Okay, I knew that my paranoia after the shutdown in October was not in vain. I knew that the government was gunning for military families in some way or another, because we are all so entitled and so rich! I saw it coming; we service members just weren’t miserable enough. A “fair” solution was found, to coin the term used by a certain Congressman. Because it wouldn’t be “fair” to the rest of the country if the New Greatest Generation wasn’t struggling a bit harder. We just have it too good.
Please excuse the biting sarcasm. I don’t aim it at my readers, civilians in general, or the citizens of America. I love this country and the people, mostly. In all honesty, I am not sure how I feel about the military retirement pension reduction that was so easily and triumphantly created to “prevent” future sequestrations and shutdowns. Maybe the cuts to the military pensions will help. It would be great, right? I aim my frustration at politicians who don’t seem to understand that service members do struggle just as much as everyone else. Reading various statements justifying the decision, it almost seems like we’ve been identified as not having contributed enough to America’s survival, targeted because we’ve been too well taken care of, so certainly we can spare some of our wealth. A Paul Ryan quote, from the Huffington Post really rubbed me the wrong way:
“We think it’s only right and fair that they pay something more to their pensions, just like the hard-working taxpayers that pay for those pensions in the first place,” Ryan said.
Yeah, because military members don’t pay any taxes, we all live in mini mansions, we each drive an Infiniti gassed by the farts of fairies, and we all sport purple crew cuts and glitter covered jackboots. You want “right and fair”? Let’s do some Military Math. What is the value of a Warrant Officer father missing his first daughter’s birth? A First Sergeant mother not being home for Christmas? How about a child going an entire school year without both parents because they are dual military and both deployed? Is that worth 1% of the service member’s retirement pension? What about scraping brain and skull fragments out of a Humvee? Or watching your best friend get killed? Or are all those things simply not adding enough “right and fair” value to everyone’s American Experience?
I will concede that Mr. Ryan perhaps did not mean to be snide and condescending, but insinuating that military members are creating dead weight, with those hard-working taxpayers bearing the brunt of the burden, is disrespectful. Service members do pay taxes as well as bills and other out of pocket costs just like civilians, so justifying a 1% pension reduction through the excuse that we have somehow been unfair towards the hard-working taxpayers is just plain rude. Times are hard everywhere, including the Army post where I live, and military families are stretched thinner every year. No one here is going to ride into a magical golden sunset at retirement.
The politicians are definitely Utilitarians, offering as a sacrifice to appease the rhythm of happy commerce the retirement savings of this rag tag group of service members who have spent the better part of their adult lives earning those pensions in the throes of never ending war. After all, it is better to take wealth from one small group that has so much to give and disburse it for the greater good, right? Nevermind what it looks like (Communism). I had a feeling that this was coming, because I saw that gleam in their eyes while I watched them fuss over their budget notes on the news these past months. They were looking for a pig to bleed. Oink, oink.
So the question remains: does this matter, and how much? It depends on who you ask but yes, it does matter. The soldiers who have gone to the Middle East for the last decade have been called the New Greatest Generation, but are we being treated as though we really did anything special? I see the politicians patting themselves on the back victoriously over this budget deal, but where is the heartfelt apology and gesture of gratitude to the service members who will now be sacrificing money that they “supposedly” earned through years of dedicated service and loyalty to the nation? This remains to be seen.
I know that my family will be fine. We will never be rich. We figure out ways to survive. We go from one year being the King of the Hill to being the Underdog the next. We get knocked around by life, the Army, and the government, constantly losing and gaining monetary wealth depending on the mood of entities larger than us. Our cupboards get thin, but never completely bare. We never are and never will be rolling in money, so excuse me for saying this but it doesn’t feel “fair”, and I don’t like the word “fair” used so casually to describe disbursement of military pension money, especially when military personnel had no say in the decision process. I take offense at the word “fair” being used to undermine the character of military members. Don’t tell me that it is “fair” to take money away from soldiers. Ever. Who better than a service member would know that life isn’t fair?
If Congress is willing to play with the idea of not paying the military for an indefinite period of time (and no, they didn’t go through with it in October, but it still scared me), they clearly have no qualms about taking our paychecks hostage and using our pensions as emergency funds. But instead of apologizing for their poor decision making and subsequent hijacking of the military pensions, the catch phrase of this “solution” is that we military members ought to “pay something more…like the hard-working taxpayers”. A guilt trip for those who have served with loyalty and dignity…Well, you’re welcome. It comes down to the fact that regardless of how I feel (angry? bummed? livid?cheated? anxious? depressed? defeated?) we may or may not see that 1% returned to us. The money doesn’t matter anyway; it’s the principle.
You know what I really want? It would be a genuine apology to my husband and every other member of the U.S. military, from every single member of Congress. NOW. I want them to personally apologize for treating our military like pawns in a game and using us as their backup plan when they can’t get their tangle of piss poor planning unsnarled. And I want a personal and heartfelt show of appreciation from those overpaid, snake oiled used car salesmen. We are the New Greatest Generation, and we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect! It starts with a simple gesture. It should never be lauded as a victory when you arbitrarily take wealth from your hardest working and most courageous citizens to clean up your mistakes because you lack the courage to do so yourself. This is called cowardice.