During his State of the Union Address, President Obama said: "In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty."
A fair wage for people who "cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes". $10.10 per hour. Think about that for a moment, and look at what a Private in the United States Military, with less than 2 years’ service earns: $1,531.50 Per Month.
Privates are expected to report for work early for Physical Training (PT). It's a required part of their day in addition to a full 8-hour work day. Add on Charge of Quarters, Guard Duty, Additional Duties spilling over into weekends, and call it 50 hours a week, minimum. That's 200 hours per month. Divide $1,531.50 by 200 and you get $7.65 per hour. Of course, in combat, a soldier is on duty 24 hours a day. For that you get an extra $225 per month. That gives a soldier a whopping $2.44 an hour.
President Obama want to pay dishwashers and food-servers more than the young men and women who signed up to defend our country. Men and women, who at any minute, will be called on to go to a combat area, and risk their lives and limbs in against people who are trying very hard to kill them. Our soldiers, moving through small villages where a box sitting at the side of the road, or recently turned-over dirt could hide a bomb large enough to shred an armored vehicle. Soldiers who have volunteered to eat their meals out of boxes, and sleep outdoors on rocks in the rain and snow. Soldiers who stay awake 36 or 48 hours or longer to ensure that their mission is accomplished. Soldiers who will stand guard, looking out into a dark, hostile landscape, to ensure that their friends can sleep safely. There is absolutely no comparison between the job demands of a soldier and those of a dishwasher.
Consider the training required for a soldier. 8 weeks of basic training, including weekends, then another 8 to 16 weeks of job-related training. There is no comparison there, either.
In 2000, the salary for a Private with less than 2 years’ service was $1,127.40. There has been an increase of 35% in 13 years. Federal Minimum Wage in 2000 was 5.15. There has been a 41% increase to today's Minimum Wage. The President's proposal would make the increase 96% in those ten years. Triple the increase in the pay of a military private.
I'm glad that there are people who wash dishes and prepare food for a living. They made my life in the military more comfortable. Some days, especially on long deployments, that's all a soldier has: A hot meal. And that can make your day. The cooks, clerks, janitors, dishwashers all continue to make life more comfortable for soldiers on active duty today. I don't begrudge them a fair wage.
My point is that the soldiers, the men and women who put boots on the ground, are being forgotten. There is talk of cutting the military budget. Which will mean no raises for these men and women, while Congress and federal employees will get their cost-of-living increases, as they do every year.
The President often speaks of fairness and equality. It's time to talk about being fair to the soldiers. They deserve a fair, living wage as much, if not more so than the clerks, cooks and dishwashers. Before you talk about taking care of federal civilian employees, DO SOMETHING about taking care of military personnel.
US Army, Retired
*Editor's note: McClellan is a Middletown resident and chairman of the Middletown Republican Town Committee