Monday, April 27, 2015

What Price Tag Should We Put on Those Who Protect Our Freedoms

Soldiers at Fort Drum, NY (10th Mountain Division): Heading Back to Afghanistan

Possible Future Scenario Awaits Those Like Them


The current military pension system, in which you are qualified to get a pension after 20 years of service, but none at say 15 to 19 years is probably due for an overhaul. I am open for discussion; not ramrodding it down the military's throat, however. Let me explain:

Such changes must not mean include handing the system over to greedy Wall Street brokers, or to a handful of fancy “money managers,” or to some whiz-bang sort of privatized system that would be vulnerable to another 2008 near total meltdown. Sadly, that is precisely what the GOP-run House Armed Services Committee is seriously considering. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has praised the idea. So, hang on tight...!!!  Here is what recently appeared in a Military Times report in part:
  1. The plan would create some sort of 401(k) style investment accounts for the troops.
  2. The government would offer up to 6 percent of basic pay for troops who contribute their own out-of-pocket money.
  3. Troops would own that investment account regardless of when they leave the military.
  4. It would give troops, say, who reach 12 years of active duty service, some level of a lump-sum “retention bonus” in exchange for a new four-year service commitment (if they were to reenlist) with any final amount in place varying by their branch of service and probably career field specialty.
However, Secy. Carter, in his remarks about any such proposal, did not mention another central and more controversial component: the overall shrinking of the current pension by some 20 percent. Oops…!!! (Guess he forgot that little tidbit).

I profess that getting to a fair way to get allow some retirement benefits to the 83 percent of enlisted personnel who do not stay in the military for 20 years is a good idea, but as they say: "the Devil is always in the the details," and that is what matters most, or at least it should. 

We know from past experience that civilian low-paid workers have trouble putting money in any available 401(k) account. A plan for the military impacting junior enlisted personnel would be a tough nut to crack, too. 

However, I am open-minded, but not to the idea or prospect of having your retirement at the mercy of the stock market — it is simply too risky. Many Americans found that out the hard way in 2008. On the surface in mind it degrades and belittles the time-tested concept of “you protect us and put your life on the line to protect our freedoms and the country will provide for you, except from now on ... well simply do your duty, finish your job, then get out. We don’t care how you survive after discharge or retirement.” Or words to that affect it seems.

Let's also be clear that while this is being sold as a benefit to people in the military, there is a big upside for the government (which the GOP dearly loves): it would ave up to $4.7 billion per year.  

So, again I ask: How much is our freedom worth?

Wouldn't it be nice if the powers that be were talking about expanding retirement benefits to more people in a way that didn't also involve cuts for their duty and sacrifices? I strongly think so.  

Topics related Pensions from DailyKos Library – a good read. 

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned to this topic – it’s a keeper for sure.

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