Posts Tagged ‘military pay’

Memories of my youth: Genteel poverty

December 29, 2018

The military has never been exceptionally well paid. In recent years, despite the lies the President tells, pay has been adequate, and pay raises at least kept pace with inflation. But at the end of the last Century there were times when enlisted members with families qualified for food stamps. There was a ten year period when my real income (counting taxes and inflation) didn’t change, despite an increase in seniority and a promotion.

Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, we lived in a state of what might be called genteel poverty. There was no trouble keeping food on the table and shoes on our feet but there was nothing extra for any but the smallest luxuries.

I had always been a bookish lad and living on Vandenberg AFB in my early high school years, my tastes tended toward space science and satellites and such. Since all the major aerospace firms had offices on base, it was possible to write to them and get publicity packets, with photos and other handouts. One such letter prompted a call from the Convair folks, and after a discussion of what I was interested in, they invited me to come down to their San Diego plant to look at the Atlas production line. This was the chance of a lifetime for a nerdy high schooler.

Atlas assembly line

Alas, it was not to be. The trip would incur expenses — travel, lodging, food, and so forth, more than our budget would allow. My parents talked it over, seriously trying to find a way to make it happen (send him down on the bus, alone; see if there were friends he could stay with in San Diego). After a long while they concluded that there was no way to do it. We simply didn’t have the money.

I, of course, was crushed, and since we were living on base, there were essentially no sources of income for a teenager. But I’d heard their discussions and I knew their decision was not taken lightly. Maybe some other day.

That came back to me when I was reading about the impact of the government shut-down. Now, this time the military was not effected. The DoD has an on-time budget, the first time in ten years. But hundreds of thousands of other government employees (including the US Coast Guard, which is DHS, not DoD, and so doesn’t have a budget) were going into the new year, trying to fund the equivalent of a couple dozen trips to San Diego with nothing in their bank accounts and useless OPM advice in their mail boxes.