2.2 percent is not enough for what they do

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2006

You have to hand it to

Congress — they haven’t a clue.

I base this assessment on the recent news that they are just about to complete, if they haven’t already, a package worth billions of dollars to the military that includes a 2.2 percent pay raise for the men and women in uniform.


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I say it isn’t enough.

Let’s consider a few things.

First, an enlisted member of the military, regardless of the branch of service, who is at the lowest grade, and in their first two years in uniform, is paid $1,178.10 a month, before taxes. That number is effective as of Jan. 1

A 2.2 percent raise will bring that number to a whopping $1,204.01, or an increase of slightly less than $26. Annually, that’s 14,448.12.

That salary increase is basically half a tank of gas for many cars these days.

At the same time, the people who will, if they haven’t already, approve this increase, voted themselves a $3,000 raise this year. That puts the average rank and file congressman or senator somewhere around $170,000 a year.

To achieve an amount equal to the $3,000 raise in Congress, the lowly private would have to work 115.78 months, or 9.6 years. That would mean a re-enlistment or two for many of them.

And I have no idea what the cost of living is listed at today, but I would bet it is higher than 2.2 percent.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines from 2004, the latest numbers I could find, show the poverty level for a family of two for most places in the country is $12,490 a year, and if you add one more person, it goes to $15,670.

Now let’s look at retirement.

A person in the military, to receive full benefits upon retirement, must serve a minimum of 20 years. They can serve fewer, but their benefits are pro-rated to that amount of time.

Members of Congress only have to serve 5 years to be eligible for a pension.

In both cases, when that pension can be drawn on depends on a number of things, such as age and number of years of service. It used to be when a person retired from the military they could start drawing their pension immediately. It is my understanding — I mustered out in 1978, so I know things have changed — that they must now wait like the rest of us, until they are 62 or older.

I just don’t think it is right for

Congress to approve such a hefty raise for themselves and then give those in uniform a token increase.

The men and women in uniform are either risking their lives at this very moment, or have the potential for being assigned to a war zone at any time, where they will put their lives on the line.

Having worked in D.C., I know the only time members of Congress might be at risk for bodily harm is if they drive on the Beltway or walk the streets of the city after dark — two things I am sure none of them do regularly. And if they do, they probably have a driver for the former and a bodyguard for the latter.

If it’s not too late, I implore Congress to reconsider this increase and add another 8-10 percent.

The package that includes the raises also has plans for several new ships for the Navy. Maybe we could forego one of those and put that money into raise for several years to come.

Military members are no different from civilian employees. The better compensated they are, the more productive they will be. And when it comes to retention — it’s always cheaper to keep a soldier than to train a new one — if they know they will be paid for the work they do, they will be more apt to re-enlist and continue serving.

What about it Congress? Isn’t there something you can do?

Grant is the managing editor of the News-Herald. Contact him at doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com, or 934-9603