By Kevin Kuzma
The last time I was in Washington, it was a few weeks before Christmas and most of the members of Congress had gone home to their districts. I was wandering the streets with a city full of people with nothing better to do than move from hotel lobby to hotel lobby to knock back a few cocktails. The atmosphere was something like an office when the boss has the day off – a city that is normally welcoming was positively jovial to have access to so many bars.
I had a lot of fun those few days. But the thought never left me that there were weeks, months, and possibly longer on Capitol Hill when little worthwhile governing is accomplished – and if it is, there are enough political setbacks to negate what progress might have been made otherwise.
To a Kansas boy, the fact that our politicians brazenly waste time and take extended breaks came as a big shock. We were taught in elementary school that in the city with official-looking buildings and granite columns that our nation’s leaders came to represent us – to get things done for the will of the people. Sure, they deserve a vacation every now and then, but those should come as breaks from the fast-paced change coming our way as a result of their endless committee meetings and voting sessions.
Boredom in Washington this week, however, looks something like what a handful of Senators are proposing about the GI Bill. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has been the seminal incompetent driver of the Obama administration’s agenda against “for-profit” schools has rounded up a group of like-minded elected officials to push for trade-marking the phrase “GI Bill.” According to a Fox News report, “Harkin's office said some recruiters were using the phrase GI Bill on their websites to ‘wrongly imply’ that the benefits can only be used at those institutions.”
Yes, Harkin is back, and he’s using subjective phrasing we have all come to love, such as “some recruiters” and “imply.”
Of course, the fair and balanced Fox News report does not mention that this makes absolutely no sense. The phrase GI Bill has nothing to do with why service members choose career colleges. Quick to take the accusatory approach, these Senators are failing to acknowledge the real reasons career colleges are a popular choice, such as types of programs, flexibility and military friendliness, along with the other reasons that students choose a career education (a preference for hands-on learning, smaller class sizes, or courses taught by professionals with real experience.)
Don’t be surprised they are attempting to put the focus on some imaginary "problem" like this. The battle against “for-profit” colleges originates from the failings of traditional colleges and universities to realize a need to change. Rather than determine why four-year schools are struggling, the emphasis has been placed on career colleges, their recruitment practices, their share of financial aid dollars, the quality of education.
The senators can call on the Department of Veterans Affairs to take action as long as they like, but the truth is career colleges are not abusing the “GI Bill" term. I’m not sure how that’s even possible. They’re not citing service members solely for their government benefits. There are historical ties that go back a few generations. Veterans want the training career colleges offer. The success career colleges have in that regard should be attributed to the sector’s strengths, not a dark underbelly of corruption.