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Vets say GOP missed chance on bond drive
By Charles Swenson
Like many Republicans, Wally Walling and Ray Simon aren’t happy with what they see happening in Washington. But a bill introduced in Congress last month was the last straw.
While health care legislation got most of the attention, it was the U.S. War Bonds Act introduced by two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida, that caught the attention of Simon and Walling.
The Lakes at Litchfield residents had been promoting a similar concept to Republican lawmakers for a year, without a single response.
“These Republican senators sat on their duffs,” Walling said.
They know something about war bonds from World War II.
They helped pay for the fighter planes Walling flew in France and for the oil tanker Simon served on in the South Pacific.
As the economic crisis deepened in the winter of 2008, they got to talking about the increase in U.S. government borrowing to pay for corporate bailouts, particularly General Motors.
“It was Ray’s thought,” Walling said.
Why borrow overseas when there is capital at home sitting in the accounts of frightened investors who cashed out of the stock market?
Why not sell bonds at a modest, yet attractive, interest rate that would restore investor confidence and reduce foreign debt?
“Like war bonds,” Walling said.
“We know what bonds did for financing the war,” Simon said. “I think people would do it again.”
They sent letters to Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghysen of New Jersey.
Walling had worked with Frelinghysen as a county party chairman in New Jersey. His daughter had worked for Roberts.
Walling also spoke with Gov. Mark Sanford, who appointed Walling as one of South Carolina’s representatives on the Education Commission of the States. Sanford passed their letter on to then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen.
And then they waited.
“I was very disappointed,” Walling said.
And while they waited they saw federal borrowing increase to fund corporate bailouts and the economic stimulus package approved after Barack Obama took office.
“We’re borrowing from a Communist dictatorship,” Simon said. “If we were borrowing from ourselves we wouldn’t be kow-towing to the oil sheiks and China.”
That’s the idea behind the Democratic proposal.
“War bonds are a cost-effective way to reduce our dependence on foreign creditors and create an outlet for Americans to express their patriotism,” Nelson said last month. “War bonds allow us to borrow from ourselves, rather than other countries.”
He also believes that the same spirit that inspired bond sales during World War II will fuel investment in bonds to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The proposed legislation would authorize the Treasury Department to issue and market savings bonds to finance the wars.
Even GIs bought bonds, including Simon’s brother-in-law, who had the money taken out of his pay each month.
He never cashed them in, and when he died, in his 90s, Simon said the bonds were worth $200,000.
Simon is retired from the retail menswear business. Walling owned a manufacturing firm. Although the idea is to promote savings, they believe their bond idea would encourage spending because consumers would know that their savings were guaranteed by the government.
“The idea is to get people to spend,” Simon said.
Retirees in particular will do that if they have a safe haven for their investments, he said.
They still hope Republican lawmakers will take a look at the idea.
“It could have saved a lot of money,” Walling said.