Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Minimum wages and the US military

I was reflecting the other day on the recent flurry of activity at the state and local level to raise the minimum wage paid to workers.  And it occurred to me that there is one place in which the Federal Government may wish to act.  That is in the pay of members of the military.

In many ways, the volunteer military makes things different--now, the various branches of the military must compete on pay and benefits with private sector jobs, something that was less of an issue when many, if not most, enlisted ranks were filled through conscription.  Not surprisingly, the pay to people in enlisted ranks is considerably higher in real terms today (about $18,400) than it was in (say) 1969 (about $9,600) (in both cases, that's adjusted to 2014 CPI).  Of course a full-time, full-year minimum wage job today would pay $15,080 (and a full-time minimum wage job in 1969, when the minimum was $1.30, paid the equivalent of $17,500 when adjusted to 2014's CPI). Starting pay in the military is about 20% more than a minimum wage job. many cases, a entry-level military job is not 40 hours a week.  It is conceivable that someone in one of those positions is, effectively, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, especially when deployed in (say) Iraq.

So I propose that the minimum base pay for members of the military be the federal minimum wage--but paid for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year--8.760 hours, at $7.25, or $63,510 per year.  (Obviously, pay in higher ranks would need to be adjusted upward as well.)