View Full Version : Wonderful article from a soldier scewering the progressive magazine and other liberals.

04-07-2004, 09:11 AM

The Progressive Disorder:
Well, now we know there are no veterans working at The Progressive, or somebody could have caught this godawful piece of reporting.

I was hoping for better, because Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of the excellent "Nickeled And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," has actually done a lot of worthwhile reporting about the daily struggles of America's working class.

But let's take a closer look at the article.
Headline: Bush's Odd Warfare State.
Here's one way our President proposes to "support our troops": According to his 2005 budget, the extra pay our soldiers receive for serving in combat zones--about $150 a month--will no longer count against their food stamp eligibility.
It's never good to blow a fact in the very first sentence of a piece. Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay is $225/month. Not $150. In fairness to Ms. Ehrenreich, there are several websites out there which still have outdated information on them.

Lesson learned: use primary sources for stuff like this.

Market forces ensure that a volunteer army will necessarily be an army of the poor.

Wow...there's that left-wing condescension again. I guess in Ehrenreich's little Key West fantasyland, nobody joins the service because they simply want to serve their country, or because it's a family tradition, or because they are attracted to the challenge, or because they don't want their middle class parents to have to go into debt to finance college, or they don't want to go into debt themselves. Or that they were outraged at September 11th, and simply joined up to take the war to Al Qaeda where they lived.
Oh, no. That wouldn't fit into the Progressive paradigm. It's much more convenient to think of us as unwilling stooges--poor, uneducated, and easily led, to paraphrase a notorious characterization--in this case, of conservative Christians--from the Washington Post. A characterization for which the Post later apologized.
Frontline battle troops, most of whom have been in the military for about a year, earn less than $16,000 a year--which puts them at about the level of theater ushers and Wal-Mart clerks. Even second lieutenants, at a starting salary of $26,000 a year, earn less than pest control workers and shoe repairers.
Well, it's pretty obvious Ehrenreich doesn't quite know what she means when she says "frontline battle troops." There are very few privates out there in the infantry units. The vast majority of the real frontline battle troops are actually E-4s and above. Even in their first year of service, E-4s pull in more than $18,600 per annum, and more than $19,600 in their second year of service, and that's in base pay. Throw in BAH Type II for a married soldier (assuming 0 differentials. He earns more money if he has children) and he's really making $25,887 per year in his second year of service.

The military pay scale is all laid out for you here.
Except that while he's deployed, he's also getting hostile fire pay ($3,000 per year), family separation pay ($3,000 per year) and an allowance for per diem expenses of 3.50 per day, or 1,277.50 per year. So now we're up to $33,164.50.
But money earned in a combat zone is exempt from federal income tax. So assuming the soldier's in the 15% tax bracket, that income yields an after-tax equivalent of $38,139.18 per year.
And we haven't even figured in the value of free food for the soldier while he's deployed, or free medical care for the soldier's dependents.
So Ehrenreich's $16,000 per year figure--while not far off the mark if the soldier's a screw-up and doesn't get promoted and you only count base pay--is wildly inaccurate when it's vetted by someone who actually knows what he's doing.
And the LT? The first year 2nd Lieutenant while deployed in Iraq, makes an after-tax equivalent of $61,462.67 (somewhat less than that, actually, because he's in a marginal 15% bracket, not an effective one. But you get the idea.)
Where ELSE can you be 19-24 years old and pull in that kind of salary?
No, they aren't getting rich. But they sure shouldn't be considered "working poor," either.
Had the Progressive happened to have a veteran somewhere in their office--from any service-- he would have known Ehrenreich's figures were wrong.
So when the Bush Administration, in its frenzied rush to transfer more wealth to the already wealthy, hurts the working poor, you can count the troops among them.
No, not really. Junior enlisted soldiers do have to pinch pennies to make ends meet, but unlike the permanent underclass Barbara Ehrenreich describes in Nickel and Dimed, these soldiers are upwardly mobile. They have the option of making the Army a rewarding career, or they can get out and take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill and pay for some or nearly all of college in certain circumstances, or use the VA Home Loan programs to purchase a home for nothing down, or all of the above.
Their situation cannot be usefully compared to the real working poor in America. Soldiers are not a permanent underclass. But 40 year old Wal-mart stock clerks are. And their problems have totally different causes and totally different solutions.
The mother of a Marine reports that her son had to charge nearly $1,000 on her Visa card for items not issued by the military, like camouflage paint and socks.

...And she believed him?????

And Ehrenreich bought the story hook, line, and sinker? Whatever happened to scepticism in reporting?

(By the way, camoflage face paint is an issue item. The NSN number is 6850-01-262-0635. Same with socks, within reason. Black or olive drab wool socks can be ordered through the supply system. The NSN number is 8440-00-543-7778.)
You might imagine that our "war President," as he styles himself, would be in a rush to enrich the frontline troops, but last August his Administration proposed to cut the combat pay bonus of $150 a month.
Wrong again. Or at least, incomplete. The Pentagon didn't plan to cut the allowance of $150/month. They wanted to cut it to $150/month, from $225. Congress had passed a temporary authorization to increase the allowance by $75 a month. But that authorization was due to expire last fall. But soldiers' paychecks--the ones actually getting shot at, anyway--were never in any real danger of being cut. Sure, it was a politically idiotic idea, but the plan was to authorize pay raises from other funding sources to compensate--most likely by replacing the existing 'hostile fire pay' system a more flexible system of "hardship pay," which could be more finely delineated to reflect the hardships and dangers at different duty stations.
But the Army Times broke the story, and the political outcry was such that the adult supervision in the White House had to lend some adult supervision to the milk-throwing bean-counters set up at the kiddie tables in the romper-room basement setups in the Pentagon, and scrap the plan, and it never came to fruition.
Somebody must have pointed out that an election year was just around the corner, because this little trial balloon was quietly punctured. In fact, the 2005 budget offers to double the military death benefit received by families of the fallen from $6,000 to $12,000.
Sounds good. In fact, it may make death financially preferable to surviving in a damaged state.
Now, this is just peachy, isn't it?
In his 2005 budget, Bush proposes to raise veterans' health care costs--through increased drug co-payments and a new "enrollment fee"--thus driving an estimated 200,000 vets out of the system and discouraging another million from enrolling.
I don't buy these numbers. Whose estimate is she quoting? A little transparency, please!
The rest is basically a neo-Marxist rant about European states historically using welfare benefits to appease the roiling masses, and blah blah blah.
I don't fault Ehrenreich here, particularly. She understands the plight of the working poor better than most. And Nickel and Dimed is an engaging and enlightening read. I'd recommend it to anybody. Especially conservatives!

But between the glaring factual errors, the total misunderstanding of military pay and benefit structures, and the condescending cultural elitism built into her prose, it's clear that Ehrenreich has no idea how to report on the military community. Neither does the editorial staff at The Progressive.

And it shows.

Editors: How many veterans do you have your newsroom?
Splash, out