Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

The following URL was sent to me by a reader. It is a New York Times article about how the U.S. is having to cut back on weapons and active duty personnel in order to pay the retire at age 38 on half-pay pensions and medical care of military retirees.

I am going to comment on it here, but I will not reproduce it here because of copyright law.

Military retiree benefits are now about $100 billion. The whole defense budget, which includes retiree benefits, is $700 billion.

Only 17% of the military retire

Retirees are veterans, but most vets are not retirees.

Only lifers get retiree benefits. The vast majority of former military personnel, 83% of them, vets if there was a war on when they were in, are not lifers and never get any retirement benefits. America is defended by the 83% far more than the 17%.

Among officers, the casualty rate among non-lifers is almost certainly higher than the casualty rate among lifer officers. So the argument that we have to pay generous retirement benefits to lifers because they risked their lives in combat is BS. Among officers, the lifers have generally risked their lives less than the non-lifers per month of service because they are relatively high in rank after the first several years and, among officers, higher rank move you farther away from the battlefront. Among sergeants, that may also be true but probably less so.

Privates and coporals die and get wounded the most. But privates and corporals don’t retire. Only sergeants and officers do. The privates and corporals who do most of the dying and getting wounded don’t stay in the military for more than a few years generally. And now it is precisely the active-duty fighters who are being shortchanged on ammo, weapons, and the number of colleagues to protect the inviolable rights of retired lifers to extremely generous pensions and medical care.

In other words, military retirement benefits are not for veterans or for men and women who risked their lives in combat. They are for lifers only, regardless of combat experience which for many was zero.

Lifers would say they are more important than privates and corporals because of their greater experience and training. I say that’s the opposite of the truth. The young enlisted personnel and officers who only stay in a few years bring a real world, get-it-done perspective while the lifers are increasingly bureaucratic, cynical, hidebound, SNAFU, and overly focused either on careerism and/or hanging around long enough to get the generous pension and medical benefits. The shortimers do most of the dying and risking their lives and the physical work. The lifers play the game, boost their retirement by claiming to be disabled, and so on.

‘Cut national defense, not retired military’

The Defense Department has to cut spending. Military retirees and their political supporters say not one penny from military retiree pensions and benefits.

They like to call themselves “selfless servants” these days. If you want to see how selfless they are, suggest cutting their pensions or heathcare benefits.

But Defense still needs to cut its spending. If not retiree pensions and benefits, what?

• Withdrawing from wars, not for military reasons but to conserve money for retirees. If that is the way we are going to make military decisions, change the name from Defense Department to Military Retiree Department.

• Cutting expenditures on weapons and ammunition purchases, training, construction, and research and development on new weapons to make sure retirees suffer no cuts at all.

• Reduce the size of the U.S. military to protect military retirees. It is impossible to reduce the number of retirees. You can only reduce the number of active-duty pesonnel. If the Defense departent is about defense, they will cut retiree benefits to preserve the active duty force. If the Defense Department is about retirees, they will cut active duty to avoid cutting retiree pensions and benefits.

Military retirees pay $460 a year for medical care; retired civilians who are on average a generation older, about $4,000 a year for hearthcare benefits.

To attract good people?

Military peoople say they need the generous pensions and medical benefits to attract good people to the military. Bullshit!

You need them to attract people who are willing to put up with chickenshit for 20 years to get those retirement benfits. What we should be attracting are people who want to win our wars and who are good at it, not people who want to hang around Camp Swampy for the vast majority of their time in the military. The notion that pension-at-age-38 seekers make the best “warriors” is silly on its face.

I submit we would get better “warriors” and win more wars if compensation was more like a bounty. You get paid for winning: a big lump sum. That would attract rompin, stompin, movers and shakers to borrow a phrase I learned when I was in the Army. Those kind of people don’t want to hang around in some Kafkaesque government bureaucracy for 20 years, even for an overly generous pension and health care benefits.

The last war we won was not won by guys who got pensions

World War II had 12 million men in uniform. They got paid no pension or health care. Their pay was actually rather low. Their main bounty was they were in the military “for the duration,” that is, until they won the war. So guess what. They won the war, went home and got the hell out of the military ASAP. About 15 years later, the lifers who were in World War II retired and got their half pay and full medical care for life for them and their dependents. Now, the whining lifers would have you believe they are owed bigtime because they won the war. Generally, the war was won by the non-lifers in spite of the lifers. Plus, those guys are mostly dead. The current retired lifers are from the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghan wars, which we did not win.

I am sure they have lots of excuses why it’s not their fault that they failed to win those wars. The first words spoken to me when I entered West Point were,

Mister, from now on you have three answers: ‘Yes, sir;’ ‘No, sir;’ and ‘No excuse, sir.’

So I am not interested in the military excuses for not winning these wars, including the one I participated in: Vietnam. And I guarantee you the military who served in the post-World War II wars would take credit for winning them if they had. They were given huge amounts of money to spend on those wars and tens of thousands of lives to lose and years of time and still could not get it done. If they have any complaints about rules of engagement or other types of support, they needed to raise them during the wars, not just after they lost.

More money for retirees than for active duty

Many years ago, I remember reading that the payroll for military retirees began exceeding the payroll for active-duty personnel. I assume that is still the case only worse.

50% cut in defense

The agreement to raise the deficit created a Congress committee that will, if it cannot come to bipartisan agreement, trigger a rule that cuts defense 50% overnight. Even without that, Defense has been ordered to cut $400 billion over the next 12 years. As far as I can tell, the retired lifers and their political supporters want all of those cuts to come entirely out of ammo, weapons, training, military building, maintenance, withdrwal from current wars, and development of new weapons, not one penny from their bennies.

No promise was made—legally

Military retirees will no doubt protest they were promised these bennies and depend upon them.

I am not sure what the mechanism is that establishes military pensions and benefits. But I suspect it is like Social Security. That is, it is merely a law that currently says X, but can be changed by the U.S. government any time it wants, even including eliminating it altogether. There is no contract. In other words, it was never a legal promise, in spite of many implicit suggestions that it was a contract. You could probably successfully sue a private employer for that, but not the federal government.

With regard to politician promises, welcome to the freaking club! The scum bags in Congress and the White House have been making promises that they knew would not be kept for 70 years. The military retirees are in the same boat as the active-duty would-be lifers who will get RIFfed, Social Security recipients, Medicare recipients, Medicaid recipients, food stamps recipients, civilian government retirees (many of them military retirees who “double dipped”), unemployed persons, etc., etc.

The late Louisiana Senator Rusell B. Long said everyone’s position on taxation was:

Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind that tree.

Everyone to whom bullshit politician freebie promises were made has a similar position on cuts:

Don’t cut you. Don’t cut me. Cut that fellow behind that tree.

Now we find out the true character of retired military

The “selfless servant pensioners,” I mean “warriors,” are no different from the rest of the federal-check-for-nothing addicts, only more hypocritical and self-righteous. Henceforth, pay the active-duty military whatever salaries this nation of draft dodgers has to pony up to attract enough volunteer active-duty personnel. If those troops want money for their old age, tell them to contribute to an IRA, buy a house, etc., like the rest of us. No government pensions or other benefits for retired military. Zero. It was a bad idea and the armies of chickenshit dispensers have now come home to roost.

I believe in separation of pension and state and separation of medical care and state. No federal involvement whatsoever other than money compenastion for in-line-of-duty injuries during military service.

America is about to find out what the retired military people were really all about: defending the nation or selfish retirement with half pay at age 38 and extraordinary health care coverage. There appears to be no doubt about their position. It is “hands off my military pension and benefits!”

The correct position of the military retirees should be to put up with the necessary cuts without complaining—just like they put up with military chickenshit in total silence for 20 years when they were in. We’re all in the same boat and none of us are going to get what was “promised” by the sleazy politicians. Many lifers sanctimoniously brag that they never vote so they can be totally neutral about their commander in chief. Maybe they should have voted. I predict they will start.

John T. Reed

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions. If there are any errors or omissions in my facts or logic, please tell me about them. If you are correct, I will fix the item in question. If you wish, I will give you credit. Where appropriate, I will apologize for the error. To date, I have been surprised at how few such corrections I have had to make.