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What do Zarelli’s veteran’s benefits have to do with it?

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on April 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm with 2 Comments »
April 10, 2012 5:01 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

State Sen. Joe Zarelli has been taking some cheap shots over the past few days over what should be a non-issue: the benefits he receives as a partially disabled Navy veteran.
Here’s the line of attack, broken down into its weird logic:

• Zarelli is the ranking Republican on the Senate’s budget committee. Because the Senate’s budget process has fallen under the control of its Republican minority and three fiscally conservative Democrats, Zarelli has become the chamber’s chief budget writer.

• Zarelli favors eliminating two programs for Washingtonians whose impairments – mental and physical, sometimes complicated by addiction – make it difficult or impossible for them to hold down jobs. This would save $100 million – part of his plan to balance the state budget and make it sustainable in years to come.

• Zarelli is on disability but wants to kick others off disability.

• Ergo, Zarelli is a hypocrite.

As an argument, this line of attack doesn’t make it very far.

The two kinds of disabilities involved aren’t merely apples and oranges; they’re apples and zebras.

By its nature, service in the military involves physical risks. Zarelli took those risks when he joined the Navy and came out with a back injury. His case was presumably reviewed closely; he was judged 40 percent disabled and is receiving the corresponding monthly disability payment.

This is an on-the-job injury; he earned his compensation through his military service. The programs he is targeting for the most part bestow unearned benefits; they are a form of public assistance. We say that despite supporting those programs ourselves; we think the $100 million is well spent keeping unemployable people out of the jails and emergency rooms.

More to the point, Zarelli is being singled out in a way other lawmakers aren’t. Has anyone audited the personal finances of all legislators to look for comparable “hypocrisy”? Not to our knowledge.

He’s being singled out, as far as we can tell, simply because he leads a particular Senate committee. His job is to look for places to cut in the budget: The Legislature has been dealing with a real fiscal crisis, and Zarelli has to find real ways to bring state services in line with state spending.

Zarelli has been one of the good guys in Olympia – he’s reasonable, pragmatic and understands state spending. Many don’t share his philosophy, and there are legitimate reasons to criticize him. This isn’t one of them.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. SueDawnM says:

    Wonderful to see the TNT ed board come to the defense of a veteran. Zarelli served his country, unlike the hack who wrote the hit piece attacking him for suffering injury while in the service. Your line about apples and zebras was spot on, and Associated Press writer Mike Baker should be ashamed of himself. Thank you for calling him out.


    I am a veteran. Nam Era. It absolutely amazes me that these supporters of Zarelli seem to be ignoring the statements of lawmakers to the effect that the disability program he is targeting saves the state far more than the state currently spends on the program. It is endemic to the culture of conservatism to ignore the obvious. The obvious facts are most inconvenient when one is trying to vilify the reason of truly concerned and informed persons. A culture of senseless attack in denial of the obvious is counterproductive. These deniers of reality would cost the taxpayers far more down the road than the budget cut of the moment is worth. It is a constant feature of conservatives to act blindly in the passionate moment of declared success and thereby deny a long term and truly conservative solution that future generations can appreciate and thank us of the past for.

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