As the U.S. government launched hundreds of million-dollar cruise missiles into Libya, it was seconds away from denying us pay because there is “not enough money.” With only minutes to spare, negotiators reached a temporary agreement on the federal budget that avoided a full-scale shutdown.
The possibility of a government shutdown first hit the public eye over a week ago when it was announced that the government had not yet passed a federal 2011 budget. Congress was given until 11:59 p.m. April 8 to come to an agreement for the year's federal spending, and in the 11th hour, Congress scrambled to pass a one-week emergency budget that would pay federal employees while the agreement was written, passed and signed into law. While a full government shutdown seems to have been avoided, the threat of it sent service members and our families scrambling to figure out how we would survive—and it revealed how little this government values us.
A government shutdown would mean that U.S. service members, both at home and in two war zones, would have received no more than half pay, if any.
The wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers of service members would also have been hugely impacted by this criminal negligence. During any government shutdown, life insurance and payments in the event of a service member’s death would not have been paid. Additionally, if a regular GI salary is barely enough to scrape by, how would we have been expected to support our families or pay our bills? How would our children have eaten?
The CIA, Pentagon brass, and congressional officials themselves would have continued to be paid in full. Along with them, the weapons contractors at General Electric, General Dynamics and Raytheon, and their oil tycoon counterparts at Exxon and Halliburton, would have continued to be paid in full, conducting business as usual.
All of this comes in the wake of the bloodiest battles, the highest casualty rates, and the highest suicide rates since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan 10 years ago. Some will be deploying for their third, fourth and even fifth time.
This is absolutely unacceptable; it shows openly the careless nature of a government that will send us to kill, be maimed or die for a war that the vast majority of Americans are against. Whether or not a full shutdown occurred, the fact that this was ever even on the table for discussion shows just how much this government cares about us—not at all. They will send us over and over into two quagmires, deny us adequate care when we return, and then threaten to cut our pay entirely when they cannot figure out who to cut the most money from to protect the profits of the super-rich.
The threat of losing our paychecks, in addition to the multitude of other hardships faced by service members—repeated deployments, substandard mental health care, and so forth—shows that we must organize for our own interests. The politicians and generals have proven incapable of looking out for our lives.
The government tells us that they have no funds to pay for soldiers, yet they use unlimited funds to send us to our deaths, to occupy and ruthlessly bomb Iraq and Afghanistan for $700 million a day. We drive the tanks, we fix the trucks, we ship the supplies and we give our lives. Maybe it is about time we had a government that listened to us and acted in our interests. Now is the time for us to organize and fight.