Or so you’d think to read the latest screed making its way across Facebook. Kim sent this in and asked for a fact-check. And as it’s not often I get blog requests, I got right on it. The viral status update reads:
President Obama has proposed a 1.4% pay increase for active duty military in 2011. This is THE LOWEST SINCE 1973! Nice to know that during a time of rampant inflation, while war is fought in 2 theatres, our men and women in uniform get A LOWER PAY INCREASE THAN WELFARE RECIPIENTS!!! Please repost if you support our troops.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. Obama did propose a 1.4% increase. It is also the lowest increase proposal since 1973. Those points are true. Now hold on tight because the accuracy drops off steeply right after that.
“Rampant inflation”? Average inflation for all of 2009 was -0.34%. Note, that is a negative sign! It was less than zero. Technically that’s deflation, which is an economic concern in its own right, but still means that your dollar buys more now than it did a year ago. There is debate about whether inflation will pick up again in 2010, but the debate is over whether it will be tiny or negative. Nobody (except perhaps the author) is worried about it being rampant.
On another point, it’s impossible to compare military pay to welfare. Military pay is set at the federal level where the states individually set their own Welfare payment schedules. The most analogous comparison might be to Social Security benefits. They are set federally, and are similarly subject to annual revision. However, there was no cost of living increase for Social Security in 2010. ZERO. Note that there has been a SS COLA increase in every year since 1975 except 2010. The rationale is essentially the same. The Consumer Price Index and inflation were basically flat, so no increase is needed to maintain the same standard of living. The military is doing better than our seniors. Further, the 1.4% proposal is actually pretty reasonable. Most corporate payrolls won’t go up by that much in 2010. Just look at your own paycheck. How big of a base pay raise did you get this year?
But let’s not declare victory just yet. If we go back to the original announcement of this proposal and read past the first paragraph, there is another interesting tidbit. “Housing allowance increases, new retention bonuses and specialty pays will drive troops’ actual compensation up about 4.2 percent next year.”
However, the dumbest implication of the post is that somehow this is a plot by Obama to malign the troops. In actuality, Obama recommended the largest possible increase allowed under current law. The law specifies that the President may not make a recommendation for a military pay increase that is larger than the Employment Cost Index, which just happens to be at… 1.4%. Congress can opt to enact a larger number, but the President has no control over that.
Unfortunately, I suspect most of the people inclined to update their Facebook status with such blather aren’t going to be troubled with a few contradictory facts. But for those interested in the truth, I’m happy to help.