That’s the term an active-duty 22-year vet used when he called the show tonight, saying he felt like the House GOP had kicked him in the stomach and that the 99% of American that hasn’t served in the military is abandoning the 1% that has by signing on quietly to the broken promises embedded in the House GOP budget “deal.” (The audio and transcript of my debate about the deal with House Budget Chair Paul Ryan will be available shortly in the post below.) “I see the flag pins and I hear the ‘thanks for your service,'” he added, “but the limited liability patriotism folks are nowhere to be found when the Congress decides the career military can take the hit.”
His call followed that of a 19 year-USMC active duty caller, who was sitting next to his 15 year old son. This man had deployed either six or seven times since 9/11 (he could;’t recall on short notice) and he couldn’t believe what he heard Chairman Ryan saying about the cuts headed his way. I asked if they amounted to hundreds of dollars a month for each month of the next 20 years of his retirement and he said yes. I put pen to paper a little bit later and think he and I underestimated the monthly blow. Senator Lindsey Graham (audio and transcript also below) estimated the out-of-pocket loss to a 20 year E-7 Master Sergeant at $80,000 between the ages of 42 and 62. Small change to a lobbyist. College education for the kids of the career NCO.
I did not enjoy clashing with Chairman Ryan or blasting the House GOP. But the idea that the first (and in this “deal” only) step in tackling a $17 trillion debt is to carve $6 billion from career military after 13 years of war, or that –and this argument was made by Chairman Ryan– Pentagon readiness depends upon cutting the retirement of the men and women who have fought the war, well, these ideas deeply offended the active duty listeners in my audience, as did the argument that they are seeing an entitlement reformed when they know that their promised and owed deferred compensation is being slashed. No individual in the private sector would stand by when such an employment contract was breached. The military has no choice but to accept the bitter medicine and keep doing they collective duty.
National Review’s Jonah Goldberg rightly challenged me to admit that what I am arguing for is that a particular interest –in this case a genuinely “special” interest– deserves unique treatment. I accept the fact that I am arguing that the career military is a uniquely valuable slice of the American mosaic, but I reject the idea that this is “special pleading” for the run-of-the-mile “special interest.” These men and women earned the deals they signed up for, and the various pay raises and veterans benefits that Chairman Ryan cited were not bonuses or pats on the back, but decisions made to keep the force in the field and staffed by brave men and women that have sacrificed much and more than anyone else. To cut their retirement benefits is unjust. It is shameful. And it will haunt the GOP for years to come. As it should.
62 House members voted against the outlines of this deal when it was first presented in December. Many of us did not object to the budget truce because the head fake was that the attack on the career military would be changed. Only a small part of cut was deleted. The 62 will hopefully grow, and hopefully some member of the Senate will go Paul/Cruz on the deal tomorrow when it heads to the senate floor and explain exactly what is happening. Most of the people being slammed by this deal have on many occasions stood at their posts a lot longer than 12 hours in a row. Hopefully one or more senators will think their service deserves at least token resistance.