The Washington Post has an interesting article today about the lifestyles of the rich and famous within the upper ranks of the US military. For those who don’t follow this world, it’s an eye-opening story.
Some (mostly former top brass) argue that the perks are normal and fair, considering the size of the budgets and personnel. I’ve heard the same from the big state universities who keep forking out high salaries and perks to school presidents, and it sounded like garbage to me then as well. It just seems unfair and excessive.
There’s no question that US corporate CEOs are pampered and overpaid (they can’t all be superstars, can they?). But if that’s the comparison that some former military elite want to use, it only shows you just how out of touch they really are.
It’s one thing to have the lifestyles of the corporate elite funded by shareholders, but when taxpayers are funding the extravagance, it’s slightly different.
If it’s perks they want want, they should have moved into private industry. You can’t talk about service to your country, and then demand perks that are far beyond even the political elite. Too much is too much, especially when everyone in Washington is talking about cutting costs for everyone else. Some of the pampered class don’t even have the dignity to even try and hide their taste for luxury on the tax dollar.
Flashy motorcades? Check. Personal chefs? Check. Yard workers? Check. Personal valet? Check. Private jets? Check.
It’s so excessive, you might even be tempted to overlook the juicy perks of those in Congress.
The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.
The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.
Since Petraeus’s resignation, many have strained to understand how such a celebrated general could have behaved so badly. Some have speculated that an exhausting decade of war impaired his judgment. Others wondered if Petraeus was never the Boy Scout he appeared to be. But Gates, who still possesses a modest Kansan’s bemusement at Washington excess, has floated another theory.
“There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people’s judgment,” Gates said last week.
The problem is, there’s too much of this sense of entitlement among the 1% and the political/military class. Oh sure, it’s no problem to cut things like Medicare or Social Security, but touch the government healthcare plan, or the incredible retirement that they have, and it’s war.
In their minds, they’re our betters — and shouldn’t have to give up this lifestyle.
In the end, they’re not that much different from the Wall Street bankers who were more concerned about their lifestyle being bailed out than saving the country. We no longer have isolated pockets of these people, but an entire class of them that live at the top of the food chain yet still aren’t happy with what they have.
Of course, both the political and military class do get more, once they “retire” and then dive into private industry where they make a lot of money and use their power and connections to push new business deals that cost us all a lot of money.
Ike would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the lifestyle of today’s generals.
Chris in Paris
An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup for the Microsoft market. Full bio here.