Freedom isn’t free!

We will most likely hear this often in the coming month as we approach Memorial Day.
May 7, 2013

 

And it is so true. Just think of the lives that have been lost and the military personnel who have been taken prisoner or injured throughout our country’s history.

This year, however, the saying takes on another meaning.

Military families and their advocates are battling an Obama administration proposal to limit troops’ pay raises to 1 percent in 2014, the lowest increase in a half-century.

It comes at a time when American soldiers are still be fighting in Afghanistan. Many are returning home in coffins, and some of those who escaped death are missing limbs and suffering from mental and physical ailments.

"We're sending the wrong message to the ones who have worked the hardest in our country by the multiple deployments and family separations," said Michael Hayden, deputy director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America.

We agree. While the fat cats in Washington working in Congress and the Pentagon continue to enjoy the good life, we are trying to save money by not giving our soldiers their just rewards.

Pentagon records show that a 1 percent increase would be the lowest since 1963, when there was no raise followed by a double-digit increase later that year. The second-lowest raise since then was in 2011 at 1.4 percent.

Military pay increases by law are now linked with private sector growth as reflected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index, an assessment that would call for a 1.8 percent increase in 2014, which advocates are seeking.

But the Pentagon is asking Congress to limit it to 1 percent and save $540 million.

We all know there are a lot of ways the federal government can cut costs and save money, but targeting salaries and benefits for our troops and civilian personnel should not be one of them.

One alternative way to trim the federal budget came to light recently and is about all the money the U.S. government spends on nothing.

It is one of the oddest spending habits in Washington: This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a zero balance.

They are supposed to be closed. But nobody has done the paperwork yet.

So, even as the sequester budget cuts have idled workers and frustrated travelers, the government is required to pay $65 per account, per year to keep them on the books.

In this time of austerity, the accounts are a reminder of something that makes austerity hard: expensive habits, built into the bureaucracy in times of plenty.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that all of that “nothing” was costing about $2.1 million a year.

Freedom isn’t free, and we must pay fair wages to our men and women who are keeping us free.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

Vladtheimp

Well thought out and well stated! The men and women who volunteer to protect our freedoms and put themselves at risk should be the last federal employees to face a cut in pay when the government continues to waste our tax dollars on ridiculous projects and bloated payrolls.

Lanivan

I agree. Which is why this was so puzzling - and upsetting...http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_...

Vladtheimp

We all scratch our heads over something http://www.nationalreview.com/co...

Lanivan

Can I bet we both agree on this? http://www.usatoday.com/story/th...

Vladtheimp

Agreed! Can we both agree that USA Today is in deep doo doo because they identified the Vice President's wife as Jill Biden and not "Doctor" Jill Biden?

Lanivan

While grateful there is something in the world we can agree on, I am now anxiously awaiting that link provided by you that exposes the lovely and credentialed Dr. Jill Biden as a Karl Rove-style progressive that threatened retribution on USA Today for leaving out "Doctor".

Ironcop

Agree with Vlad. Worked for Mike Hayden in Korea years ago. He's right-on. To cut our military and continue to waste money like our government does is beyond comprehension. Let's make the right cuts and keep our nation strong. Just an old vet's opinion.

franklinferryracism

Love my brother has served 8 years now in the armed forces he has gave me my strength to appreciate these things!

 

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