Monday, March 28, 2005

Collect Now, Pay Later

You'd think supporting our military would be one place we could agree across the divide. But once you throw in reducing the cost of government, protecting the sacred interests of creditors and keeping the pipeline filled with fresh bodies, it ain't that simple any more.

Cutting military retirement benefits to reduce the federal budget has been a bipartisan affair stretching back to the Reagan era. They've already served, making their leverage minimal, so why not find ways to squeeze entitlements? (If you've just joined us, this is sarcasm.)

But why stop with the vets? Surely there's money to be saved or made futher upstream.

From the New York Times, we see how troops called for duty may be punished by their creditors, despite laws to protect them. Military families are having to assert their rights because many lenders don't know the law, or don't know the family is entitled to protection. And with the new bankruptcy bill under consideration, it's unlikely things are going to get easier for those folks with low incomes and relatively high credit balances. (You didn't think we were getting our fighting forces from the people who pay off their balances each month and just use their cards for the miles, did you?)

Now that reality is beginning to set in for many potential recruits — the National Guard is no longer the way to avoid the war zones — the Guard has had to employ new tactics to sign up the young, gullible and desperate. High school juniors can now earn thousands of dollars for what amounts to summer camp with live ammo, in exchange for committing themselves to at least six years in the military. The National Guard's Recruit Sustainment Program pays kids today for what must seem like the remote chance of receiving an instant message from a roadside bomb 18 months from now.

Sure, they may be told the real program, but how many 17-year-olds do know who plan to live forever? Or at least who wouldn't take a few thousand to upgrade their wheels or their sound system right now against possible deployment so far, far in the future?

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