Student debt relief undermines predatory army recruiting practices

Amid a brutal year for military recruiting, conservative war hawks openly fear that President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of one-time means-tested student debt cancellation could undermine the ability of the army preying on desperate young Americans.

“Cancelling student loans undermines one of our military’s greatest recruiting tools at a time when enlistments are dangerously low,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted shortly after the announcement.

In the six years since Banks first ran for Congress, he has taken more than $400,000 from defense contractors, weapons manufacturers and other major players. of the military-industrial complex. Corporate political action committees for Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, L3Harris Technologies and Ultra Electronics have each donated tens of thousands of dollars to banks, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data analyzed by OpenSecrets. He now sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Department of Defense and the US military.

Committee members have already collectively received more than $3.4 million from defense contractors and arms manufacturers this election cycle.

Banks’ admission highlights how the student debt crisis has been exploited by the military-industrial complex. Saying the quiet part out loud, Banks is finally telling the truth about how military recruiters are using the GI Bill — the 1944 law that grants a solid set of benefits to veterans — as a cure for the cost of higher education to convince young people to enlist.

“For members of Congress to openly imply that the answer to this is actually exacerbate the hardships for poor and working-class youth are, in fact, the best thing for young Americans to see,” Mike Prisner, an anti-war veteran and activist, told Lever. “It proves that their reasons for not joining are very valid. Why let yourself chew and spit in the service of a system that cares so little about you and your well-being?

Biden’s initiative will forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for people earning less than $125,000 a year, plus an additional $10,000 for those borrowers who received a Pell grant in college. The program is estimated to eliminate approximately $300 billion in total debt, reducing outstanding student debt nationally from $1.7 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

According to the College Board’s 2021 Fee and Student Aid Trends Report, the average cost of annual tuition and fees at public four-year colleges rose from $4,160 to $10,740. $ since the early 1990s, an increase of 158%. In private facilities, average costs increased by 96.6% over the same period, from $19,360 to $38,070.

Biden’s student debt cancellation plan was mostly celebrated in liberal circles as a step in the right direction, though many pointed out that debt cancellation needed to go much further to deal with the national crisis.

“If young Americans can get free college… Will they volunteer for the armed forces?”

Banks’ communications director Buckley Carlson (son of conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson) did not respond to a request for comment – but the congressman’s comments reflect a popular mood among senior army officers and conservative hawks.

In 2019, Frank Muth, the general in charge of army recruiting, bragged that the student debt emergency played a major role in his branch, exceeding his recruiting goal that year. “One of the national crises right now is student loans, so $31,000 is [about] average,” Muth said. ” You can leave [of the Army] after four years, 100% paid for state university anywhere in the United States.

Cole Lyle, a former adviser to Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and executive director of Mission Roll Call, a veterans advocacy group, wrote an op-ed for Fox News in May calling student debt forgiveness a “slap in the face “to veterans. because service members and veterans allegedly deserved more debt relief than the average civilian.

Lyle’s play was share by the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), who also argued that the pardon would “undermine military recruiting.” Mollie Hemingwayeditor of the conservative newspaper The Federalistand the big oil front group Citizens Against Government Wastealso shared the room.

In April, Eric Leis, former department director of Navy Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, lamented in the the wall street journal that debt cancellation – and in particular the reduction in the cost of higher education – poses a threat to the army’s recruiting capacity.

“When I worked at Navy boot camp, an overwhelming majority of recruits indicated that paying for college was their primary motivation for joining the Navy. If young Americans can get into free college without having to earn the GI Bill or sign up for follow-on military service, will they volunteer for the armed forces in sufficient numbers? writes Leis.

Banks’ recent statement on this aroused strong reactions anti-war activists on Twitter – largely because it exposed the military’s predatory recruitment practices and exploitation of vulnerable people in desperate need of economic aid.

“According to Rep. Banks, any relief regarding jobs, health care
The concept of “care work” refers to a set of material and psychological practices intended to provide a concrete response to the needs of others and of a community (including ecosystems). We prefer the concept of care to that of “domestic” or “reproduction” work because it integrates the emotional and psychological dimensions (mental load, affection, support), and it is not limited to the “private” and free aspects by including also paid activities necessary for the reproduction of human life.
, childcare, housing, food, should be opposed on the grounds that it would harm enlistment! said Prisner. “Although it is mocked, it reveals the core of the Pentagon’s recruiting strategy: to focus primarily on young people who feel pushed into the ranks by the hardships of American life.”

“It looks like a bait and a switch”

Banks’ criticism comes in a tough year for military recruiting. The army is seeing its lowest number of recruits in the current fiscal year since the end of the draft in 1973, according to the military newspaper stars and stripes reported last week.

Earlier in August, the army admitted that it had only managed to recruit half of its target and was on course to miss its target by about 48%. Other military branches have also struggled to meet their annual targets, but according to Stars and Stripes, those forces should just meet their targets by the end of the fiscal year next month.

But as Prysner points out, such recruiting difficulties have nothing to do with college becoming more affordable.

“According to the latest [Department of Defense] survey of young people, their main reasons are fear of physical and psychological harm, fear of sexual assault and a growing dislike of the military,” Prysner said.

The Department of Defense’s Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies (JAMRS) program conducts surveys to gauge young Americans’ views of the US military.

The most recent poll, released earlier in August, found that a majority of respondents – 65% – would not join the military due to the possibility of injury or death, while 63% cited the disorder of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other emotional or psychological disorders. problems.

According to the same poll, the number one reason young Americans considered enlisting was to increase their potential future earnings, while educational benefits, such as those offered by the GI Bill, were the second most common reason for enlisting. enlist.

The public has become increasingly critical of the military, in part due to the lack of a national cause to rally behind, the absence of an imminent external threat, and growing discontent to the American system. Some of this negativity has come from within the armed forces’ own ranks. In 2020, a video of active duty army soldiers expressing their frustration at their recruiters who lied to them racked up millions of views. The clip illustrated how many young Americans are being lied to in hopes that they will become pawns for the military-industrial complex.

To increase its numbers, the Army has a long and well-documented history of targeting economically disadvantaged recruits and attracting potential recruits with its strong benefits package. Earlier this year, the military released new ads specifically touting how the service can fill holes in the country’s tattered safety net. Anti-war veterans’ groups and other peace advocates are warning young people to beware of the army’s recruiting tactics, especially its educational advantages. While the GI Bill could potentially cover the majority of a recruit’s education, its benefits are not guaranteed.

“Even with the GI bill and tuition assistance, a lot of veterans end up with student debt anyway, and that’s what they really don’t tell you,” said the political commentator and Air Force veteran Ben Carollo. “I think that shows how predatory military recruitment is. Because really, it takes layers of lies.

Beyond education, veterans still have to fight for many necessary benefits. Recently, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would allow military veterans to receive treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs for medical conditions — including cancer — caused by burn outbreaks overseas. , before reluctantly backing him after immense public pressure.

Carollo said she believed lies when she enlisted.

She, like many other Americans, viewed the US military as “the good guys” who brought “freedom” to the world. She came to understand the American fantasy of exceptionalism and the false promise of benefits that awaited veterans.

“Unfortunately, I had to learn those lessons the hard way and came out with a disability and trauma that now limits my ability to really use the degree I earned,” Carollo said. “At the end of the day, it feels like a bait and switch. The idea that we should keep people poor just to keep this scam going shows how bad our system is.

Comments are closed.