Jon Stewart: Why does burn pits bill to help vets need to be paid for when wars weren't?

Takano suggested raising the corporate tax rate 0.5% to pay for the legislation.

Published: February 23, 2022 4:15pm

Updated: February 23, 2022 10:42pm

Comedian Jon Stewart, who is pressing for passage of legislation to help war veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits, questioned why the bill needs to be fully paid for when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not.

Brown University's Costs of War Project estimates that U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for $6 trillion to pay for both wars, including interest.

"Why is it that we always have to balance the budget on the backs of the veterans who are sick?" Stewart asked during a news conference calling for passage of the burn pits bill. "I don't quite understand why this question isn't asked; that the Pentagon, the Pentagon is getting $770 billion this year. They're getting I think, $15 to $20 billion more than what they requested.

"So I would ask the journalists on the call today that the question is rather: Why did we not have a 'pay for' when we went to war? But now that the veterans are back, and they need something, everybody has to suddenly back off and say, well, let's also be very fiscally responsible. There's nothing fiscally irresponsible in the PACT Act."

According to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the Honoring Our PACT Act would "provide healthcare for potentially as many as 3.5 million veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits" and "streamline VA's review process." It would also "establish a presumption of service connection for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to burn pits and airborne hazards exposure."

Just the News asked Stewart if he thinks the burn pits bill should be exempt from any sort of PAYGO requirement.

"All I know is the war wasn't paid for, and yet somehow the cost and effects of it have to be," replied the former "Daily Show" host. "So we can go there, and we can leave $10 billion on pallets at Bagram Air Force Base, and no one really knows where the hell it goes. And none of that is paid for with any kind of a PAYGO."

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) suggested several options that could be presented to "certain" U.S. senators, such as Congress raising the corporate tax rate 0.5% to pay for the legislation.

"What about a half percent raise [in] the corporate tax rate?" he suggested. "Don't you think you should do this for veterans? Don't you think we should do this to honor, you know, to pay for the debt we already owe to our veterans?"

Takano was asked if he thinks Congress should pass legislation to assist law enforcement in recouping the roughly $80 billion in federal unemployment benefit fraud and about $76 billion in fraudulently obtained Paycheck Protection Program funds.

"We need to claim it back," Takano said. "We need to claw it back. You know, that's certainly one way to link a 'pay for.' But as we've seen in this discussion, Mr. Stewart has raised the question; we don't see that all the wars are paid for. But yet, we still pursue them, we still have the wars."

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