Pay, benifits and civilian control
Rosa Brooks opines in Foreign Policy magazine:
“Some readers are taking me to task for impugning the military with the word socialism. I should be clear: though I may be one of the last three people in America who feels this way, I don’t use “socialism” as a dirty word, at least if what we mean by “socialism” is having a society that takes decent care of its people. “
“But this can’t fully account for the disproportionate benefits we bestow on the military. Plenty of other Americans serve the nation in vital ways — consider public school teachers and nurses — and plenty of other Americans, from fishers to fire-fighters, have dangerous jobs. We don’t seem inclined to fling free health care and housing in the direction of teachers or fire-fighters, though. “
–“Welfare State, Meet America’s socialist military.”
“This argument has a strong emotional pull, but in the end, it’s more about sentiment than reason. After all, members of today’s military are volunteers, not conscripts (and contrary to popular belief, they do not hail mostly from the least-advantaged segments of society). Just like civilian pilots, loggers, fishers, miners, and farmers (who face roughly comparable occupational fatality rates) — or for that matter, just like the journalists and humanitarian aid workers who operate in conflict zones and unstable societies — military personnel get paid to take certain risks in order to provide an important benefit for the rest of society. “
–“Generals Are from Mars, Their Bosses Are from Venus”
“In my last column, I wrote about the civilian-military gap, and asked whether the most common laments about it make sense when examined closely. We tend to think that the military is “special” in some way, and fundamentally different from other occupations. I asked whether that belief in military “differentness” is justified, and suggested that in many respects, the military isn’t as different as we assume”
–“The moral cost of the civilian-military gap ”
I applaud Ms. Brooks for debunking the idea that the military is some kind of alien thing outside of the civilian world. The problem, if there is one, in military-civilian relations is that civilians have chosen to be disconnected. As one lefty noted, baby boomers only became interested in US military and foreign policy when they were on the verge of being drafted. Technology and history marched on. We don’t need a draft.
What is needed is a volunteer military with benefits that keep servicemembers in the service. Many on the left and those deficit hawks on the right bitch and whine about the pays and allowances we get but most never served.
Things to remember about servicemembers:
- Even officers are forgoing more lucrative careers to be in the military. Yes I know the economy is in the tank. However doctors pilots, lawyers and such can make more money in private practice and not have layers of paper pushers breathing down their neck.
- Unlike student loans, the GI Bill is good for America. It puts willing and able young people in the service, doesn’t burden them with debt and is the right thing to do. Payment for services rendered on behalf of everyone.
- The local economy can vary, even within the same state. So a housing allowance or
cost of living adjustment helps service members stay focused on the mission. Get out of shape or fail to qualify on your weapon? You get booted from the service. Screw up too bad and you can be barred from re-joining. Teachers and police officers just get fired. That leads me to my next point:
- Service members are asked to be physically fit, qualify on their weapons AND be proficient at their jobs. In the military, you can be punished with jail if you are terrible at your job.
- Lose your job? In the military, they have to re-train you or let you go with a severance check. In this economy you just lose your job.
- Businesses can fold, city and states can layoff workers but the military is vital to the nation.
What most pundits and Congress critters forget is that cuts to bennies and pay put soldiers on food stamps. Why should they stay in the service if the pay is crap? The bennies are there because more is asked from soldiers than airline pilots, truck drivers or other civilian workers. When KBR and Haliburton tried to recruit truck drivers for Iraq, they ended up paying salaries north of $200K for one year. Many drives quit rather than face insurgent guns and IED’s. Meanwhile most 88M’s (army truck drivers) got paid much less, even if you put in overseas and hostile fire pay. Yet they still did the job.
Europe went bankrupt when it tried to pay everyone lavish bennies. California, Detroit and other “blue states” fell prey to that blue model. And as a percentage of the budget, the military barely gets above 20%. Sure military bennies are “lavish” if you don’t toss in the harsh military justice and getting shot at. Many recruits quit basic training because it dawns on them that they could get shot at.
If there is a “gap” between the cake-eaters and those in green is because of the freedom we as a society enjoy. If Ms. Brooks and others want to laud the military, that’s fine. Don’t cut those bennies and the pay we’ve earned.