03 April 2004

Bush's Upside-Down World

The average pay of a person in the US military (not counting pension contributions and medical care provided by the service) is about $43,000 a year. Of course, the grunts on the ground in Iraq are probably getting a bit less, and that may be more-or-less offset by the "danger" bonuses, so for the moment we'll assume it's roughly the typical gross of a soldier.

John Kerry, a veteran's activist if ever there was one, has been squabbling with the administration over its plan to cut the "bonus" soldiers and their families get when the soldier is working in a wartime environment and is separated from his family. Currently, that bonus amounts to about $300/month, and the Bushies want to cut that back to around $150/month. Pretty outrageous, but because Bush and his officials keep saying that they supporting pay increases for troops when in fact they are cutting them, they have so far gotten away with it (they did the exact same thing with education and veteran's benefits, seniors via Medicare and so on -- and the press just willfully refuses to figure it out and report it).

But if you ask me, the real scandal is not about this relatively paltry amount of money. If you ask me, it's about the idea that our own troops are getting (let's say) under four grand a month to be over there (not bad, if you don't count the separation and danger). Meanwhile, private mercenaries like the ones killed in Fallujah the other day are making (sit down) $30,000 a month for their services. Paid for by you and I -- the US is hiring these guys (mostly British), whose industry is expected to make $2.5B this year -- as opposed to last year, where they made $320M. That's a five-fold increase in business.

To me this is repulsive. But then, I'm a liberal, so I must be wrong about this.

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