Not All Heroes Wear Capes: Iraq Veteran Helps Police Track Down Las Vegas Shooter

As we process the horrific shootings in Las Vegas on Monday, stories of unique and inspiring heroism continue to emerge. Take the example of Chris Bethel, an Iraq War veteran who played a key role in locating killer Stephen Paddock on Sunday night.

Bethel was in Vegas for an IT conference, and his room at Mandalay Bay was two floors below Paddock’s. The minute shots rang out, Bethel knew something was terribly wrong, and he phoned police.

“I could just hear the gun shots. Continuously. Just full automatic. There’s explosions going off. It was like, a bomb just went off man. And then there were more gun shots,” Bethel said, according to KTVT-TV.

There was no bomb, other than the explosive device police used to blast through the shooter’s hotel room door, but there were gunshots — hundreds of them. Hundreds of feet below, Bethel said he just saw “everybody running.”

“I kept looking at the windows to see if I could see any kind of muzzle flash to see if I could see where the shooter was. I crouched by my front door. In hopes that I might get the opportunity to see the shooter if he ran by and I could identify him,” Bethel said.

Ten minutes after Bethel made his call to police, he received a call from authorities letting him know that they had located the shooter. In typical fashion for a humble hero, Bethel wished he could have done more to stop the sensless, tragic violence.

“I feel like I couldn’t get a hold of somebody quick enough to let them know. And it felt like it took them too long to get over there, to take him out, to get him. It’s actually eating me up inside,” Bethel told KTVT.

Hats off to you, Chris Bethel. “Thank you” doesn’t seem like a sufficient enough sentiment.

SJW Newsletter Advocates Banning Veterans From Colleges

There are some ideas that are so inane that only an academic would believe them, which is probably why the modern American college campus has become the incubator for a lot of stupidity.  Fortunately, we have websites like Campus Reform that do the yeoman’s work of keeping up with all the tomfoolery, so that those of us out here in the real world understand exactly where all those tutition dollars we spend on our kids are going.

As you can imagine, there’s never a shortage of material.  The latest comes to us via the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where an organization billing itself as the Social Justice Collective recently posted a flyer featuring an article that asks the burning question, “Should Veterans Be Banned From UCCS and Other Universities?”

And no, I’m not making this up:

A four-year, traditional university is supposed to be a place of learning, of understanding, of safety, and security. However, there is an element among us who may be frustrating those goals: Veterans.

In the immortal words of Butt Head, “Uhhh, okay.”

First off, many veterans openly mock the ideas of diversity and safe spaces for vulnerable members of society.

By “vulnerable,” the author apparently means, “unable to emotionally process opinions to the right of Mao Tse Tung.”

This is directly in contradiction to the mission of UCCS.

A mission to explore new experiences and new ideas–kind of like Romper Room, but less triggering.

Many veterans utter the mantra that they “do not see color”. But the problem lies in their socialization into the military culture that is that of a white supremacist organization.

I knew white supremacy would figure into the argument somehow.  But no sexism?  No patriarchy?  Sorely disappointing.

They have been permanently tainted, and are no long (sic) fit for a four-year university.

Not to worry, though.  We can still find a place for our veterans that befits their second-class status in society.

That is not to say that veterans should not be allowed an education.  Veterans should be allowed to attend trade schools, or maybe even community college.

Such generosity to our men and women in uniform!  To whom should they send a thank you card?

But, in order to protect our academic institutions, we must ban veterans from four-year universities.

If it saves them from the likes of this drivel, that’s probably a good thing.  Besides, I imagine that trade school diploma will be worth a lot more than the author’s forthcoming degree in oppressor’s studies.

UCCS, of course, has disavowed the content of the article, while at the same time offering a largely pro-forma defense of speech rights.  My guess is that most of this is just butt-covering while the university figures out who the hell approved posting the flyer in the first place, especially considering that Colorado Springs also happens to be the home of the United States Air Force Academy.  It wouldn’t do for the local branch of the University of Colorado system to appear as if it’s dissing veterans, no matter what the First Amendment says.

Still, something about this affair smells a tad fishy to me.  Perhaps it’s how the group involved bills itself as the Social Justice Collective, or the fact that this flyer is the first communication they’ve ever put out–the whole thing almost feels like a parody of left wingers cobbled together by right-wing pranksters.  Then there’s the article’s supposed author, a guy named Terry Steinawitz.  There’s no record of him as a student at UCCS, and a quick internet search doesn’t turn up a Twitter feed or a Facebook account for him either.  The “Collective” has supposedly stated that the name is actually a pseudonym meant to protect the author’s true identity, but I don’t know.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all just a hoax that got more attention than anyone thought it would.

Then again, this is a college campus we’re talking about…

Build The Memorial: Why The Global War on Terror Deserves a Memorial

The fallen veterans of the Global War on Terrorism deserve a national memorial. Sixteen years have passed since the vicious jihadist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sixteen years of constant war – the longest war in our nation’s history. Sixteen years of deployments in some of the most hostile parts of the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And sixteen years of untold bravery and selfless courage by our men and women in uniform. Enough time has passed since this generational conflict began: it’s time to honor the fallen heroes of the Global War on Terrorism with their own memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. This is an effort being led by the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation in conjunction with sponsors in Congress, but ultimately it’s up to us – We the People – Democrat, Republican, & everything in between – Left, Right, & Center – to help make it happen. Memorial Day might be behind us now, but honoring our fallen must not be relegated to just one single 24-hour period each year. It’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.

 

When you live in Washington D.C., it’s easy to become slightly jaded: the scandals, the intrigue, the partisanship, the here’s-my-business-card transactional relationships, the House-of-Cards fantasy mentality that some seem to have. But for me, those negative feelings melt away every time that I go for a run on the National Mall – a public green space stretching from the U.S. Capitol Building all the way to the great seated visage of our nation’s 16th President, lined on all sides by museums and galleries and Smithsonians that contain some of our greatest national treasures within their walls. So living in D.C. does have some benefits. Being able to gaze up at the Capitol Dome, a moving and enduring symbol of our Republic and being able to run up and touch the white stone of the Washington Monument. And there’s no better way to start a day than by finishing a work out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at dawn as the sun slowly rises over the horizon and scatters its first light across the Reflecting Pool. But the National Mall contains something more powerful than any of that – it is home to some of our most searing and consequential war memorials.

 

The World War Two Memorial – with its stone pillars and archways, its bronze sculptures, and its jets of water – is an homage to the 16 million men and women who served in & the 417,000 who died during our victory over the twin threats of Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. The less-imposing but still-moving Korean War Memorial with its nineteen larger-than-life-sized soldier statutes representing each service branch and forming a squad out on a mission – built in honor of the 5.7 million service members who fought and the 54,000 who fell (36,000 of them in-theater) – seems to come alive especially at night. (My grandfather on my mom’s side fought in World War Two and my grandfather on my dad’s side fought in that war too as well as almost losing his life in Korea, so you can imagine why those memorials hold a special place in my heart.) And then of course there is the Vietnam Memorial Wall (sometimes just called “The Wall”) – two jet black walls that begin low & sunken into the ground only to rise and rise until they meet at a ten foot high apex that looms above you – where you can read the names of the 58,315 service members who died or are still unaccounted for etched into the stone as your own reflection peers dimly back at you through the dark polished wall. The memorials are monuments to the bravery, the honor, and the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who did their duty and who lost their lives in service to the nation. They are places of reflection for visitors to the nation’s capital and they are places of healing and remembrance for the friends and families of those who have served. But the men & women who have served and fought and died during the Global War on Terrorism – during what is our nation’s longest war – and who are currently still serving and fighting and even dying in this war – have no such memorial. It’s time for that to change.

 

Everyone remembers exactly where they were on September 11th, as planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorist operatives slammed into both buildings at the World Trade Center, with another ripping a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon and yet another burying itself in a quiet field in Shanksville Pennsylvania after a brave passenger revolt. These attacks – which came in the wake of al-Qaeda bombings of the WTC and of African embassies in the 1990’s as well as the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 – were the clearest indication that were in a new kind of war, whether we liked it or not. I was only 14 years old at the time (I skipped one of my morning freshman classes that day and watched the second plane strike one of the towers on live TV) and I clearly remember that, when the Twin Towers came crashing down, the general expectation for days was that tens of thousands had likely died. The official figure ended up being a still-devastating 2,996 innocents killed, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in history – an attack even worse than the surprise strike against Pearl Harbor by Japan that awakened America from its slumber and led her into the Second World War. It was, in fact, the worst encounter by a foreign enemy on American soil since the War of 1812. In the wake of 9/11, there was a brief but important moment of national unity – members of both parties of Congress gathering on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America” being the most poignant. And even as that sense of unity, of bipartisanship, of we’re-all-in-this-togetherness all descended fairly quickly into the usual political rancor and into a national division that lasts to this very day, one group remained steadfast and firm – the United States military. The men & women of the 9/11 Generation – those who would step up and answer the call in the wake of these horrific attacks – would unfailing carry out their duty around the globe.

 

In front of a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush would declare: “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack … Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”

 

America’s response to these attacks would take our military all around the globe as we combated the various pernicious manifestations of terrorism and jihad. To the mountains of Tora Bora, where we routed al-Qaeda and the Taliban alongside our allies in the Northern Alliance. To the Korengal Valley, where our soldiers would push back against a renewed Taliban insurgency. To Fallujah, where our troops would carry out some of the most intense urban combat in decades as they went door-to-door against the brutal members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. To Mosul, where our special operations forces have helped deal blow after blow against the would-be Islamic caliphate. There are countless heroic battles that many people have likely already forgotten: the toppling of the Taliban; the removal of Saddam Hussein from power; the twin battle against an al-Qaeda insurgency and against Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq; and of course the ongoing struggle against the Islamic State and its various manifestations around the world. There are the villains that we’ve vanquished: Osama bin Laden, Saddam, Uday, & Qusay Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Anwar al-Awlaki, and countless terrorists worldwide. But there are still villains that remain at-large: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. No matter what we asked our military to do – regime change, COIN, “Surges” of both the Iraqi and Afghani varieties – they’ve proved that they really are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Whether fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Yemen or Somalia; whether battling Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Boko Haram; whether patrolling the dusty blazing hot streets of Baghdad or driving convoys across IED-strewn roads on the Afghan-Pakistan border or conducting perilous helicopter raids deep inside Taliban-infested territory; and whether being honored in death with posthumous accolades or falling in battles so secret that we still don’t know about them and maybe never will, the men & women who have fought in this global struggle against terrorism have proven their worth and their mettle.

 

As mentioned earlier, the organization leading the effort to establish this national memorial is called the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation. Founded by Andrew Brennan – an Army Aviation Officer and Afghan War veteran – the organization states that it is “a non-profit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, US services members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.” The group aims to change existing federal law – specifically the 1986 Commemorative Works Act – to allow for the establishment of a GWOT Memorial. Under current law, a war must be over for a full ten years before a memorial can even be authorized. It is a well-intentioned law that unfortunately did not account for the sort of generational (or even multi-generational) conflict that we find ourselves in during the struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. This war has already been waged for nearly two decades and, given its nature, it could potentially last another couple decades or longer. Thus, in order to build a memorial, the law needs to be changed. This project has broad military support – its advisory board includes General David Petraeus. General George Casey, and General James Conway. Jan Scruggs, the Founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is also on the board. And numerous fantastic veterans service organizations like Got Your Six, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Gold Star Mothers, and the Wounded Warrior Project are all big supporters & partners in the endeavor as well. What is lacking at this moment, however, is what might prove to be the most important ingredient – broad public support, likely due to a simple lack of public awareness about the effort. If this memorial is to be successful, it will need the public to support the effort both legislatively and monetarily. That is why the word needs to be spread far & wide.

 

Importantly, the proposal for the memorial states that the memorial itself will emphasize & highlight the qualities and values of those fighting in the Global War on Terrorism itself: “Endurance. Sacrifice. All-Volunteer. Global. Multi-Cultural. Unfinished.” To me, the most guideline for the proposed memorial that stands out most is that it will be unfinished. Like the war itself, the proposed memorial will be unfinished – ongoing – a work in progress – an effort not yet completed – an endeavor not yet fully resolved. It will stand as a stark reminder that, even as we remember those who have fought and fallen, the war continues until our last soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman is safely home.

 

The Global War on Terror continues to rage both in the West and around the globe, with the recent events in Britain throwing this truth into sharp relief. This is actually the third major terrorist attack in the United Kingdom in just three months – the Westminster Attack, the Manchester Bombing, and now the London Bridge Attack. And of course we cannot forget the Malawi attack in the Philippines which occurred at almost the exact same time as the Manchester Bombing. Elsewhere, there was also the Pulse nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino massacre, the attacks in Nice, the Paris attacks, the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, the Brussels bombings, the Berlin attack, the Istanbul attack, the Stockholm truck attack, the bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the London tube bombings, the Bali nightclub bombings, the attacks of September 11th, the USS Cole bombing, the Khobar Towers bombing, the African embassy bombings, the first World Trade Center attack, and on and on.

 

And of course our soldiers continue to fight jihadists all across the globe, with some our soldiers recently falling in battles against ISIS in Afghanistan, against al-Shabaab in Somalia, against al-Qaeda in Yemen, and in battles we may not have even heard of yet. All told to-date, many thousands of Americans have fallen in the GWOT — some 4,411 Americans have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom, some 2,346 Americans have died during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and around 150 more (that we know of) have been killed in other operations around the globe. Each of these fallen men & women deserve to be memorialized and honored for their sacrifice.

 

“No greater love is there than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So says the Gospel of John. That is the truth – and when soldiers lay down their lives, it usually is for the friend next to them. Don’t get me wrong: they serve for honorable & high-minded principles – for God, for flag, for country, for peace, for freedom, and so on – but in the heat of battle, when the enemy is closing, when split-second life-and-death decisions are being made, and when a soldier decides to jump on a grenade or step into the line of fire or stand their ground against a bomb-laden car barrelling down the road at them, they are almost invariably thinking about the friend, the fellow soldier, the brother-in-arms next to them. And when a soldier is killed, it is that brother-in-arms who is left behind. That is who this memorial is for – the families, the friends, & the brothers-in-arms who remain. General Patton once said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” So, let us thank them – and let us thank them in a way that at attempts to be worthy of their actions, however meager our efforts might be in comparison to their sacrifice. It is on us to get this memorial built, because if not us, then who? And if not now, then when? It’s time to unite around this as a nation – blue, red, Left, Right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican — as this is something we can all get behind. It’s time to honor our fallen and our veterans the way that they deserve – the way that previous generations occasionally failed to do. It’s time to remember both the battles already fought and those yet to come. It’s time to recognize the fallen of the GWOT alongside those who fought in World War Two and in Korea and in Vietnam. And it’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.

The Grace of Former President George W. Bush

Whether you agreed with his brand of “compassionate conservatism” or not, former President George W. Bush remains a classy guy.

While appearing on NBC’s “Sunday Today,” promoting his new book, “Portraits of Courage,” President Bush was asked what advice he would give President Trump.

“I’d say the same advice I gave before: It’s a really hard job and I wish you all the best,” Bush told Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY.

Unlike his successor, when President Bush left the White House, he trusted that the people had spoken and he avoided making any commentary on what President Obama was doing.

In fact, even when Obama was slamming him, Bush remained stoic and in control, letting the words roll on past.

Class.

Now, as the nation grapples with a new president, and one who at the very least is equal to Bush in stirring controversy (if not more so), he still has kept his comments cursory, at best.

“It depends on what he asked,” he added.

Noting that he wants to see Trump succeed in office, Bush offered this suggestion to the current commander-in-chief: “You picked some really good people. Empower them and make sure they’re able to give you their unfettered advice.”

By “really good people,” the former president is impressed with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

He went on to say that while he felt going into Afghanistan and Iraq was the right thing to do, he did regret those lives lost and the injuries some of our servicemen and women suffered.

The new book is a compilation of portraits painted by the former president, and all proceeds will go to benefit the cause of injured vets.

The wild part is that President Bush was never an “artist” until he got out of office, but boredom led him to pick up a paintbrush, and he’s not half bad.

No, he’s no Rembrandt, but given his lack of formal training before then, and the fact that he has poured his heart into these paintings, I’d say he has done an amazingly good job, for a perfectly good cause.

One Small Coffee Company Has Set A Goal To Hire 10,000 Veterans

Starbucks made waves when CEO Howard Schulz made a commitment to hire 10,000 refugees. The decision generated plenty of negative publicity for the chain, so much so that Schulz has subsequently publicized the company’s veterans’ hiring program – one that has employed 8,800 since 2013.

Now, a small Utah-based coffee company is following in Starbucks’ footsteps, making a commitment to offer employment opportunities to 10,000 veterans over the next six years.

Black Rifle Coffee, whose CEO Evan Hafer is an Army Special Forces veteran, says his company is committed to providing steady employment – and hope – to those who have served our country.

“Black Rifle Coffee has a mission,” Hafer told The Blaze. “My personal charter in this business is that we’re always advocating for the United States veteran.”

There are 2.6 million veterans living in this country. Hafer says those who serve should be the focus of hiring efforts, rather than groups like refugees.

“The history of public service is not one of fame and riches,” he says. “You’re signing up to barely get anything back, and often putting your life on the line.”

Hafer knows that the company’s plan is an ambitious one, but their current plans involve opening 600 stores over a six year period, which is roughly enough to hire the 10,000 veterans.

Hafer said he’s is pleased that his effort might serve as a reminder to other businesses that these men and women have earned the attention.

“Veterans have an extremely high suicide rate. We need to give them a mission, an opportunity; we need to give them a job and get the pills and the gun out their hand,” he says. “If it’s wrong for me to try doing that, then I don’t know what’s right.”

Good for Hafer and Black Rifle Coffee. Go online and buy some of their products; let’s help them achieve their audacious goal.

The Federal Government is Targeting Veterans. Here’s How Outrageous That is.

ICYMI, the federal government is targeting 9,700 veterans and others who took sizable bonuses to stay in the military. The bonuses were given during the Bush years, in the California Guard, but massive fraud and mismanagement have been discovered since. Erick covered the issue  — originally reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday — earlier in the week, but here are a few things to consider about this bureaucratic debacle.

First, some basic numbers: The Times reported yesterday evening that the total in bonuses was $70 million. The paper also reports that 9,700 servicemembers were given bonuses. That equals $7,216.49 per veteran, on average (though for many, the bonuses were much larger — $15,000 or more).

Second, while that’s a lot of money per soldier, it’s a tiny portion of the Pentagon’s budget. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Pentagon’s budget was $586 billion. That $70 million is .012% of the Pentagon’s budget. Compare that to billions in contract overruns and other indications of incompetence and criminality in our vaunted DoD.

Third, the Times reports that while Members of Congress are throwing around angry words about this mess, President Barack Obama has yet to order the Pentagon to end its recoupment efforts. Hopefully, he’ll do so, especially since it was those giving the bonuses that did wrong, not those receiving them. So far, though, the Department of Justice is trying to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought some who got bonuses.

Fourth, there were over $135 billion lost to improper payments in 2015 alone. Medicaid’s reported increase of improper payments that year was $12 billion. The feds are flush enough to spend money $43 million on a gas station in Afghanistan, and to ignore $87 billion in better management practices, but they’ve got to put the screws to veterans?

Finally, while it’s no surprise that the federal budget leaks like a sieve, it’s also important to note that the feds are targeting people who served our country. They took the bonuses on good faith, and served in the military longer than perhaps they otherwise would have. The Obama administration would be better off shifting its resources to going after those who defraud the government on purpose, who are trying to hide their illegal and unethical behavior. Fraud is often difficult and expensive to track and recoup, so whatever money is being spent making veterans’ lives miserable should be going to making actual criminals pay for their wrongdoing — not honest and well-intentioned members of the  military.

Myth: Prevailing Wage is a Veterans Issue

In a clever ploy, anti-free market and pro-labor union organizations are fighting back against efforts to repeal so-called prevailing wage laws by claiming that such a repeal would be a direct attack on veterans. At a time when veterans enjoy wide public respect in the aftermath of intense conflict in two wars, the argument packs a hefty political punch. But while the rhetoric is powerful, the evidence behind it is pretty thin, and the claim is easily debunked when the prevailing wage discussion is put in perspective.

The prevailing wage is a mandated compensation rate that contractors on certain public works projects must pay workers on those jobs. Not all states have prevailing wage laws, but many do, and the Davis-Bacon law requires governments at all levels to pay the federally calculated prevailing wage on projects over a certain size that utilize federal dollars.

Numerous states with conservative governors have considered partially or completely eliminating their state prevailing wage law requirements as a means of reducing regulation on the private sector, eliminating bureaucracy and saving taxpayers money on public construction projects. Wisconsin, for example, will have a partial repeal of its prevailing wage go into effect in January 2017.

But as the debate over the necessity or effectiveness of prevailing wage has grown, advocates of the status quo have sought to advance a series of questionable assertions about its usefulness. A secretive lobbying group ran television ads in Wisconsin in 2015 claiming a repeal of prevailing wage would flood jobsites with illegal immigrants. Calling a repeal an “illegal worker loophole,” the organization, which failed to disclose its IRS non-profit filings, was ultimately unsuccessful in its efforts.

In a May 2015 editorial for the Huffington Post, Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org astonishingly asserted that, “A repeal of state prevailing wage laws would be an economic disaster for veterans. Soltz also claimed that:

“Missing entirely from the debate over these laws is who they would impact the most. Military veterans, for example, pursue employment in the construction trades at substantially higher rates than non-veterans.”

But that’s a mischaracterization of the findings of an economic study commissioned by VoteVets.org to examine the relationship between veterans who work in construction and prevailing wage laws. A press release announcing the study declares that repealing or reforming, “prevailing wage at the state level will disproportionally hurt the hundreds of thousands post-9/11 veterans who are returning to the workforce.” In that same release VoteVets.org describes itself as “the largest progressive group of veterans in America.”

The study was conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, whose name bears a close resemblance to the labor union-funded Economic Policy Institute which conducts pro-union economic research, although IEPI does not appear to receiving funding from EPI according to available IRS documents. The gist of the report is that because veterans work in the construction industry, and because construction workers are the workforce impacted by prevailing wage laws, any changes to such laws are a veterans issue.

Even while acknowledging that only a small minority of construction workers are veterans (a reasonable fact given that at any given time the U.S. military makes up about 1% of the total population today), the study goes to great lengths to argue that veterans as a population group are more likely to be in construction trades than non-veterans.

The justification for this claim is that in 39 states veterans make up a larger share of the construction workforce than they do of the total workforce. For example, in Wisconsin veterans make up 5.48% of the total workforce, but they make up 8.3% of the construction trades. In Illinois, veterans are 4.51% of the total labor force but they are 7.39% of the construction workforce.

But this calculation is hardly an accurate way to depict veteran participation in a particular industry because it makes it appear as if more veterans work in construction than in other industries. In addition to being a small minority of construction workers, veterans are a small percentage of the total workforce.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, younger veterans (post-1991) are less likely to work in construction than other industries. Referred to as “Gulf War” veterans (the first Gulf War was in 1991, the War on Terror is classified as the “Second Gulf War” in this Census data) they are more likely to be found working in management or protective service sectors than on a job site. A Census Bureau report on veteran employment describes it this way:

“Gulf War-era men were less likely to work in construction occupations and sales and related occupations, compared with nonveteran men.”

That statement, based on census data, blows a gigantic hole in the IEPI study which builds its entire premise that prevailing wage is a veterans issue off of the claim that veterans are more likely to be working construction than nonveterans.

Another glaring flaw of the study is that it fails to put into context the number of construction jobs that fall under prevailing wage requirements. Reading the study it would appear that the majority of construction jobs are bound by prevailing wage requirements, which in turn (according to the authors) substantially impact the incomes of veterans employed in the trades. But the reality is only a minority of total construction jobs fall under prevailing wage provisions.

In Wisconsin, for example, before the partial repeal of prevailing wage was enacted only about 20% of all construction jobs contained prevailing wage restrictions according to a pro-prevailing wage estimate. That means while 91.7% of construction workers in Wisconsin have never served in the military, 80% of all Wisconsin construction jobs never qualified for prevailing wage regulations.

Nevertheless, the IEPI study summary claims, “Prevailing wage improves economic outcomes for veteran workers. Prevailing wage standards make construction employment more attractive for veterans.” But the actual study explicitly states: “Prevailing wage laws affect all workers the same regardless of race, gender, veteran status, or any other factor.”

So either prevailing wage is a veterans issue, as the first statement asserts, or it is not a veterans issue because it applies to all workers equally regardless of veteran status, a noteworthy point given that the vast majority of construction workers are not veterans. The conflicting statements reveal the lengths to which pro-labor union groups will go to advocate for higher taxpayer costs on construction projects.

In addition to failing to point out how few total construction projects are bound by the prevailing wage requirement, the IEPI study authors also overlook any mention of compliance costs with prevailing wage. For small business owners and entrepreneurs of the sort often found in the construction trades, the complexities of complying with prevailing wage mandates can serve as a disincentive to bid on government jobs.

Finally, the study authors make the eyebrow-raising claim that military service is closely related to prevailing wage-regulated construction projects. “[B]oth military and civilian construction careers include elements of public service, from defending the country to developing the public infrastructure on which Americans rely,” they write. Certainly there is a degree of job satisfaction in both career fields, but prevailing wage or no prevailing wage, most job sites in the United States don’t involve getting shot at, nor do superiors have the freedom to push employees to work far more than 8 hours a day.

Not all veterans organizations agree with VoteVets.org, on this issue. Darin Selnick, a senior advisor to Concerned Veterans for America, is skeptical of prevailing wage laws and their impact on anyone – including veterans. “The transition from military to civilian life is often difficult for veterans, and finding gainful employment is an important first step,” Selnick said. “Prevailing wage laws disproportionately hurt entry-level job growth – the exact kind of jobs veterans need in that critical timeframe when they’ve just finished serving. Veterans fought for economic freedom and American prosperity abroad and they deserve it when they get home.”

Labor unions and aligned think-tanks and political groups are likely to continue to use the guise of veterans issues as a cudgel to beat free market policymakers over the head for daring to suggest reforms that save taxpayer money. But that doesn’t mean they are right; veterans are a significant part of the workforce, but that doesn’t mean increased government spending on labor costs for public works are somehow a veterans issue in the same way that, say, the healthcare shortcomings of the Veterans Administration are a veterans issue.

Originally posted to MediaTrackers.org.

Donald Trump: Vets with PTSD Aren’t Strong

Apparently intent on destroying whatever chance he has left to win the 2016 presidential election, GOP nominee Donald J. Trump told a gathering of veterans in Virginia that those who return from combat and suffer from PTSD aren’t strong enough to handle the trauma of war.

“[W]hen people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over — and you’re strong and you can handle it — but a lot of people can’t handle it,” the real estate developer said.

Trump went on to talk about his commitment to ensuring that veterans have access to mental healthcare to help them overcome PTSD and depression.

In 1997 Trump, who has never served in the military, boasted to shock-jock talk host Howard Stern that his own ability to avoid catching sexually transmitted diseases is similar to what soldiers experience in war.

“I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Trump considers himself to be an equal with “a great and very brave soldier” because he has never gotten an STD.

While the real Vietnam was going on, Trump was busy getting deferments and avoiding the draft. All of which was done legally, but certainly highlights a very different outlook on life than those who actually served, either by their own choice or because they answered their country’s call.

In a remarkable interview with a biographer Trump claimed that he “always felt that I was in the military” because his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy, which The New York Times helpfully notes is an expensive prep school. In Trump’s estimation, his prep school experience gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

Trump’s inability to distinguish real hero from fake hero, and real military service from expensive prep school days of yore has so far not proven fatal to his political prospects. Early in the GOP primary process the New York businessman attacked GOP Sen. John McCain, who was the GOP nominee in 2008 and hasn’t run for president since then, for being captured during Vietnam. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” he declared.

Despite such gaffes and statements, past and present, Trump has secured the endorsement of dozens of retired senior military leaders. While Trump’s personal code of conduct and public statements would appear to clash with a warrior ethos, it is perhaps utter distaste for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that has led some high profile veterans to back Trump.