As this column is being written, the U.S. House is again expected to pass, along party lines, a $1.9 trillion Corona Virus Stimulus and Aid package, which will hopefully mean some economic relief and assistance in the near term for individuals and small businesses, as well as local and state governments and boards of education, struggling with challenged revenue streams and increased costs directly related to the pandemic. That said, it is generally agreed that hundreds of billions within this package have VERY LITTLE to do with COVID19 or immediate economic assistance, with some funds being obligated as far out as 2024.
Thankfully, while what some are calling a Democratic spending spree wrapped up in a COVID19 omnibus spending bill, the non-partisan Senate Parliamentarian rightly ruled that also simultaneously mandating an increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour for most all employers was not germane to the legislative matter at hand and that such a change in federal law could not be handled by budget reconciliation and a simple majority vote.
A line descendant of the state militias which first fought the Revolutionary War, citizen patriots, each loyal to the colony of their home...dating back as long as 1607, the National Guard is a joint activity of the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as reserve components of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and Air Force, as well as independent state militias that report up to Adjutant Generals in each state. While our U.S. Army has more than 400,000 personnel in uniform, deployed across the globe, the National Guard currently has more than 8-million men and women, serving missions in all 50 states, and overseas. The past year’s summer of Racial Justice Protests and the ongoing pandemic saw the Guard deployed in multiple metropolitan areas as a peace-keeping and order force, as well as administering COVID19 tests and more recently constructing and manning mass vaccination centers.
More than occasionally derisively referred to as weekend warriors, Guard members undergo ongoing training and drills to maintain their readiness for deployment. National Guard service members have been a significant front line force in both Persian Gulf Wars and a host of ongoing conflicts, and are serving as the nation’s first line of defense following national disasters and an increasing amount of civil unrest.
And yet the incredibly LOW payment and compensation levels for National Guard members may astound you - https://usmilitary.com/national-guard-pay-chart/
Though the aftermath of the assault on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021, now has retired Lt. General Russel Honore recommending the formation of an elite and full-time strike force to respond to attacks/assaults on our nation’s Capitol, the White House and the federal district in Washington, D.C., the area is still being secured by a force of just over 5,000 National Guard personnel, the majority of which have been on the ground there since the first week of January. During the frigid days and weeks leading up to the Inauguration of President Joe Biden, Guard members were asked to camp in parking garages as well as one of several D.C. Convention Centers. The Guard has been asked to remain in Washington, and surrounding the three layers of temporary fencing surrounding the U.S. Capitol complex at least until mid-May.
And their pay -
E-3 Private First Class: $1,730 – $1,950 monthly active duty pay
E-4 Specialist/Corporal: $1,915 – $2,326 monthly active duty pay
E-5 Sergeant: $2,091 – $2,965 monthly active duty pay
From buck private to full E-5 sergeant, this is a pay range for enlisted personnel in some very hard duty locations, putting in well more than 160 hours per month. Even if that were the hour count worked, that would only produce a range from $10.80 - $18.50 an hour, in even the most, dire circumstances.
And while I certainly understand the politics of members of the Democratic Party leadership paying tribute to labor unions, some union members and advocating a higher floor for all wages...where are these cries of empathy and compassion for the several million men and women in uniform who constantly have our backs when the world and times are at their worst?
And when we revisit this topic, and we will - let’s hope fiscal conservatives and supporters of our nation’s military begin their objections with higher floor compensation for our men and women in uniform, first across the National Guard, and next from bottom to top in each of our respective service branches. And at the very least, when you next encounter a National Guard member, thank them for their economic sacrifice (away from a likely higher paying job back home), as well as their ongoing service to your state and our nation.