Shrinking military budgets should concern everyone. There should never be a debate about the military we need, only about the military we want. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, recently painted a pretty grim picture of our current armed forces in the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). To quote Dempsey, it will become “increasingly difficult to balance the competing demands of protecting allies abroad, securing Americans at home and deterring future wars.”
The latest budget cuts $13 billion from defense. By itself that is a lot of money, more than half of the state of Georgia’s annual budget. Former Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and now Chuck Hagel have all pointed out that the social costs associated with the defense budget are out of control. Proposals to cut commissaries in a time of ubiquitous discount stores off base meet with all sorts of cries of foul from special interest veterans groups. And that doesn’t even get into how much taxpayers supplement the cost of TriCare for military retirees with no service connected disabilities. Any attempt to tinker with these costs meet with shouts of “breach of faith” with the troops.
I don’t for a second propose cutting the pay of active service members. Yet if I recall correctly from a lot of reading, military pay was cut during the Depression. We are in hard times now, and some economists think it could be decades before our economy returns to anything like it was before the Great Recession. All too many civilians were promised pensions and retirement benefits that have been cut because they became unsustainable with the drop in business or government revenue for state and local public sector employees. That includes our front line police, fire and other uniformed services. Just because the federal government can run deficits doesn’t mean that entitlement recipients shouldn’t also feel some of the pain. Sacrifice has to be across the board.
Dempsey rightfully pointed out in the QDR that we can’t have it both ways: either the slashing of the defense budget is directed at unneeded military bases, obsolete weapons systems, and social costs, or we face a military that will no longer be able to meet all its commitments. But as long as we have elected representatives that know more about these “priorities” that amount to jobs programs for their constituents and defense contractors who fund campaigns, we have no hope for change. Another component of this discussion is the incestuous relationship between retired flag rank officers who go to work for defense contractors.
Since the topic of increasing the minimum wage has been in the news along with the associated claim of class warfare being waged by liberals, perhaps we should consider a few factoids. My own anecdotal experience is that Social Security annuitants never fail to claim that not being granted a COLA in a given year will have a devastating impact on their household budgets. However, I wonder why so many are bothered by the equivalent of a COLA in raising the minimum wage that hasn’t been increased since 2009. Interesting that their COLAS won’t result in inflation, but for fewer people making a minimum wage it would.
Lastly, it’s important to point out that the disparity of income between C-level executives and their workers has grown from approximately 40:1 in the 1980s to about 425:1 today. That doesn’t bother the people on the right that I talk with. It’s class warfare to suggest that something is wrong with this picture. In light of their defense of this income gap, I would propose that we pay our military officers along the same line. That would mean a general officer or admiral would get a large seven or eight figure salary worth millions of dollars compared to what the enlisted ranks make today. It might even deter these officers from seeking employment in retirement with defense contractors. That’s one way to look at it. Considering that all too many taxpayers are unwilling to pay for the best medical care for our badly wounded veterans, I expect that all we will hear from our representatives is the same mantra to cut taxes, to cut spending, while taking care of their special interest supporters.