Over the past few decades the attitude towards military personnel has shifted to the point where now individuals of all political ideologies consider our military personnel as inviolable. Polls show that the military favorability rating has nearly doubled compared to the last 30 years of the 20th century.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that, after learning the details of the new budget deal agreed to by Congress, veterans groups and a number of politicians voiced their displeasure with the cuts to military pensions. While the concern from past and present service members is completely understandable, the complaints from Republican legislators are peculiar.
Since the start of the Great Recession, those in the public sector have taken pay cuts or had their pay frozen, have been asked to pay a higher portion of their retirement and health care costs, and have lost some 750,000 jobs. Conversely, military personnel have not been asked to take a pay cut, do not contribute to their pensions, and have seen an increase in their numbers.
It should also be noted that one of the biggest complaints from conservatives about public sector jobs is that many require union membership. While the military is not officially a union, it operates an awful lot like a union.
According to TodaysMilitary.com, servicemen make as much if not more than their private sector counterparts, while also being able to retire with only 20 years of service. This means someone who enlists at age 18 could be done working and receive retirement pay, for life, by age 38. They will also receive healthcare for life at absurdly low rates.
Most will justify these benefits by suggesting that military jobs are dangerous, yet 91% of military jobs don’t involved direct combat operations. There is no adjustment in retirement benefits based on the time spent in combat. All military personnel get the same package regardless of the risk associated with their position.
We also have a number of public sector jobs, such as police and firefighters, where people risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the citizens of this country, yet their pay and benefits have not been shielded from the “shared sacrifice” rhetoric many politicians used to attack public sector workers.
The reality is most people would probably agree with the words of Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, when he said “It is unfair to make a promise to members of our military and then – after they have honorably fulfilled every part of their obligation – have their government fail to live up to its part of the bargain,”.
But the question the Republicans who are fighting to restore the cuts to military pensions really need to answer is, what makes all of these other brave men and women who work for the government less deserving of good pay, great benefits and public adoration?