A Commander-in-Chief who has failed in his duty

It’s no surprise that Defense spending was going to have to be cut. With the war in Iraq over, and our slow withdrawal from Afghanistan in process, we were simply going to need less. But this has your Editor more than a little annoyed. From USA Today:

The budget calls for a 1% pay increase for most troops, although generals and admirals would receive a one-year pay freeze. Hagel said he wants to slow the growth of housing allowances and require active-duty and retired members of the military to make a larger contribution to their health care costs in the TRICARE program.

Future pay and pension questions, he said, will be handled by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is expected to issue its report in a year.

“Although these recommendations do not cut anyone’s pay, I realize they will be controversial,” Hagel said. “Congress has taken some important steps in recent years to control the growth in compensation spending, but we must do more.”

Now, contrast that with this story, from CBS News:

Why soldiers are increasingly relying on food stamps

The recent surge in food-stamp spending has prompted some critics to worry that the $76 billion program is creating an over-reliance on government handouts.

What these critics may not realize is that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is also increasingly relied upon by members of the U.S. armed forces, with patrons of military commissaries using food stamps to purchase $103.6 million worth of groceries in fiscal 2013.

That’s a 5 percent rise from 2012, and almost double the $52.9 million spent in 2009. That’s a faster pace of growth than the general population, since overall SNAP spending rose just 51 percent from 2009 through 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One reason for jump in food-stamp usage among soldiers could be the relatively low pay awarded to junior members of the military, with the least experienced active duty soldiers bringing home a little over $18,300 per year. That would qualify a soldier living in a two-person household for food stamps.

But another significant issue facing military families is a relatively high unemployment rate for spouses, with female spouses between the ages of 18 to 24 suffering from a 30 percent unemployment rate, according to a February study published by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. That’s almost three times higher than their civilian cohorts, the study found.

To be sure, while base pay for soldiers is low compared with other civilian careers, soldiers can receive bonuses and non-cash compensation such as free or subsidized housing and education.

The commissary system is one benefit enjoyed by soldiers, with the Defense Commissary Agency operating stores at bases across the globe. Groceries are sold at about one-third less than at commercial prices, which can save a family of four about $4,400 each year, the agency notes on its Facebook page.

Still, pressure on soldiers’ grocery budgets may only increase. The Pentagon is considering increasing prices at the commissaries, one option that would keep the stores open, the Military Times reported earlier this month. The Department of Defense had earlier considered closing the stores.

A bit more at the link.

So, here we have a Commander-in-Chief, the man to whom our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines owe their obedience, a man who is supposed to look out for the benefit of those servicemembers under his command, proposing an increase of 34.7% in the minimum wage, but holding the pay increases of the military to 1%,1 and concomitantly reducing their non-cash benefits, which will have the effect of reducing their real compensation.

The benefit to servicemembers in being able to shop at commissaries is huge. The CBS story noted that buying groceries at the commissary can save servicemembers and their families $4,400 a year, but the commissaries sell other things than groceries, from clothing — both civilian and military — to computers to electronics, and, depending on the base, really just about anything you could buy at WalMart.2

I’ll say it very bluntly: if you are in the military, or you have a family member in the armed forces, and you voted for Barack Hussein Obama, you are a fool. It is our military which keeps our country secure and free, and it is our servicemembers who should be better compensated than civilians, and it is our servicemembers to whom the Commander-in-Chief ought to have a sense of loyalty, and he treats them like [insert vulgar slang term for feces here.]

It is reasonably debatable just how large our military forces ought to be, with our combat commitments decreasing. We can quibble about how many divisions the Army ought to maintain, or how many carrier battle groups the Navy needs, but there should be no debate, no debate whatsoever, that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are not just underpaid but dramatically underpaid; if junior members are eligible for food stamps, then they are underpaid, period.

  1. President Obama has also proposed a 1% pay increase for civilian federal workers, but the CBO noted that civilian federal workers enjoy slightly higher pay and significantly higher fringe benefits than comparable civilian workers. However, the Congressional Budget Office staffers who put together that study are, themselves, federal employees, and have a vested interest in making it look like they are not over-paid. Both The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute found federal employees to be significantly better paid than private sector workers.
  2. Lest your Editor be accused of personal pleading here, though both of my daughters are in the United States Army Reserve, and can shop at military commissaries, neither of them nor your Editor and his wife live in places where commissaries are available. This is not a benefit your Editor or his family can use, other than on rare occasions.

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