By Buddy Blouin
It’s no secret that inflation has been on the rise and is affecting the cost of living across the board. Military members who are keeping our country safe may not have everything in common with those engaged in civilian life, but they’ve felt inflation in their bank accounts, as well. A 2.7% military pay raise in 2022 went into effect on New Year’s Day, but now there are calls to do even more as inflation continues to affect the U.S. economy. Leading the call for an “inflation bonus” in 2023 is Jared Golden, a Democratic politician working for Maine in the House of Representatives.

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Rep. Jared Golden’s Proposal To Help Those Making Under $45,000

An amendment introduced by the House would provide a monthly inflation bonus to Defense Department civilians and troops earning less than $45,000 per year in 2023. What Jared Golden is proposing is a bonus that would increase income for those eligible through a monthly boost of 2.4%. The increase would be part of a proposed amendment to the $802 billion annual defense bill Congress is working to complete. "The Department of Defense today must counter growing threats the world over, and those threats are only becoming more complex. This amendment provides the additional resources required to confront these challenges and to address rising costs due to the inflation being felt across the armed forces,” said Rep. Golden. The idea comes after Republicans have been arguing that President Biden’s budget would not be enough to pay troops who are facing higher costs of living due to inflation. Prices of gas and groceries have been rallying everyone, and there appears to be a desire from both major parties across several committees to reach an agreement; however, the finer details still require some work.

Balancing Rising Living Costs and Government Budgets

With inflation pushing past 8%, the House Armed Services Committee has approved a 4.6% pay raise for service members for 2023 in their current version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. Additional committees have also shown support for the increase. While these proposals will keep the country in line with the Biden administration’s 2023 defense budget request, what Jared Golden is proposing would not increase a pay raise but rather provide inflation bonuses for the basic pay of service members and civilian workers of the Pentagon. But by doing so, these inflation bonuses would present budgetary challenges for the government. For starters, the inflation bonuses are designed to provide $800 million for military accounts, whereas $60 million will go towards civilian accounts. Secondly, additional items in the bill such as billions of dollars for rising construction costs, relief for Ukraine, money for fuel, and the purchases of a variety of weapons and vehicles add a whopping $37 billion to the annual cost of the policy. And finally, even as such increases are receiving bipartisan support, even if they are still debating on how to iron out the details, one major hurdle is going to be the increase in pay to civilians. This could cause some delay, as there is debate on how to handle this. Traditionally, the government has balanced things by providing civilian workers with the same pay raises across the board. "The general rule that we've tried to stick to is to give federal employees the same pay raise, even within the military, civilian and non-civilian. So, are the Republicans going to want to go above 4.6 for others? How do we meet that?” said Adam Smith, House Armed Services Committee Chairman. Smith has admitted that the total cost will likely be higher than is wanted, but that could be a necessary side effect to keep up with inflation.

Jared Golden’s Bonus Will Affect Families Nationwide

Additional efforts to stave off rising inflation have also been explored. Bigger military housing stipends and lower commissary costs are also being examined as military families learn to navigate these difficult economic waters. Jared Golden is a House Representative for the second Maine congressional district, but his proposal may have lasting effects on a much more national level. The sacrifice and service that troops across all branches provide for us can never be adequately repaid, but hopefully, the powers that be can find a way to supply members of the Armed Forces with better pay while balancing fiscal responsibility.

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