In editorial criticizing Rangel's draft proposal, Rocky cited Heritage Foundation report but failed to note think tank's conservative agenda

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A Rocky Mountain News editorial criticizing Democratic U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel's proposal to reinstate the draft cited figures on military recruits' household incomes from the Heritage Foundation, but it failed to mention that the organization is a conservative think tank.

In a November 27 editorial criticizing U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-NY) proposal to reinstate the draft, the Rocky Mountain News supported its own assertion that "[t]he military is not a dumping ground for the underclass" by citing figures about military recruits' income levels from the Heritage Foundation, without identifying that institution as a conservative think tank. Another study by the nonpartisan National Priorities Project (NPP), which used the same economic data as the Heritage Foundation's analysis, actually found that "analysis of military recruiting shows that the wealthier neighborhoods became even more under-represented in the Army in 2005 while low- and middle-income neighborhoods became more over-represented compared to 2004."

The News also characterized Rangel's proposal as a "social-engineering scheme" because it would allow conscripts to choose between the military and a non-military form of public service. But the editorial ignored Rangel's assertion that "this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq" if there were a draft.

Referring to Rangel's proposal, the News stated in its editorial, "The incoming Democratic leadership in the House has fortunately rejected a very bad idea from one of its own: the draft." The News further stated that "Rangel is misguided in arguing that the war in Iraq disproportionately targets low-income families. The military is not a dumping ground for the underclass." To support its assertion, the News cited a November 7, 2005, Heritage Foundation report:

Using Defense Department data, the Heritage Foundation reports that roughly 14 percent of "wartime recruits" -- people who joined the armed forces after the invasion of Iraq -- come from households with a median income of $29,375 or less.

Nationwide, 20 percent of households have incomes that low or lower; so if Rangel's hopes to promote "social justice," his draft would have to target more poor people, not fewer.

The News, however, failed to note the Heritage Foundation's conservative political agenda. According to its website, "The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute -- a think tank -- whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

The September 7 study by the nonpartisan NPP reached different conclusions about the economic status of military recruits using the same data as the Heritage Foundation report. The Heritage Foundation study the News cited reports that "[t]he household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets. However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on terrorism began, as did the proportion of highly educated enlistees." In contrast, the NPP study found that "analysis of military recruiting shows that the wealthier neighborhoods became even more under-represented in the Army in 2005 while low- and middle-income neighborhoods became more over-represented compared to 2004." According to the NPP:

Like 2004, neighborhoods with median household incomes ranging between $30,000-$59,999 were over-represented in terms of active-duty Army recruits. (The comparable median household income is $47,837.) Neighborhoods with median household income of $60,000 and above were under-represented. However, there was a change in 2005. The wealthier neighborhoods -- all neighborhoods above $55,000 -- declined in representation. Taken together, all of these neighborhoods became more under-represented in 2005. Neighborhoods with median household incomes between $30,000-$54,999 became more over-represented. The share of Army recruits from those areas increased.

According to its website, "The National Priorities Project (NPP) offers citizen and community groups tools and resources to shape federal budget and policy priorities which promote social and economic justice. NPP is a nonpartisan and nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization."

In its editorial, the News also referred to Rangel's proposal as "insidious" and a "social-engineering scheme." According to the News:

Rangel's proposal is much more insidious, however. He would force every American aged 18 to 42, male and female, to perform two years of public service, either in the military or in some federal make-work program. Imagine the cost to taxpayers of forcing millions of adults to give up productive lives to satisfy Rangel's social-engineering scheme.

Presumably, the News was referring to comments Rangel made in a December 31, 2002, New York Times editorial (subscription only) in which he claimed, "A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent." The News, however, ignored other comments made by Rangel regarding his intended purpose for proposing the legislation. For example, the Associated Press in a November 19 article reported, Rangel "sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq." According to the AP:

Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq."

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

From the November 27 Rocky Mountain News editorial, "Rangel's draft plan gets a chilly reception":

The incoming Democratic leadership in the House has fortunately rejected a very bad idea from one of its own: the draft.

[...]

Good. [U.S. Rep. Charles] Rangel is misguided in arguing that the war in Iraq disproportionately targets low-income families. The military is not a dumping ground for the underclass.

Using Defense Department data, the Heritage Foundation reports that roughly 14 percent of "wartime recruits" -- people who joined the armed forces after the invasion of Iraq -- come from households with a median income of $29,375 or less.

Nationwide, 20 percent of households have incomes that low or lower; so if Rangel's hopes to promote "social justice," his draft would have to target more poor people, not fewer.

Rangel's proposal is much more insidious, however. He would force every American aged 18 to 42, male and female, to perform two years of public service, either in the military or in some federal make-work program. Imagine the cost to taxpayers of forcing millions of adults to give up productive lives to satisfy Rangel's social-engineering scheme.

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