Friday, February 28, 2014

Raising Minimum Wage Will Pay More Than US Pays Troops! by Ken McClellan

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.

Ken McClellan
US Army, Retired

*Editor's note: McClellan is a Middletown resident and chairman of the Middletown Republican Town Committee


  1. This whole article is a type of reversal straw man argument.

    "Assessing a soldier’s basic pay leads to the wrong conclusions because one also needs to consider remuneration, for instance, all soldiers are provided free (or almost free) housing (4).

    Choosing an arbitrary monthly house price of $1500 per month equates to saving $18,000 per annum on rent, making the Private’s ‘pay’ is closer to $40,000, however free housing is not the only financial remuneration, these can include:

    Utility bills
    Rental agent fees
    Cost of renovating a house to make it habitable
    Money to improve housing security
    Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (upto $1,100 per month)
    Family Separation Allowance of $250 (5)
    Free healthcare for them and their family
    Tax free wages on overseas Opps’.
    It is now clear a soldier earns far more than his basic wage implies, even the lowliest private earns in effect far more than the US average wage (a sergeant and officer more still)."

    Also only 10% or less ever see combat.

  2. To compare the two as you did Lucas is maddening to say the least. Those serving never know when they may be called into action and you minimize that by bringing up what was stated at a debate and that has a hint of anti military.

  3. That is your counter-argument?


    RIP Middletown Insider

  4. Darrell,
    $1500/month for housing certainly is arbitrary. Privates live in barracks. More like a college dorm than a house. The 'free' food they get in the Dining Facility is also comparable to the food available in a college dining hall. My son attended CCSU, and we paid $3,000 per semester for room and 2,000 food. Let's average it to $1000 per month. That includes heat and electricity. Let's look at the rest of your list: Rental Agent Fees, Renovations, Security? Not sure how you can include those as compensation. Family Subsistence Allowance: Only paid to married service members, if they are authorized to live off-post. Most privates are not. I'll come back to this point in a moment. Family Separation Allowance only applies to deployments into combat, where we go back to a 24 hour work-day. Free health care - you can check, but most people working minimum wage are either still on their parents insurance, or are eligible for some kind of government assistance. I'll call this a net wash. Tax Free wages on overseas ops - When was the last time you were sent overseas to work, whether you wanted to or not? 10% or less ever see combat? I have no idea where you got that statistic. In case you haven't heard, there are soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines who have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know some who have served 5 and more. My daughter did 2 tours in Iraq. I did a tour in Iraq. Back to the point about privates being allowed to live off-post. By military regulations, enlisted personnel below a certain rank will be paid housing allowance and subsistence allowance if they are authorized by their commander to live off-post. When was the last time you had to ask your employer and get permission, regarding where you live? You also missed the point that minimum wage has increased by 41%, while pay for the lowest enlisted soldier has only increased by 35%. And the president wants to increase the minimum wage and DECREASE military pay. In light of Vladimir Putin's recent actions in Ukraine, and Russia's history of expansionism in Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine outside of the Crimea, is this the time to cut military forces and lower military pay?

    Ken McClellan

  5. Darrell, you are correct. $1500/month is arbitrary and inaccurate. Privates, not Sergeants or Officers live in a barracks. The accommodations are more like a college dormitory than a house. And the meals are similar to a college dining hall. Trust me. I've lived in the dorms in college and I've been a Private in the US Army. CCSU currently averages about $1000 per month for room and board, so let's use that for comparison. This covers utilities, also. Privates living in barracks aren't eligible for Housing Allowance or Subsistence Allowance. I have no idea how you can include Rental Agent Fees, Renovations or Security in pay compensation. So let's move on to Separation Allowance. This is paid only to married soldiers in combat. We're back to the 24 hour workday, when you figure hourly wage. Free Healthcare: I'm going to say that most people earning minimum wage are either teenagers, still covered by their parents' healthcare plan, or they are eligible for some kind of government subsidy for healthcare in the form of Medicaid. In that same light, if you are working part-time or minimum wage, you are likely eligible for food-stamps and other government subsidy programs, which I did not include in the calculations. Tax Free wages for overseas service - This isn't just a military benefit. It's IRS. Besides, when was the last time you, as a civilian were sent overseas to work by your employer, whether you wanted to go or not? Not recently, I'll guess. I'll remind you that I'm doing a comparison between minimum wage and the military, so Sergeants and Officers are a different subject. A little more trained and skilled than your average minimum wage earner. For Privates, if they are married, they MAY be given permission to live off-post, and be eligible for housing and subsistence allowances. Military regulations say that privates may live off-post with the permission of their commander. In real life, this permission is rarely withheld, but it is a permission. When was the last time you had to ask your employer for permission regarding where you could live? Not recently, I'll bet. The point of the comparison is that President Obama wants to increase the minimum wage at the same time that he wants to REDUCE military pay. Minimum wage has increased more than military pay in the past 1o years, and the President want's to increase it more. Something is very wrong, when you want to treat unskilled workers more than better than you treat the individuals who volunteer to defend this country.

  6. Mr. McClellan why must you make a fool of yourself yet again by mistating facts? Look at the raises Federal Civilians have gotten in the past four years and compare them to the raises of the miltary. Federal Civilians for the past 4 years received raises of 0,0,0 and 1 percent for 2014. In all four years the military recieved a raise. Your last opinion piece about the elimination of the military COLA for those under age 62, was also wrong. It was planned that any COLA would be reduced by 1%. That plan was met with such an uproar it was repealed in two weeks. As for feeding the military, that has been outsourced to companies like ITT and Haliburton and yes they are ripping off the Feds. Please before you state something as fact at least research your topic.


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