I write in response to The Post's July 20 front-page article "Feeling the Pinch of a Military Salary." My cousin is a major in the Army with 18 years of commissioned service. He and his wife and two children live in the Washington area. My cousin went to West Point for free and earned an MBA for free.
His base pay is $54,792. He is provided a basic allowance for subsistence of $157 a month. He also receives a basic allowance for housing of $1,368 a month. Since only his base pay is taxed, and he pays no state taxes (most states do not require active-duty military to pay taxes), his "take-home" pay per month is $4,824. Pilots in his office, some of whom haven't flown in more than five years, receive an additional $850 a month flight pay (tax free). These rates are public record and are posted on the Internet.
To obtain that kind of "take-home" pay outside the military, my cousin would have to find a position paying somewhere near $94,000 (considering he would be paying approximately 35 percent in taxes per month).
Articles concerning military pay always focus on enlisted personnel. Well, most of the enlisted ranks have no college but receive a rent-free, air-conditioned house on base with all electricity and services provided. Where else could a person with no higher education live so well? They are, after all, volunteers and have chosen the life they and their families live.
I was appalled to read The Post's story on military salaries. It told of Marines, particularly married servicemen, who must go scavenging through other peoples' discarded furniture to furnish their apartments. Some servicemen qualify for food stamps. Many must work second jobs to make ends meet.
All of this is going on in the wealthiest nation in the world, and while it enjoys its strongest economy in decades.
The sharp contrast between conditions in military and civilian life is nothing short of a national disgrace. Congress should stop all action on a tax cut until it has raised military salaries and other benefits enough to lift all military personnel out of the substandard living conditions that too many find themselves in.
THOMAS E. McMAHON