NY Times Wants To Put Military Pay On The Chopping Block

I’m eagerly awaiting the NY Times’ Editorial Board piece on putting teacher and other unionized public sector worker pay on the block. Think we’ll ever see it?

Putting Military Pay On The Table

Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the mandatory budget reductions known as the sequester. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table, too – even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught.

But don’t you crazy right wingers even think about touching any entitlement programs. Or Obamacare. That’s what they always tell us (wait till the end)

After a decade of war, the very idea of cutting benefits to soldiers, sailors and Marines who put their lives on the line seems ungrateful. But America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is over or winding down, and the Pentagon is obliged to find nearly $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. Tough choices will be required in all parts of the budget. Compensation includes pay, retirement benefits, health care and housing allowances. It consumes about half the military budget, and it is increasing.

Many groups have called for modernization of the compensation packages military members.The Times even mentions the right leaning American Enterprise Institute. Except, AEI mostly just calls for reform of the post-service benefits, like Tricare, high retirement pay, base commissary discounts. They also mention the bloat in the civilian workforce that serves the military. They do think pay for active duty should track with inflation.

One problem is that unrestrained compensation costs will edge out funds for training, readiness and weapons. A recent Congressional Budget Office study said that between 2001 and 2012, when private-sector wages were effectively flat, basic military pay rose by 28 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The study also said that cash compensation for enlisted personnel, including food and housing allowances, is greater than the wages and salaries of 90 percent of their civilian counterparts. And health care costs are projected to rise from $51 billion in 2013 to $77 billion by 2022.

Strange, because public sector workers have much higher pay and compensation packages than their private sector compatriots. Public sector workers, especially unionized ones, have very generous retirement packages, blowing away private sector workers. Why aren’t we talking about reforming them?

Ye Olde NY Times wants serious changes and reductions to military compensation. Do they have a point. Yes. Surely, though, they want draconian cuts for one of the few federal government programs specifically authorized by the Constitution.

Soldiers must be adequately compensated. But when programs across the government are being slashed, including those affecting the most vulnerable Americans, no budget account can be immune from reductions and reforms. It is a difficult balance to get right.

You heard it from the Times, folks. Nothing can be immune. So they can’t whine when Republicans go after the public sector unions, entitlement programs, government giveaways, nor others. Including Obamacare.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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