Hummel on Government Military Pay Policy
By David Henderson
Unlike in previous wars, Congress did not wait for World War II’s termination to dispense generous social welfare to veterans. An American legion sponsored Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights, sailed through Congress in 1944, receiving unanimous approval in the Senate. Rather than providing a bonus, which veterans could spend the way they pleased, as had been done in the past, the act provided the kind of liberal unemployment, medical, educational, and credit benefits that Roosevelt would have liked to see go to all citizens, but for the fiscal realism of Congress. Even if viewed as restitution for victims of conscription, the GI Bill of Rights rested on shaky logic. After Congress voted for involuntary military servitude, presumably under the theory that paying for a voluntary military of adequate size would be too expensive, it then turned around and voted for lavish benefits, under the theory that no expense should be spared to compensate veterans. (italics mine)
This is from Jeff Hummel, War is the Health of the State: The Impact of Military Defense on the History of the United States, unpublished ms. currently being revised for publication. I especially like the last line. When you consider how young people’s discount rates fall with age, taxing them heavily while they’re really young and then compensating them when they’re five years older is even more perverse than it might at first appear. Consider also that those who were taxed most heavily–paying with their lives during WWII–did not get any GI Bill benefits.