As a Commander in Chief, G.W. Bush managed to combine, all in one, the shortsightedness of Harry S. Truman with the incompetence of Lyndon B. Johnson and the dishonesty of Richard M. Nixon. When the First General of the Nation has no clear compass, moral or military, he needs to resort to political tactics to conduct the affairs of the war. When the Commander in Chief politicizes the war, invariably the most professional generals are shunned away and the most political generals come to the forefront. This happens because the professionals would say what they think is needed to conduct operations successfully while the others will try to accommodate their opinions to the desires of the Commander in Chief. This may work during times of peace, but during times of conflict it puts the lives of soldiers in harm’s way, and most of the times ends in defeat.
In his incompetence, G.W. Bush has done what no Commander in Chief had done before, to put a price on patriotism and honor.
Shortchanging our troops
The going rate for a civilian contractor (think Blackwater, but there are other companies over there) is around $150,000 a year. The oral reports on the media vary widely, citing from $150,000 to $360,000 a year. I don’t think $360,000 is an accurate figure based on the alleged salary of Blackwater’s CEO, Erik Prince, of $1,000,000 a year. So let us assume, for argument’s sake, an average of $150,000 a year just for going overseas (not necessarily being in harm’s way).
From an economics perspective, you can say that the market price of going to
So why would a person do a $150,000 job for $50,000? Our soldiers are bringing to the table mostly intangibles: sense of duty, patriotism, honor, sense of tradition, among others. On the other hand, there are a few tangibles that may account for the $100,000 a year shortchanges: retirement benefits, health benefits, access to citizenship, scholarships.
Most of these benefits, however, die with the soldier if he or she should die performing his or her duties, so, from an economic perspective, the government would benefit if the soldier died. I don’t mean that the government wants our soldiers to die, but how would you like to work for a boss who makes more money if you die than if you live? Do you see the conflict of interests there?
The GI bill solved the issue of retirement, education and health benefits by helping soldiers to access higher education, and thus ultimately transferring those expenses to private sectors. Even if you do not take into account the possibility of death, the tangibles are negligible because they could be solved by other means.
This takes us to the conclusion that the price of patriotism is $100,000 a year (that is what the soldiers leave on the table due to their sense of duty). Now, in a normal work environment, when an employer underpays an employee for intangible reasons (because she is a woman, because he or she is fat, short, or disabled) we tend to find the situation unfair. In certain cases, we even have laws to prevent these unfair practices. However, in the case of our soldiers, their boss underpays them only because the employees think it is their patriotic duty to do their job, while he is paying people without that sense of duty 3 times as much.
I am all for supporting our troops, and I think our government should be supporting our troops as well, which means increasing our troops’ salaries to match those of private contractors, cancel all private contracts, and conduct the war within the limitations of the current force.
Franklin @ October 5, 2007