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Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal

Flame On!

J. D. Pendry

When I was a youngster one of my favorite comic book super heroes was the Torch. Whenever the bad guys needed attention he'd yell, "Flame On!" then proceed to make life hot and uncomfortable for them.

I read an Op-ed today that caused me to want to call up a couple of the Torch's fireballs to hurl into the chest of ignorance and sanctimony. It was in the Jan 12, 2000 issue of the Washington Post [Our GIs Earn Enough]. Another senior research fellow, who are so admired by soldiers, this one named Cindy Williams and from MIT no less, decided that the troops are rolling in dough when compared to their equally educated civilian counterparts.

"Wage data show that our troops typically earn more money than 75 percent of civilians with similar levels of education and experience. For example, after four months in the Army, an 18-year-old private earns about $21,000 a year in pay and allowances. In addition, he or she gets a tax advantage worth about $800, because some of the allowances are not taxed. That's not bad for a person entering the work force with a high school diploma. By way of comparison, an automotive mechanic starting out with a diploma from a strong vocational high school might earn $14,000 a year."

In my undereducated opinion, that is not the quality of research I'd expect from someone ordained a senior research fellow from a prestigious institution like MIT. It took what - maybe 30 seconds looking at the total pay and allowances chart to come up with that $21,000 for a Private. That amount combined with already drawn conclusions that soldiers are overpaid proved the thesis of a sub-high school quality presentation of information.

Senior fellow, allow me to help you a little with your research.

First, the basic pay for an E-1 with over four months in service is $1005.60 per month. That comes out to $12067.20 per annum. Right at this moment, every 18 year-old Private in the Army is demanding to know where the hell that other $9000 dollars is. Being a senior soldier (independently wealthy living on my overgenerous retirement pay complete with great health care) I'm obligated to tell them and you what happened to their nine grand.

$7.58 per day is paid to feed you soldier. I realize that most of you never see this cash, but we feed you don't we? It may be a cold MRE chicken-ala-king (that's meals ready-to-eat senior fellow) in a mud hole in Kosovo, but the senior fellow and I will ensure you get the entire $2,728 worth of MRE's that's coming to you so suck it up.

Then there's this basic allowance for housing thing. Wish I could tell you exactly how much yours is, but I'd need your zip code, shoe size, blood type and some other stuff. But, you do need to know that it's less money this year for some of you. We understand that you're not too concerned about this because of the great housing we provide. If your home is a barracks, we've ensured the first sergeant has an adequate amount of 100 mph tape (green duct tape senior fellow) to hold that sucker together. Enjoy your 90 square feet. Soon as we get some money we'll get you one of those big new rooms and a shower that works - hell we might even toss in hot water. We also realize that your home may be a tent on a concrete slab in Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, Kuwait, Kosovo... or a sandbag reinforced hole in the ground at one of those exotic places ... well you get the point. While you're there, just for sport, we'll play "let's see who can step on a land mine and get blown apart today". But look at it on the bright side - you may also get to live in a Quonset hut (little tin building held together by multiple layers of tar and paint) in Korea that your grand dad painted. If you're married we'll help you find a trailer park and give you directions to the food stamp office. What high school graduate from a vo-tech school gets that kind of treatment? Like the commercial says, some things are just priceless.

Let me see now, if I subtract your $800 tax break... Oh, didn't tell you about that? Well, here's how it works. All that cash you're just rolling in for housing and food isn't taxed. So, if we added it to your income and it was taxed it would cost you $800. Now, don't you feel better that we saved you some money?

The rest of your nine grand comes about in your savings because you shop at the Post Exchange and the commissary. Pardon me? You don't shop at the Exchange because the top of the line merchandise in there is a little out of your price range so you go to the local Wal-Mart. And you don't know what or where the commissary is? Hey it's your benefit, but if you don't want to use it...

Finally, do you remember the last time you went on sick call and saw the contract doctor who could barely speak English and you found out later that he didn't even have a proper license? And when you told him about the excruciating pain in your knee that you've had since the last time you fell out of an aircraft while in flight, he smiled and nodded a lot then gave you a case of Motrin to take for it? That's the rest of your nine grand - great "comprehensive medical care".

And the other great benefits you have that the vo-tech mechanic doesn't.

"There are also fringe benefits: four weeks of paid vacation, comprehensive health care, discount groceries,
tuition assistance during military service and as much as $50,000 for college afterward."

Gee, senior fellow, you've left out frequent world travel and the opportunity to meet new and exciting people - who want to kill you.

Every day lately, it seems I get to add another name to the list of folks who can just kiss my have a great day senior fellow. Flame off.

© 2000 J. D. Pendry