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HuffPo strikes nerve with critique on pay for troops after sequester

Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as part of a combined Afghan and coalition security force operating in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, await a CH-47 for extraction. (Photo: Pfc. Pedro Amador; Feb. 13, 2012)An article at the Huffington Post about defense budget cuts because of the sequester and military compensation drew angry comments from some readers.

The writer, David Wood, led with this:

“For more than a decade, Congress and the Pentagon have lavished money on the nation's 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded.”

The word “lavished” didn’t go over well with those who actually serve or are in military families.

One commenter responded angrily as did many others:

“Don't refer to the military life as ‘lavish’, because that makes it obvious you haven't lived it. You say ‘a sergeant's base pay and housing allowance rose 20.5 percent between 2001 and 2009, when the average enlisted military member was earning $50,747 in base pay and housing’... my husband is a sergeant in the AF and for his job in the civilian world he would START OUT at 76k (that's over 20k that civilians are making more than him). Now let's also factor in here that these guys are on call 24/7 plus they don't get paid extra for overtime. My husband worked 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, for 3 weeks straight for Operation Odyssey Dawn and received nothing in return. No extra pay, no extra time off, not even a medal. In fact we were supposed to be on vacation but they cancelled his leave for OOD, so we actually had to pay out on canceling our trip! This article is a joke riddled with lies, then again what do you expect with Huff post!”

Wood noted that ahead of the sequester, the Pentagon continued to spend on an assumption—the White House budget proposed for 2013.

That sounds unwise, until you remind yourself President Barack Obama told Americans during his reelection campaign the sequester would not happen. It’s ironic because Obama could have kept that promise had he not hinged all the negotiations on another tax hike he knew Republicans wouldn’t approve, having agreed already to a tax hike and mindful of the 20 or so tax hikes in ObamaCare, and being keenly aware of Democrats’ approval of the return of higher payroll taxes.

Fact is, Dems don’t much like budgets. In January, 2013, the White House sent a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), House Budget Committee chair. That letter informed Ryan the White House would miss the legal deadline for submitting a budget. Ryan probably wasn’t surprised because Obama has met that deadline only one time.

Meanwhile, the Dem-led Senate passed a budget resolution in 2009 and they haven’t passed one since.

Have you ever talked with family members of someone who serves in the military? I have, more times than I can count.

If you serve in the military, you’re on permanent call and subject to departing for parts unknown with little notice. It’s likely that your spouse will serve as family linchpin in your absence. Unless your spouse is in a high-paying field, it will make little sense for him or her to work a job outside the home if you have children because of daycare expenses. More often than not, your family will be away from family members who might help in a crisis. If you serve in a war zone, there’s the possibility you will be injured or killed. If you’re transferred and you own your home, you may or may not recoup your investment when you move. Few federal workers in the civilian sector face the challenges our military families face.

The HuffPo article quoted an economist who served under President Bill Clinton who reduced forces, not just for the military but in the intelligence sector as well. Those reductions left the U.S. challenged after the attacks in 2001.

If there was ever an example of the absurdity in the manner the federal government spends taxpayer money, the sequester would be it.

You’d think that our president and Congress would be able to craft a plan to cut non-vital programs and leave necessary programs in place. That’s what businesses do in lean times and that’s what families do.

Not Washington. Few in Congress are willing to reduce the pork and largesse sent back home. No one in the White House has a grip on fiscal reality, evidenced by the enormous costs of new programs like ObamaCare.

Despite lack of practical budgeting, the Obama administration jumped aboard the green energy wagon for the military, driving the cost of energy up for now because the consumer market in renewables is still in its infancy and prices won’t come down for years.

There was political opportunity in Democrats’ renewable energy push. The president ramped up spending for renewable energy, a sector firmly in his camp politically, and his supporters welcomed the initiative because many saw it as a means of driving the private market via military spending. The Pew Center reported:

“DoD clean energy investments increased 200 percent between 2006 and 2009, from $400 million to $1.2 billion, and are projected to eclipse $10 billion annually by 2030.”

We might consider the cost of such initiatives in light of the sequester the president promised wouldn’t happen but did.

Critics like Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) said Obama’s green energy push for the military was a “terrible misplacement of priorities.”

HuffPo might have focused on the real waste in government spending, but the writer targeted service members instead. Wood has served in many conflict zones and if you consider his very lengthy bio, it’s obvious he enjoys writing about military matters.

However, Wood, like President Clinton, never served. He said in his bio he was “a former conscientious objector.” Most of us who watched loved ones march off to Vietnam to fight a war obstructed by politicians used other terms to refer to those “objectors.”

Ironically most pundits have ignored spending at the White House as an issue in the sequester. The book Presidential Perks Gone Royal by Robert Keith Gray provided information that should spur us to go over any president’s spending with a fine tooth comb. Start with paying a dog handler about $100,000 a year and move on to Obama’s “record-breaking 469 men and women on the White House staff…” Gray called them “assistant presidents,” and 27 of them are paid more than $170,000 a year.

Maybe HuffPo could chew on that because not a single one of those White House staffers is likely to face a bullet or an IED or miss being present for the birth of a child or come home with missing limbs.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/March 13, 2013)


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