The Wall Street Journal is starting the day with a provocative opinion editorial ($) by Benjamin Luxenberg, a Marine first lieutenant who says some troops should be willing to take a cut to pay and benefits in order to solve the nation’s fiscal crisis–and he’ll be the first to volunteer.
Luxenberg argues that troop pay has become “sacrosanct” in the national dialogue, and crucial defense programs are facing deeper cuts because of that.
“National security shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of military pay,” he writes.
The statement comes with caveats: before wholescale cuts, Luxenberg says pay should be aligned across the branches and the rules changed to eliminate disparity such as the following: “airmen who serve aboard Navy ships earn ‘hardship pay’ while the sailors aboard those same ships don’t.”
In another example, Luxenberg challenges the need of TAD troops in Bahrain to receive a $142 per diem on top of normal pay and benefits.
If base pay needs to get cut too, he says, childless officers–those with fewer financial demands and a bigger paycheck–should be first in line to take the heat.
“The cuts should be done the American way,” Luxenberg writes, in the most controversial sentence in the piece. “Those who most need the money should be affected the least.”
The op-ed is a different spin on a widely reviled story by Pulitzer-winning Huffington Post military reporter David Wood, published at the end of January.
The piece argued that troop pay and benefits across the board were due for a reckoning after a decade of growth in federal spending on those items. “Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded,” he wrote.
To date, the story has 72 pages–and counting–of outraged comments, many of which concentrate on the phrase “lavish benefits” in the headline, which has since been recast and the words deleted. A number of comments include stories from service members and their families about struggling to make ends meet amidst the hardship of military life. But there were officers and family members of officers who weighed in too to say, “yes, we live comfortably–but we earn every penny.”
Most remarkable about Luxenberg’s piece so far is how ready a number of commenters are to go along with it. A number thank him for his service and say there should be more Marines like him.
Of course, it’s always easier to talk about cutting someone else’s pay than it is to talk about seeing your own cut.
But what do you think? Is Lt. Luxenberg on to something?