Yeah, I know, Clausewitz said some shit about war being an extension of diplomacy, and all that. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about using the livelihoods and sacrifices of your veterans and active servicemembers to promote one particular line of political thinking; manipulating feelings of patriotism for the purposes of padding an otherwise flimsy argument. In doing so, you are doing quite the opposite of what you may intend: Instead of honoring the service of our veterans, you are cheapening it. I don’t like feeling cheap.
I saw something on Facebook today that encouraged me to write this. The image is below:
The issue is minimum wage, right? Trying to figure out what a fair wage to pay minimally skilled workers so that they can afford to survive – not thrive, but survive – in a modern American economy. Right. So, instead of focusing on whether or not this is a good idea, we’ve derailed the issue and moved on to comparing burger flippers to what amounts to approximately 5% of the American population – the military.
The argument here could also clearly be “Uh, shouldn’t we pay our servicemembers more, then?” Maybe instead of bashing burger flippers and low-skill job workers, you should be fighting for higher pay for people who sacrifice their lives for freedom, etc. Fight to lift people up; not keep people down. Or, hey, here’s a fucking wild idea – maybe they shouldn’t have to WAIT FOR THE VA UNTIL THEY DIE. Maybe there should be increased mental care for the thousands of soldiers who tried to figure out whether or not they should shoot the 8-year-old kid who is holding a detonator. But no, let’s take a step back and use them as a prop, instead, for a totally unrelated argument. Thanks for the 5% mattress discount, by the way.
But what really bothered me about this? It’s completely wrong. Not only is it utterly derailing, it’s ignorant. Let me break down the math for you.
An E-5 with 8 years in working in the Washington DC area receives the following monthly as a 26-year old.
$3,000 a month base pay.
$2,000 a month (tax free) housing allowance for the DC area (This varies based on locale. DC is on the high end, but the lower end – the middle of Dustball, Texas, still rides around $1,000)
$350 a month (Tax free) sustenance allowance
My calculations do not include: Hazard pay, deployment pay, moving allowances, temporary duty pay (business trip pay), enlistment bonuses (sometimes up to $15,000 a year depending on the specialty), and also does not reflect any area that receives a cost of living adjustment or utility allowance (places like Europe). Including them would boost my point significantly, but these things are so variable that it’s hard to nail down anything resembling an average. But suffice it to say that in many cases, the following analysis is erring on the low side.
If you do the math, because 50% of their gross income is tax free, they are earning at a rate that is, essentially, 25% higher then a civilian making the same gross income. In this calculation, we have a gross income of $64,000. Not awful, but wait, it’s still not the civilian equivalent. Their net income after taxes – given that half their income is not taxed – would be approximately $59,000 after taxes, because the lower taxable income ALSO puts them in a lower bracket (15%)
So, an E-5 civilian equivalent is actually approximately $75,000 a year.
Is it enough for people who could be called to war? For people who could die? For people, who, at a minimum, have a life that is built around the sacrifices of moving, 60-hour work weeks, shift work, and having INCREDIBLE skills? That’s debatable – and you clearly don’t care, anyway. Is it $35,000? Not even close.
My point? Before you use me and my brothers and sisters in arms as a meme, do your goddamn research. And then DON’T USE US AS A MEME.