January 7, 2005

The Two Americas

If you are a member of US Armed forces, and "If you spend a single qualifying day in the combat zone, your pay for the entire month is excluded from taxable income, and you receive $225 in combat pay for that month."

If you are a 'presenter' at the Golden Globes Awards, you

"will receive a wicker ottoman stuffed with gifts that total out at $38,390. That is if you count the full $16,000 value for the wine tasting trip to Australia."

Complete list : Rosemont Estates and Quantas Airlines Wine Adventure Package $16,000 Judy Host Photography Package $5,000 Ehrlooms Diamond Pendant $2,700 Sports Club LA 6 Month Bi-Coastal Membership $2,250 Brite Smile Whitening Treatment and Products $1,100 Missoni Shawl $900 Chopard Watch $865 Gianfranco Ferre Travel Bag $650 P7 cell phone by Haier America $600 Kiehl's Gift box of Men's and Women's Products $540 Elisa Ilana Signature Bracelet $430 Janet Lee Luxury Pet Carrier $400 Yomo Handbag $400 Taryn Rose Men's Shoes Gift Certificate $400 Michael Aram Decorative Bowl $400 Persol Men's and Women's Sunglasses $350 Keurig At Home Coffee Brewer $300 Aviva Stanoff Journals $275 Swarovski Crystal Ring $255 Red Envelope Travel Cashmere Set $250 2 Rounds of Golf on PGA Tour Course $250 Nine West Hot Nine Gift Card $250 Swank Martini Glasses and Shaker $250 Kinara Spa Gift Certificate $250 Babystyle Gift Certificate $250 Mont Blanc Resin Fineline pen $250 GUCCI men's and women's fragrances $250 Custom Wicker Ottoman $250 Dell Pocket DJ MP3 Player $200 Godiva G Collection Box of Chocolates $125

Total: $38,390

Source: Hollywood Foreign Press Association

[Via L.A. Observed]

In symbolic terms, pretty much everything there is to loathe about "blue" America makes it into that list. The only things missing are a complete Michael Moore DVD collection signed and numbered by the "artiste" and the lifetime subscription to The New York Times, hand-ironed and delivered on your room service tray.

Oh, wait, that was last year.

Posted by Vanderleun at January 7, 2005 6:50 PM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Of course, the gift baskets are going to people who are so insulated from the average person that they think it's reasonable for a box of chocolates to cost $125.

Posted by: sllimedog at January 8, 2005 4:12 AM

A slight correction. While enlisted service members income may be exempt from federal income tax withholding, they still pay social security and medicare tax. The exemption for officers is capped at a certain amount. So an officer may, in fact, pay income tax on part of his pay even while serving in combat.

Posted by: EagleSpeak at January 8, 2005 8:41 AM

While I am a Red Stater at heart and served 7 years in the Military, this kind of comparison is usless since we have an all volunteer military. Furthermore, I don't give any slack to those in who complain about extensions to duty in Iraq or serving in rotten places around the world. All of us who volunteered did it with our eyes wide open. Bottom line is that if you opt for a long or short military carrer, you are there to kill people and break things, not make big bucks.

I will agree however that for the most part those presenters don't have a clue about our military folks and the sacraficies they make.

Posted by: warthog_15 at January 8, 2005 9:13 AM

Do any of you remember this comment courtesy of one of leftywood's finest?


Wednesday, January 12, 2000 ; Page A19
This month every member of the U.S. military is getting a 4.8 percent pay raise, the biggest inflation boost the military has seen in 18 years. The ink on the paychecks is not yet dry, but already some politicians and lobbyists are clamoring for bigger raises in future years. Just this week the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported that most military people feel they are not paid fairly.

Proponents of additional hefty raises argue that even after this month's raise, the military suffers a 13 percent "pay gap" relative to the private sector. But in fact there is no pay gap worthy of the name; our armed forces are already paid very well compared with the rest of America. It makes no sense to pour money into outsized pay raises. The 25 percent pay hike that some proponents are backing would cost taxpayers more than $12 billion a year.

The "gap" of 13 percent does not measure the relative levels of military and civilian pay. Rather, it is supposed to reflect the differences between military and private sector raises since 1982. The calculation is set up to make the differences seem as large as possible. For example, it includes the growth in what the military calls "basic pay" but not the growth in allowances for food and housing. And it compares the military and civilian raises over separate time periods. Just correcting for those two problems cuts the result in half.

Comparing raises and calling it a pay gap makes no sense anyway. If you get a 5 percent raise this year and your neighbor gets 10 percent, it hardly means your pay has fallen behind your neighbor's: If you earned twice as much as your neighbor to start with, you still earn more than he does. Wage data show that our troops typically earn more money than 75 percent of civilians with similar levels of education and experience.

For example, after four months in the Army, an 18-year-old private earns about $21,000 a year in pay and allowances. In addition, he or she gets a tax advantage worth about $800, because some of the allowances are not taxed. That's not bad for a person entering the work force with a high school diploma. By way of comparison, an automotive mechanic starting out with a diploma from a strong vocational high school might earn $14,000 a year. A broadcast technician or communications equipment mechanic might earn $20,000 to start but typically needs a year or two of technical college.

At the higher end of enlisted service, a master sergeant with 20 years in the Marine Corps typically earns more than $50,000 a year--better than a senior municipal firefighter or a police officer in a supervisory position, and comparable to a chief engineer in a medium-sized broadcast market. Among the officers, a 22-year-old fresh out of college earns about $34,000 a year as an ensign in the Navy--about the same as the average starting pay of an accountant, mathematician or a geologist with a bachelor's degree. A colonel with 26 years makes more than $108,000.

In addition to these basic salaries, there are cash bonuses for officers and enlisted personnel with special skills. There are also fringe benefits: four weeks of paid vacation, comprehensive health care, discount groceries, tuition assistance during military service and as much as $50,000 for college afterward. Enlistment and reenlistment bonuses can run to $20,000 and more.

Advocates of additional big raises maintain that military people should be paid more because they are more highly qualified--they exceed national averages in verbal and math skills and percentage of high school graduations. But while these facts may help explain why the majority of our soldiers already earn more money than 75 percent of Americans, they don't explain why their future raises should exceed civilian wage growth by a large amount.

Some advocates contend that we need a large boost in military pay because the services are finding it difficult to attract and keep the people they need. But recruiting can be improved much less expensively by pumping up advertising, adding recruiters and better focusing their efforts and expanding enlistment bonuses and college programs. Pay is not necessarily the most important factor in a person's decision to stay in or leave the military. We might get better results by reducing the frequency of deployments, relaxing antiquated rules and improving working conditions.

Proponents of higher pay also note that military people put up with hardships such as long hours and family separations. Yet many civilian occupations make similar demands, and firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel, like many in the military, risk their lives on the job.

The report that CSIS released this week points to problems of morale and dissatisfaction across the military. But those problems are not all about pay. According to CSIS, they reflect concerns about training and leadership, the demands of frequent overseas deployments and unmet expectations for a challenging and satisfying military lifestyle. Higher pay will not fix these problems.

The writer, a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was assistant director for national security in the Congressional Budget Office from 1994 to 1997.

Articles appear as they were originally printed in The Washington Post and may not include subsequent corrections.


Posted by: LoneSome Journey at January 10, 2005 12:20 PM