an emergency room waiting area for help.
I'm hoping for change in the White House. Heck, I'm eager for change in the White House. I just don't think the change will have much of an impact on our day-to-day life. We are the only ones who can help us and we need to stop wasting opportunities.
Last week I took the Vindicator to task for its coverage of the sexual harassment allegations in the Ohio Attorney General's office. I criticized them for the "Under Fire" banner that hung on the top of their web page and said it was salacious. I also criticized Bertram de Souza's column in which he gave Dann a big old "I told you so" for hiring friends Anthony Gutierrez and Leo Jennings. In this criticism, I was wrong.
With today's admission by Attorney General Marc Dann that he was involved in a romantic relationship with a subordinate in his office, he has demonstrated that it was he, not the Vindicator that made the story salacious. I was too quick to jump to the conclusion that only Gutierrez had acted inappropriately and that Dann, being a Mahoning Valley boy, was worthy of the benefit of the doubt. Bertram de Souza was not inclined to do the same. Today, Marc Dann proved me wrong and showed that the Vindicator and newspapers like the Columbus Dispatch were doing the correct thing in chasing this story even when it seemed like there was nothing of substance to report.
Dann's reputation and his fight to investigate Republican donor Tom Noe gave me hope that the era of bad government was behind the Mahoning Valley. It was good to see the rest of the state vote for a hometown guy and put one of our own in a powerful state office. It was redemption that all the years spent cleaning up the area's unethical government was paying off.
Now we're here, in the middle of a scandal, where we have been so many times before. The feeling is so familiar that it has a sense of inevitability about it. "What did you expect?", people will ask, "Look where he's from."
There was a New York Times article last year that favorably compared Marc Dann to Eliot Spitzer as a fellow crusading state's attorney general. It's eerie how their careers paralleled each other in accomplishments as well as failures. All that is left now is for Dann to resign and he should do so quickly.