So, here I am at lovely Ft. McCoy for Battle Staff. The government is a couple hours from "shutting down" leaving me being unpaid for work for the first time in almost 15 years.
Understandably this has a lot of my friends and colleagues worried. I'm included in this. I have some savings, but no where near enough to go through an extended period without pay. In the history of humanity, and even compared to about 6,000,000,000 other people on Earth I am very lucky and blessed. Even without a paycheck I'm not worried about where my next meal will come from, other if I will have a roof over my head, or that I could be eaten by a tiger. Yes, my concerns are small in the big scheme of things, but I still don't like the thought of going without a check for a while.
However, I'm running headlong into my personal philosophy now inconveniencing me. Our nation is on an unsustainable course. We cannot afford to spend money the way we do. And it is only going to get worse. Social Security, Medicare/ Health care, and Defense are third rails no one will piss on, and the budget cannot be fixed without touching them. And that is only at the Federal level. State pensions are engaged in underfunding to a scale that, if done by a private company, would put every executive in jail for the rest of their life. We are out of money.
So, here I am. I'm glad to see that some of the political class is actually trying to fight against fiscal tidal wave approaching. However they're squabbling over pennies. A $30 billion difference in a $3.8 trillion dollar budget is nothing. Heck, I hate using the words.
And all this does is reduce this year's deficit to $1,370,000,000,000.00 from $1,400,000,000,000.00. The current "showdown" between House Republicans and the White House and Senate Democrats is over a rounding error in the budget.
The eventual solutions to America's problems are going to hurt. And they're going to hurt people I care about. Most of my family in my parent's generation is retired. I don't know their finances, but some of them are collecting Social Security and I have no doubt they would be adversely affected by serious reductions to Social Security, or even its loss. They all paid in to it during their working life, sacrificing a portion of their paycheck each time with the expectation that it would be there for them.
This budget impasse puts us servicemembers in the same boat as millions of other Americans. There are tens of millions unemployed and underemployed. This is a hard time for millions of families, and now we're in the same boat. And at the added disadvantage of still being required to report for work. However we're lucky in that we know it can't go on forever. Eventually the budget will be settled, one way or another. When that happens our pay will resume. But until then we have to adapt and persevere.
"The Military" is the most respected institution in America, and has been for 21 of the past 22 years. This is a position we have achieved, in part, by always being there and being separate from the fray. The American people allow us to enjoy the comfort we do in peace time because we stand ready and sacrifice in war. It is a boon we enjoy at their pleasure, and we should not forget it. We can not make the same mistake the teachers did in Wisconsin and forget who we work for. Posting "For Sale" signs on HMMWVs is funny, but there are a lot of our fellow citizens who have had to sell their assets to keep food on their table. There is a fine line between making light of our temporary troubles and just how royally screwed many civilian families are.
We also should take this moment and realize that it is only the beginning. This is a warning shot. Tough times are coming. Pay and benefits are going to be looked at. It is going to hurt.