Friday, December 19, 2008

Raise Your Right Hand, Your Poor Bastard

Military recruiting is costing us taxpayers a bundle. Take a guess what kind of money we're talking about. Millions? Certainly! Hundreds of millions? No, dude, you're way too low. Try billions of dollars. It was a measly $4 billion in 2003 . . . the Pentagon's budget for 2009 for recruiting calls for a staggering $20.5 billion. Five times as much in 6 years. Doesn't anybody care about this? Bush couldn't find less than this for health care for kids, remember?

And here's something that'll surprise you. A Navy study over ten years ago found that "family incomes proved to be the most important economic variable … Enlistment rates are much higher when income is lowest and college enrollment rates are low.” Well, duh. You mean the military finds it easier to convince the mudsills of society to become cannon fodder? How novel! That's only been going on for thousands of years. The poor, shepherded by an elite officer corps, die for the rest. Thus it was ever so.

I'm always delighted to hear about how the military is pissing away millions of our dollars scouring the fields and hollows for poor kids willing to raise their right hands for a term in the military. This story about a $12 million recruiting facility near Philadelphia caught my eye recently. What we're talking about here is a walk-in playground for potential GI Joes and GI Janes. In this emporium of shoot-em-up video games and simulators, these innocents are presented "a unique opportunity to learn what it means to be the best-led, best-trained and best-equipped Army in the world by allowing them to virtually experience multiple aspects of the Army," says Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army. No, this glitzy place full of simulator toys for impressionable kids swimming in an irresistable hormone storm has but one purpose. Get their signatures on those recruitment papers.

The Army--and presumably the others, too--is none to choosy about who joins up either. They've managed to meet their recruiting goals only by lowering their standards. A high school diploma is no longer necessary, nor is a decent score on the aptitude test. The waiver policy has also been loosened up: serious misdemeanors aren't a problem anymore. Here we're talking burglary, narcotics/drug charges, aggravated assault, larceny, and breaking and entering. Health problems like bad eyesight and high blood pressure don't keep you out either. This is just the tip of a sooty iceberg. Recruiting is a sleazy business.

But they're recruiting for a sleazy business, so why not?
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