Our military personnel work too hard for too little, and Rep. Jared Polis voted to keep it that way Thursday.
The Democratic nominee for Colorado governor, Polis voted against a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops. Despite his no vote, 139 other Democrats voted for the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. They helped pass it by a whopping 359-54.
Army data show a median wage of $36,200 for soldiers. Meanwhile, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates Polis’ net worth at $400 million, accounting for real estate holdings, securities and other investments. Using more limited data, Roll Call ranks Polis as the third wealthiest member of Congress with a “minimum net worth” of $123 million. Either way, the congressman does not endure the paycheck-to-paycheck dilemma so familiar to military personnel who need a pay raise to slightly offset years of inflation. This bill provides their largest raise in a decade.
In voting against the pro-military act, Polis counters infusing more than $130 million into military bases in metro Colorado Springs. He apparently opposes $77 million for a vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Carson, and $24 million for training and equipment buildings for the 10th Special Forces Group. Without those buildings, Colorado could lose its 4,400-soldier 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
By opposing the defense bill, Polis goes against the interests of tens of thousands of Colorado-based troops and more than 6,000 civilians who work alongside them.
A 2015 study conducted for the Colorado Senate estimates the military accounts for a $27 billion annual contribution to our state’s economy, and $7.7 billion in greater Colorado Springs alone.
“Coloradans know how important our military is to our state’s economy and our national defense,” said Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.
Aside from helping working Coloradans, the McCain Act rehabilitates and replaces outdated and worn Army equipment around the globe. It invests $40.8 billion to help resolve the crisis of insufficient military aviation equipment. It improves our strength at sea, and repairs crumbling military buildings and an assortment of infrastructure.
We are somewhat surprised by the congressman’s opposition to more military funding. Polis serves on the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors. He co-founded Patriot Boot Camp to assist veterans and military spouses with entrepreneurial pursuits. Polis called after we emailed him our concerns.
“One of the biggest threats to national security is the fiscal stability of the country,” Polis said. “Adding more debt makes us more vulnerable to China, Saudi Arabia and others we borrow from.”
In a follow-up statement by email, Polis said he is “deeply committed to improving compensation, health care, and job opportunities for the brave men and women who serve our country in uniform.” He reminded us of his work to hold the Veterans Administration accountable for “failure to meet the health care needs of our veterans,” and said he supports automatic pay raises for troops.
Polis pointed to an amendment he sponsored, which would lower military appropriations and protect funds for military personal, reserve personnel, the National Guard and the Defense Health Program Account.
We appreciate the congressman’s views on fiscal restraint, but wish they weren’t so selective. While voting down military spending, he advocates universal health care, applauds Obamacare and wants Medicare for all. He wants government to fund free, full-day kindergarten for all.
Our economic concerns about Polis did not begin with the Defense Authorization Act. He tried to eliminate hardhat jobs in 2013, after workers erected a temporary drilling rig across the road from the guest house of his vacation home. For most of those post-recession workers, this was the best money earned in their lifetimes and their first chance to get ahead.
“This part of our Colorado dream is over,” Polis said of the rig, on a YouTube video.
Meanwhile, Polis consistently declines supporting the Western Slope Jordan Cove pipeline. The liquid natural gas structure, opening world markets for Colorado’s gas, means lucrative new jobs and billions of dollars for Colorado’s economy. It means less dependence on Russia and the Middle East. Stapleton supports the project, along with Democrats Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and others.
“I have a strong concern for property rights, whenever government uses eminent domain for a project,” Polis said.
That is a laudable philosophy, but subject to pragmatic constitutional limitations the congressman well understands. Without judicious eminent domain, constrained by due process, we would not have highways, running water or anything else that requires linear transportation infrastructure. Without infrastructure, businessmen such as Polis could never succeed.
Most Coloradans don’t have the luxury to pass up good jobs, more income and better economic security for their kids. They cannot afford a new governor with a dramatically different view of how the world works for those who struggle to make ends meet.
The Gazette editorial board