Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cheap Bastards

The Senate and House passed, by large margins, a "GI Bill." For the first time in a couple decades, those who have served in the military for more than 3 years (since 9/11) will be afforded full tuition at a four-year college (in-state public university). Current benefits for college fall woefully short of that goal. McCain voted against it. Bush will veto it. It will nonetheless be enacted over his veto.

Why do McCain and Bush oppose it? They fear that such generous benefits will reduce re-enlistments as soldiers go to college. That's right - they want to make sure the benefits remain poor enough that soliders will re-enlist. I assume that's why they want to keep military pay low too, so that we can see TV shows where a whole bunch of people get together to build a house(!) for a military family, and that's supposed to be such a miracle. Wow, a house for our soldiers. Better to be on food stamps and in barracks, right? Then they'll have to re-enlist.

Now, this isn't entirely a ridiculous charge by Bush/McCain. The bill was crafted by two opponents of the war, Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Jim Webb (D-VA) both red state senators, who probably would not be unhappy if the bill reduced re-enlistements.

But there's another philsophical reason that's even worse. McCain also says that such a bill is not needed now, as it was in WWII, because "The difference being that that war effort required the mass conscription of millions of men called upon to sacrifice years of their lives - with none of the vast incentive system in place for those who join today's all-volunteer military." (From NY Post, describing McCain's views, and McCain puts it on his website). Translation: it's really not as much of a sacrifice for these tatooed punks as it was for me and my buddies in Vietnam who were drafted. After all, McCain keeps comparing occupying Iraq to the US experience in Korea, rather than Vietnam.

McCain openly believes his military record makes him immune from any criticism on military issues. He even claims that Obama is "compensating for something" by daring to criticize McCain on this issue. Well, McCain will pay for his arrogance dearly when Vets groups begin to realize how little he really thinks of the soldiers he claims to "honor" so much ("honor" is McCain's favorite word).


Raised By Republicans said...

I don't think meant to imply that John McCain was drafted.

Don't forget he is the son of a four star admiral, John McCain Jr, and his father's father, John McCain Sr., was also a four star admiral. The Senator himself graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1958.

In Europe, the families that have military traditions like that (where son after son rise to the highest command ranks) are titled nobility - like the Mountbattens (aka pre 1914, von Battenberg) or the von Moltkes.

I think this is even more disturbing in the context of the class issues that divide the traditional officer corps that comes from the national military academies (plus maybe VMI and Citidel) and the enlisted ranks that provide them with cannon fodder.

I can think of no better or more efficient way to ensure that our veterans do not end up on the streets than to guarantee them a college education or high level vo-tech training.

This is a smart bill to propose for the Democrats. Very smart.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I didn't mean to imply McCain was drafted. I can see how it reads that way. He feels very differently, I think, about Vietnam draftees (people his own age, and friends) than about today's volunteers.

There's also something peculiar about arguing that if incentives are too generous, reenlistments will decrease. Bush and McCain both repeatedly claim that morale in Iraq is high, and that the military has no trouble recruiting now. They both love to highlight stories of people who re-enlisted in order to keep fighting the good fight, a fight they believe in. Both equate this war to WWII (islamofascism, etc.). Sounds like that's not really true, and they know it.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The purpose of offering incentives is to encourage enlistment. If re-enlistment is a worry, offer re-enlistment bonuses. (Unless, of course, you're just a cheap bastard.)

NCCM USN(ret) said...

Re-enlistment bonuses, enlistment bonuses and every other "benefit" run through more analysis than you can imagine. recruiting budgets, number of actual recruiters on the street - even the type of advertising to be used is considered before any change is made/recommended. It is my guess when the proposed GI bill was put into the models it sent the numbers in a bunch of nasty directions which ay be just to complicated and expensive to level off.

Also consider a bunch will pay into a GI bill and not even fully use it. They get out of the military with all intentions of completing college but fail - family obligations (many are married prior to completing a first enlistment) - they then attempt to re-enlist after beiing out only to find they are no longer needed in their previous position - may have to take a bust in rank and switch jobs in order to just get back in. The senerios are many.

Get a service member to stay till 10 years and he/she is more likely to stay till retirement. There in lies another cost delema - a person who retires after 20 years, potentially 37 years of age - will get a retirement check for up to 50% of their base pay for the rest of their lives starting the day they get out.

All benefits have a cost - which actually gives the most bang for the buck? If the kitty was unlimited then keep the bennies coming!

Sorry for the fragmented reply, I'm retired Navy, loving life drinking beer sitting in a WIFI spot in Disney :)

The Law Talking Guy said...

If the cost of the new GI Bill were exorbitant, that would be the story. The cost is between $50 and $60 billion over ten years, according to either the CBO or the VA. It starts at $680m/year and ramps up to much more after 10 years.

According to the Army Times on 5/9/08, the CBO expects recruiting to go UP by 16%, offsetting some of the re-enlistment drop. The Pentagon believes it would (over 5 years) save $5.6 billion in recruiting costs, but have to spend about $6.7 billion on extra re-enlistment bonuses above current levels, for a net additional cost of $1.1 billion to maintain force levels.

According to the Army Times, currently, we see the following: 75% of Army, 70% of marines, 50% of Navy and 49% of Air Force leave the military after the first term of enlistment.

For an administration that writes $100 billion checks for Iraq (and borrows every last dime) without blinking and eye, AND while vilifying as unpatriotic anyone who would question that sum, it is outrageous to claim that a modest increase in veterans' benefits is too much to pay for.

Raised By Republicans said...

I doubt that it is a conincidence that Navy and Air Force are better at retaining personel. They don't have large numbers of their people in ground combat.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Absolutely, RBR. But it's worth noting that the Marines, who have suffered the worst, have better retention rates than the Army. It's also interesting that the Navy and Air Force, which aren't suffering combat casualties, still have a 50% loss rate. I've got to assume that's close to a peacetime norm.

Pombat said...

Air Force - with that experience you can then earn way more as a civilian pilot.

Navy - guessing ditto for the pilots, to be honest am unsure about the others (never learned that much about the Navy).

Army - 'normal' people doing the bulk of the ground combat, and I believe on (much?) lower wages than e.g. USAF pilot. Combat is a big shock to the system for a lot of these guys (unsurprisingly!!!).

Marines - not so 'normal' as the Army; whilst they have 'suffered the worst' as you say LTG, they're also a bunch of people who are trained differently (more, basically) than the regular Army guys, as their job is to do the more dangerous stuff. Different mindset, more resilient to what they're going through, and often less likely (/interested) to be able to adapt back to normal life as easily as regular Army.

I don't know what the answer is with re-enlistment, bonuses etc, because I'm not actually that familiar with the intricate workings of the US military, I know most about the UK military, and the guys in the UK military I knew personally were all 'lifers' - all officers, and pretty much all happy to stay.
(few exceptions: met two after they'd left, they'd then joined the Territorial Army, and were both commercial helicopter pilots and consultants to the Ministry of Defence; knew another one who did leave after 15yrs to go be a commercial pilot [more money for the growing family], and one who was talking about retraining as a plumber, but ended up re-enlisting to another desk job).