What It Means for Hunger to Burn Through the Pentagon’s Ranks

Yves here. Even though we’ve linked before to stories on hunger in the military, the extent of food insecurity is stunning, particularly in contrast to egregious defense contracting pork. And the US is surprised that it is having trouble meeting armed forces recruitment targets?

By Andrea Mazzarino, who co-founded Brown University’s Costs of War Project. She has held various clinical, research, and advocacy positions, including at a Veterans Affairs PTSD Outpatient Clinic, with Human Rights Watch, and at a community mental health agency. She is the co-editor of War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally published at TomDispatch

By any standard, the money the United States government pours into its military is simply overwhelming. Take the $858-billion defense spending authorization that President Biden signed into law last month. Not only did that bill pass in an otherwise riven Senate by a bipartisan majority of 83-11, but this year’s budget increase of 4.3% is the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II. Indeed, the Pentagon has been granted more money than the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined. And that doesn’t even take into account funding for homeland security or the growing costs of caring for the veterans of this country’s post-9/11 wars. That legislation also includes the largest pay raise in 20 years for active-duty and reserve forces and an expansion of a supplemental “basic needs allowance” to support military families with incomes near the poverty line.

And yet, despite those changes and a Pentagon budget that’s gone through the roof, many U.S. troops and military families will continue to struggle to make ends meet. Take one basic indicator of welfare: whether or not you have enough to eat. Tens of thousands of service members remain “food insecure” or hungry. Put another way, during the past year, members of those families either worried that their food would run out or actually did run out of food.

As a military spouse myself and co-founder of the Costs of War Project, I recently interviewed Tech Sergeant Daniel Faust, a full-time Air Force reserve member responsible for training other airmen. He’s a married father of four who has found himself on the brink of homelessness four times between 2012 and 2019 because he had to choose between necessities like groceries and paying the rent. He managed to make ends meet by seeking assistance from local charities. And sadly enough, that airman has been in all-too-good company for a while now. In 2019, an estimated one in eight military families were considered food insecure. In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, that figure rose to nearly a quarter of them. More recently, one in six military families experienced food insecurity, according to the advocacy group Military Family Advisory Network.

The majority of members of the military largely come from middle-class neighborhoods and, not surprisingly perhaps, their struggles mirror those faced by so many other Americans. Spurred by a multitude of factors, including pandemic-related supply-chain problems and — you guessed it — war, inflation in the U.S. rose by more than 9% in 2022. On average, American wages grew by about 4.5% last year and so failed to keep up with the cost of living. This was no less true in the military.

An Indifferent Public

An abiding support for arming Ukraine suggests that many Americans are at least paying attention to that aspect of U.S. military policy. Yet here’s the strange thing (to me, at least): so many of us in this century seemed to care all too little about the deleterious domestic impacts of our prolonged, disastrous Global War on Terror. The U.S. military’s growing budget and a reach that, in terms of military bases and deployed troops abroad, encompasses dozens of countries, was at least partly responsible for an increasingly divided, ever more radicalized populace here at home, degraded protections for civil liberties and human rights, and ever less access to decent healthcare and food for so many Americans.

That hunger is an issue at all in a military so wildly well-funded by Congress should be a grim reminder of how little attention we pay to so many crucial issues, including how our troops are treated. Americans simply take too much for granted. This is especially sad, since government red tape is significantly responsible for creating the barriers to food security for military families.

When it comes to needless red tape, just consider how the government determines the eligibility of such families for food assistance. Advocacy groups like the National Military Family Association and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger have highlighted the way in which the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a non-taxable stipend given to military families to help cover housing, is counted as part of military pay in determining the eligibility of families for food assistance. Because of that, all too many families who need such assistance are disqualified.

Debt-Funded Living, Debt-Funded Wars

The BAH issue is but one part of a larger picture of twenty-first-century military life with its torrent of expenses, many of which (like local housing markets) you can’t predict. I know because I’ve been a military spouse for 12 years. As an officer’s wife and a white, cisgender woman from an upper-middle-class background, I’m one of the most privileged military spouses out there. I have two graduate degrees, a job I can do from home, and children without major health issues. Our family has loved ones who, when our finances get tight, support us logistically and financially with everything from childcare to housing expenses to Christmas gifts for our children.

And yet even for us, affording the basics has sometimes proved challenging. During the first few months after any move to a new duty station, a typical uprooting experience for military families, we’ve had to wield our credit cards to get food and other necessities like gas. Add to that take-out and restaurant meals, hotel rooms, and Ubers as we wait weeks for private contractors to arrive with our kitchen supplies, furniture, and the like.

Tag on the cost of hiring babysitters while we wait for affordable childcare centers in the new area to accept our two young children, and then the high cost of childcare when we finally get spots. In 2018, during one of those moves, I discovered that the military had even begun putting relocated families like ours at the back of wait lists for childcare fee assistance — “to give others a chance,” one Pentagon representative told me when I called to complain. In each of the five years before both of our children entered public school, we spent nearly twice as much on childcare as the average junior enlisted military service member gets in total income for his or her family.

Our finances are still struggling to catch up with demands like these, which are the essence of military life.

But don’t worry, even if your spouse isn’t nearby, there are still plenty of social opportunities (often mandated by commanders) for family members to get together with one another, including annual balls for which you’re expected to purchase pricey tickets. In the post-9/11 era, such events have become more common and are frequently seen as obligatory. In this age of the gig economy and the rolling back of workplace benefits and protections, the military is, in its own fashion, leading the way when it comes to “bringing your whole self (money included) to work.”

Now, add the Covid-19 pandemic into this fun mix. The schedules of many military personnel only grew more complicated given pre- and post-deployment quarantine requirements and labor and supply-chain issues that made moving ever less efficient. Military spouse unemployment rates, which had hovered around 24% in the pre-pandemic years, shot up to more than 30% by early 2021. Spouses already used to single parenting during deployments could no longer rely on public schools and daycare centers to free them to go to work. Infection rates in military communities soared because of travel, as well as weak (or even nonexistent) Covid policies. All of this, of course, ensured that absenteeism from work and school would only grow among family members. And to make things worse, as the last Congress ended, the Republicans insisted that an authorization rescinding the requirement for military personnel to get Covid vaccines become part of the Pentagon budget bill. All I can say is that’s a bit more individual freedom than this military spouse can wrap her brain around right now.

Worse yet, this country’s seemingly eternal and disastrous twenty-first-century war on terror, financed almost entirely by national debt, also ensured that members of the military, shuttled all over the planet, would incur ever more of it themselves. It should be no surprise then that many more military families than civilian ones struggle with credit-card debt.

And now, as our country seems to be gearing up for possible confrontations not just with terror groups or local rebel outfits in places like Afghanistan or Iraq, but with other great powers, the problems of living in the U.S. military are hardly likely to get easier.

The Fire of War Is Spreading

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has at least publicly acknowledged hunger as a problem in the military and taken modest steps to alleviate the financial stresses on military families. Still, that problem is far larger than the Pentagon is willing to face. According to Abby Leibman, MAZON’s chief executive officer, Pentagon officials and military base commanders commonly deny that hunger exists among their subordinates. Sometimes they even discourage families in need of food assistance from seeking help. Daniel Faust, the sergeant I mentioned earlier, told me that his colleagues and trainees, concerned about seeming needy or not convinced that military services offering help will actually be useful, often won’t ask for assistance — even if their incomes barely support their families. Indeed, a recently released RAND Corporation investigation into military hunger found that some troops worried that seeking food assistance would jeopardize their careers.

I’m lucky that I haven’t had to seek food assistance from the government. However, I’ve heard dozens of officers, enlisted personnel, and family members shrug off such problems by attributing debt among the troops to lack of education, immaturity, or an inability to cope with stress in healthy ways. What you rarely hear is someone in this community complaining that military pay just doesn’t support the basic needs of families.

Ignoring food needs in the military is, in the end, about more than just food. Individual cooking and communal meals can help individuals and families cope in the absence of adequate mental healthcare or… well, so much else. The combat veteran who takes up baking as a tactile way of reminding himself that he’s here in the present and not back in Afghanistan or Iraq or Somalia or Syria is learning to conquer mental illness. The family that gathers for meals between deployments is seizing an opportunity to connect. In an age when military kids are suffering from widespread mental-health problems, eating together is one way parents can sometimes combat anxiety and depression.

Whatever is life-enhancing and doesn’t require a professional degree is vital in today’s stressed-out military. Heaven only knows, we’ve had enough excitement in the years of the war on terror. Perhaps in its wake you won’t be surprised to learn that military suicide rates have reached an all-time high, while mental healthcare is remarkably inaccessible (especially to families whose kids have disabilities or mental illnesses). And don’t let me get started on sexual assault or child abuse, or the poor school performance of so many military kids, or even the growth of divorce, not to speak of violent crime, in the services in these years.

Yes, problems like these certainly existed in the military before the post-9/11 war on terror began, but they grew as both the scale and scope of our disastrous military engagements and the Pentagon budget exploded. Now, with the war in Ukraine and growing tensions with China over Taiwan, we live in what could prove to be the aftermath from hell. In other words, to quote 1980s star Billy Joel’s famous record title, we did start this fire.

Believe me, what’s truly striking about this year’s Pentagon funding isn’t that modest military pay raise. It’s the way Congress is allowing the Department of Defense to make ever more stunning multi-year spending commitments to corporate arms contractors. For example, the Army has awarded Raytheon Technologies $2 billion in contracts to replace (or even expand) supplies of missile systems that have been sent to aid Ukraine in its war against Russia. So count on one thing: the CEOs of Raytheon and other similar companies will not go hungry (though some of their own workers just might).

Nor are those fat cats even consistently made to account for how they use our taxpayer dollars. To take but one example, between 2013 and 2017, the Pentagon entered into staggering numbers of contracts with corporations that had been indicted, fined, and/or convicted of fraud. The total value of those questionable contracts surpassed $334 billion. Think of how many military childcare centers could have been built with such sums.

Human Welfare, Not Corporate Welfare

Policymakers have grown accustomed to evaluating measures meant to benefit military families in terms of how “mission ready” such families will become. You would think that access to food was such a fundamental need that anyone would simply view it as a human right. The Pentagon, however, continues to frame food security as an instrument of national security, as if it were another weapon with which to arm expendable service members.

To my mind, here’s the bottom line when it comes to that staggering Pentagon budget: For the military and the rest of us, how could it be that corporate weapons makers are in funding heaven and all too many members of our military in a homegrown version of funding hell? Shouldn’t we be fighting, first and foremost, for a decent life for all of us here at home? Veteran unemployment, the pandemic, the Capitol insurrection — these crises have undermined the very reasons many joined the military in the first place.

If we can’t even feed the fighters (and their families) decently, then who or what exactly are we defending? And if we don’t change course now by investing in alternatives to what we so inaccurately call national defense, I’m afraid that there will indeed be a reckoning.

Those worried about looking soft on national defense by even considering curbing military spending ought to consider at least the security implications of military hunger. We all have daily needs which, if unmet, can lead to desperation. Hunger can and does fuel armed violence, and has helped lead the way to some of the most brutal regimes in history. In an era when uniformed personnel were distinctly overrepresented among the domestic extremists who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021, one of the fastest ways to undermine our quality of life may just be to let our troops and their families, hungry and in anguish, turn against their own people.

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  1. GramSci

    I was just reading Smedley Butler, who had a some things to say about this topic, ca 1935.

    «… Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make [the soldiers] help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

    Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance — something the employer pays for in an enlightened state — and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.
    Then, the most crowning insolence of all — he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.
    We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back — when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work — at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds! …»


  2. Lexx

    What stories were told in the last days of the Roman empire (and every empire) about what was happening back home to military families? I think they would sound something like this one; she got all the beats right. Well outlined, well written.

    I once seized the opportunity to visit the commissary at Warren Air Force base. It was small, clean, well stocked, considerably less expensive than civilian supermarkets, and as it was mid-day in the work week, quiet with few customers. Wonder if that’s still true. How did supply chain problems hit the commissary system? How is inflation affecting those low low prices?

    Went to Costco yesterday. Walked out with two small boxes plus some laundry detergent and a rotisserie chicken. Cost: $287.03.

    1. KLG

      I remember the same at the commissary at the Naval Air Station in my hometown when I was young. Since food, mail, and laundry have been “outsourced” by the Pentagon, the commissary has probably gone down that road, too. I find this hard to fathom. Back in the old days, when the bad guys starting coming over the wall the cooks and clerks grabbed their rifle and helmet and joined the battle. I doubt the Pizza Hut and Cinnabon workers do the same.

      Your Costco bill sounds like my Publix cart on a big shopping day.

      Nothing to see here, move along…

    2. Soredemos

      I’m sorry, but could you elaborate on your Costco spending some more? Because frankly I absolutely do not believe that. Prices on many things have gotten atrocious, but nearly three hundred bucks would get me a lot more than that at even a regular store, to say nothing of a discount one. Detergent and chicken do not cost anywhere near that much, not even now. Probably not even a tenth that much in fact. Were the boxes heavy duty specialist ones or something?

      1. Lexx

        The boxes were the foldable type sold by Costco. When filled and carted back out to the car, all I have to do is lift them into the back.


        Costco is where I go to buy goodies; it is not for basics, that’s at three other stores. A Costco run is about once a month.


        CASHEWS 13.79
        CASHEWS 13.79
        PISTACHIO 14.99
        KETO BARS 12.99
        ALEVE GEL CAPS 18.99
        FANCY PEANUTS 6.99
        TRUFF HOT SAUCE 14.99
        TIDE 24.99
        HALF AND HALF 6.89
        BAGELS 7.99
        GRUYERE 11.99
        ORG ROMAINE 6.99
        ORG RASPBERRIES 6.99
        ORG BLUEBERRIES 7.99
        ORG BANANAS 1.99
        ORG SHITTAKE 8.99
        PERRICONE 37.99

        Subtract $30 for sales items, add $11.56 for tax. Total: $287.03

        I hope this meets your needs.

        1. Marva


          A few more years of the tottering delusional crone in the Fed and the BiDenvenido [Welcome en español] to millions more in Latin America and Africa, plus new weapons at higher prices to replace the ones shoveled into the Ukranian black hole, and your bill at Costco for the same items will be $500.

    3. Nikkikat

      We lived all our lives in Orange County ca. There were 2 marine bases. Nearby El Toro and the Tustin LTA base. When Bill Clinton closed these bases. The retired Military suffered for the closure also. No more Commissary, Auto center etc.
      There was still Pendleton further South, but they started privatizing and soon these were run by private business and became as expensive as the local supermarkets.
      I worked for Social Services, most military applied for food stamps but did not qualify due the the housing allowance. This allowance rarely paid the cost of an apartment. This was over 25 years ago. Would hate to see how bad it is now. As I recall the only bases closed by Clinton were in the US.

  3. Rip Van Winkle

    Exterminator, the long-shot winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby, was a big fundraiser for the war effort for both WWI and WWII.

  4. The Rev Kev

    In a good military unit, the officers will make sure that their people all have their meals before they sit down to eat their own. But for the Pentagon to allow their troops and their families to go hungry is unforgivable. And it’s not like they could not clip out a loose billion to fix this problem. It’s just that they don’t care. So how are troops suppose to train properly or undertake active service when their minds are on their partners and their kids who have their belly buttons slapping against their backbones? You are suppose to make sure that you fix this crap so that the troops have their minds fully on the mission at hand. And it is not like it is a new problem either. The Pentagon is only storing up serious problems for themselves here down the track.

    1. Laura in So Cal

      My congressman is a mixed bag, but as a veteran, he is all over some of these issues.


      The bill referenced in the link is to force states to accept professional licensure from other states for military spouses who are moved due military orders. Teaching credentials, medical licenses, even licenses in the trades don’t always have reciprocity state to state. This is the partial answer to the issue raised by Paris in his #2 question about why spouses don’t work.

      1. GF

        Isn’t it fairly recently when enlisted personnel were allowed to marry. (Like around the time the draft ended after Vietnam. One of the big draft dodges was to get married so you couldn’t be drafted). Now it seems from this article that the wife must work in order to survive if one is in the lower ranks. So two worker household under the stress of military bureaucracy and mismanaged redeployment. Since we do not have a draft now, they were not forced to live this way. If they all quit when their enlistments are up, it might get the brass attention.

    2. rowlf

      That was one of Curt LeMay’s concerns for those he served over. He tried to take care of those under him so they could perform their best. It may not of been perfect but there were worse places live at than a Strategic Air Command base. Auto shop to maintain your vehicles, recreational supplies and areas, library, sports facilities, etc.

      (Yeah yeah yeah, the joke is they built the golf courses first before pouring the runways.)

    3. redleg

      Unless things have changed since I left the Army, and I doubt that it has, Officers pay for their own uniforms and meals. I was marginally better off as an E-5 than I was as a 2nd lieutenant where the fringe expenses killed me. And I was fortunate- when I got commissioned I already had the uniforms and simply had them adjusted, where a truly new officer would have to buy everything.

    4. JTMcPhee

      I’m a vet (Vietnam) and have maybe a different take on this. Sad that active duty troops don’t get paid enough to fill out a “middle class” lifestyle. Promising, to me, that the Pentagram is having trouble filling out the ranks through enlistment as the available fit civilian population shrinks, reducing the potential and current “imperial expeditionary forces.”. Disheartening that the Brass are, like our corporate owners, turning to “private military contractors,” along with more autonomous war machines, including the really destabilizing varieties of nuclear and space weapons as well as the battlespace robots. Not surprising, given the givens, that Fagin has gotten the contract for feeding, clothing and housing the Troops, and it seems to me unlikely in the extreme that “things will ever get better” for the Expendables. A lot of whom, despite the problems, take the re-enlistment bonus and go buy a new Dodge muscle car.

      I enlisted in 1966 to Save The Republic From The Commies in Vietnam (shows how naive and stupid I was). Maybe many Troops enlist today for the same propaganda-soaked reasons, or maybe it’s just the only economic choice they have short of cooking crack for profit or titrationing the doses of meth and fentanyl upward until respirations cease. The present case has proved to be way more of a sustainable model than I would have thought possible, but there we are. Seems to me that the long tails of a number of phenomena are about to play Crack-The-Whip with us mopes, though the Fokkers who brought us to this demolition derby get to float high above, secure in their Elysiums of privilege.

      An economist might note that a set of curves might be drawn representing angst and anomie versus time, and where the curves cross is not equilibrium but when the shit, in a “nation” soaked in blood and where there’s almost two firearms in circulation for every “citizen,” actually hits the fan. If we are to assume a can opener, let’s hope it’s one as simple, effective and durable as the P-38 — one of the actually useful things to come out of the MIC in two centuries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-38_can_opener

  5. Paris

    There was an article by Zero Hedge some months ago (tried to find but couldn’t) telling the difficulties of a Navy officer, his wife and 4 kids in San Diego. They “only” had rent help of $4,000.
    1. Why does the Navy still keep bases in absurd expensive cities like San Diego?
    2. Why don’t the wives work like everybody else? Does the taxpayer have to fund them too?
    3. Why do they always have 4 kids, please check question 2, need to keep wives busy.

    If you propose to remanage the budget, be my guest. If you propose to increase the budget for the military, then we have a problem. The taxpayer is already skinned too much sustaining this ridiculous war machine aimed at foreign wars and making other people rich.

    1. polar donkeys

      It has been awhile since my family members were in the military. Food was inexpensive at commissary. Healthcare was was free and there was base housing/or rent subsidies. Additionally, there were schools, department stores, gyms, and restaurants on base. I think the military has phased out much of base housing and schools (perhaps for the better since places like Camp Lejuene had poisonous water). It seems the other things still exist. Pay isn’t good for enlisted, not sure about officers. Generals seem to do well especially after retirement. Defense contractors don’t need any public assistance around Huntsville Al, or the suburbs of northern Virginia. I grew up in Jacksonville NC and Millington TN. I’m going to see Jacksonville this coming summer. It wasn’t nice 40 years ago. Lots of car lots, bars, and fast food. Millington had much of the base shutdown. Navy just does HR stuff there now. It was car lots, bars, and fast food too. A lot of businesses closed when much of base closed, but some really big McMansions got built for the Booze Allen contractors and senior officers when the HR stuff got moved there. Weird when the base was much larger, there weren’t big McMansions.

      1. rowlf

        I go to a US Army base near me every year or so and am appalled by the condition of the base (post) housing compared to what I experienced on USAF bases in the 1960 – 70s.

    2. tevhatch

      4 thousand a month or 4 thousand a year?
      The officer is still cheaper than the contractors (after markup), so their pay isn’t the problem so much as how many are there and what are they doing. The USA has 10 times as many generals / admirals on staff now as during peak WW2, which explains the empire that’s eating the republic. It takes that many generals to feed the MIC-IMATTS (S is my addition, Supreme Court)

    3. scott s.

      Well, the traditional answer was “If the Navy wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one in your sea bag”.

      It’s a general issue since the AVF was created.

      BITD, a rack in the ship was considered “adequate quarters” so you didn’t rate a housing allowance. You got your chow from the galley, or for a few (considered fortunate) who might be eligible for COMRATS (commuted rations).

      Other than convenience, AAFES/NAVEX isn’t much value compared to Walmart/Costco, though you have to consider that the exchanges provide the revenue for the various NAF activities like base gyms. Likewise while DECA Commissaries have congressional funding support, Costco is often a better deal (the commissary system has gone to “house brands” in the last couple years to better compete).

      Base housing has now been privatized, though the rental cost is tied to housing allowance.

      Military medicine is on an HMO type basis. If you are near a base (so-called MTF catchment area) you get seen in a military clinic and hospital, though some specialty care will be farmed out to the local providers. If you don’t have an MTF you have the typical “in/out of network” issues to deal with.

      DOD schools are for OCONUS locations. In CONUS and Hawaii the gov’t pays impact fees to local school districts.

  6. Questa Nota

    The article was one to read on an empty stomach.
    So as not to throw up.
    And to empathize with military, and human, hunger.

    The MIC does not care. They won’t care, nor will their elected beneficiaries until some enemy, foreign or domestic, is in one of their indefensible positions, say, the Hamptons or on The Vineyard.

  7. David in Santa Cruz

    The cruelty is the point.

    The Military-Industrial Complex is nothing but a hopelessly corrupt wealth-transfer machine. The “troops” — junior officers included — are simply props. Their generals and admirals have licked enough boots and butts to be rewarded with gigs on Wall Street when they retire from ordering the murders of Muslims and other untermenschen. Each and every Democrat congress-critter waves the flag to keep the money-pump primed.

    It’s disgusting.

    1. Pat

      Hey Saudi Arabia has paid off a whole ball room full of retired brass in the last few years. You have to blow up the right Muslims to really rake it in

  8. Eureka Springs

    Can’t help but think “karma”. Sign up to help an empire wage massive looting and destruction all around the globe and maybe you get what you dish out. How many degrees does one need to NOT understand this? Understanding the golden rule and the most casual reading of this country, its treatment of active and veteran troops throughout our entire history should make anyone, even the destitute say, I’ll starve another way. Any other way.

    1. jabalarky

      Yeah, it seems like the OP is not hearing the message that the MIC is shouting at them: you are not valued. Seems like all that fancy education is getting in the way of some basic critical thinking.

    2. Pat

      I have to disagree with that attitude.

      Try to house and feed your family on most civilian jobs available. There is a reason why enlistment was higher from rural areas, former industrial and manufacturing areas rather than urban areas. The military offered more opportunities (supposedly) than fast food, Walmart, etc.

      You want Karma, that will only happen when the Austins, the Petraeuses, the Flynns, the Millys, etc are the ones hungry, and have a hard time housing their families. THEY got to make some decisions, they had opportunities outside of the military. And they even got some input into the looting and the destruction.

      You don’t have to approve of the military (or Pharma, or Walmart or Amazon or…) to recognize that the mopes just trying to survive in the machine don’t deserve to be abused.

      1. Rip Van Winkle

        What’s with all of the fruit salad on Austin’s uniform? Was he at D-Day and Guadalcanal?

        1. rowlf

          As my father (decorated combat veteran) says of modern military leaders, he (Austin) looks like he threw up on himself.

          (Dear Old Dad also wanted to remove Robert McNamara’s tonsils from the other end of McNamara’s alimentary canal, and while not a direct as Smedley Butler, strongly recommended me to not enlist in a corrupt system.)

          We should honor fractional veterans at every sports game to let young people know what they may be getting into.

      2. Soredemos

        If you can’t afford a family, maybe…just don’t have one?

        I get that many people will probably bristle at that, or they’ll say it’s moralizing, victim blaming, individualizing of broader structural. And all that may be true. But it remains a kind of basic, irreducible, and valid point none the less. If you can’t afford to take care of kids, don’t have kids. The box of rubbers is, what, ten bucks? You can at least afford that, and if you can’t, there are places that will hand them out for free. I know; I work for one of them.

        1. eg

          It’s a strange sort of “civilization” that prioritizes economic relations over the underlying biological fact of its own reproduction, and a stranger person who justifies such a perverse inversion.

          1. Soredemos

            You’re deflecting. No, it isn’t a good place for civilization to be (though you’re also overstating how intrinsic the desire to reproduce actually is. Plenty of people in fact aren’t eager, or even have zero interest whatsoever, in having kids).

            It’s not a good place for our civilization to be, but it is where we actually are. And so we should be running our own calculus about whether we’ll likely be able to support any kids we might have. If you’re not confident you can do it, perhaps just don’t do it. To do it is to knowingly inflict potential suffering on a future person.

            “Oh, I’m not at all confident that I’ll be able to adequately feed any kids I might have, so I’m going to bring three children into this scenario.”

            But I’m suddenly the villain?

        2. tevhatch

          Is that an anagram for Scrooge? Did you volunteer to cut your pay since you apparently don’t need it, and leave more for the oligarchy?

          1. Soredemos

            What are you even talking about? My pay is extremely modest, dude. If I can’t afford kids, I don’t inflict a life of potential starvation on them.

        3. Haynes Chard

          Your reasoning there reminds me of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement philosophy I came across earlier this year.

          That said we seem to be on the path of involuntary.

          1. Soredemos

            No, it’s not remotely like that. I’m not saying no one should have children. I’m saying if you’re not secure enough to be confident you can take care of them, maybe consider not having them. I’m not going to be gaslit on this; I am not a villain for advocating for commonsense by saying you shouldn’t have kids if those kids are very likely going to end up going hungry.

  9. spud

    the red tape is crafted to be hard, confusing, and to make you just go away. unfortunately, just about the whole worlds population is affected by the wars for free trade.

    this says it all, and why i say free trade is fascism,


    “fascism is a variant of capitalist rule in which the most reactionary capitalists, specially finance capitalists, resort to when their rule is threatened. This has to be understood, because eventually fascism can return if you maintain the underlying socio-economic system that fascism comes from – capitalism. Capitalism has three outcomes: fascism as it becomes threatened, defeat by socialism, or the exhaustion of resources and destruction of the world.”


    “Fascist rule, however, confronts a fundamental contradiction. Remilitarization plus spending on the social measures necessary to sustain popular support had to be paid for, but without excessively taxing the industrialists and large landowners. This could be done only by plunder, domestically by confiscating Jewish properties and internationally by invading and seizing the wealth, especially the raw materials, of other countries. Hence fascism’s imperialist dynamic.”


    “But to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries – or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.”

  10. spud

    forgot, i wish authors would quite using the supply chain excuse, i know they do not know or understand, those supply chains were very stable inside the U.S. and outside the U.S..

    those supply chains thanks to bill clintons free trade, became instantly unstable from 1993 onwards. they were simply the polices of cranks, unworkable from day one.

  11. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but…

    I’m pretty sure that “service members” – who can eat in mess halls – aren’t, per se, going hungry or being “food insecure” (and I challenge the current conflation of those two terms). Unless they’ve decided to have a family that they cannot (apparently) afford. I did not notice any Korean soldiers going hungry when I was stationed in the ROK, and their pay was about 1/10th (or less) of mine.

    I’m old enough and my service was long ago enough to remember the saying that, “If the Army wanted you to have a spouse, it would issue you one.”

    I also remember when the Army opened its mess halls to civilian dependents because not enough pay for married personnel to purchase sufficient food.

    An E1 – the lowest pay grade – makes just a bit more than minimum wage. While that’s not good, do not forget he’s also getting free medical, free housing (or additional allowances for housing if married), a darned good retirement program, and – if thoughtful – got a huge signing bonus. And reenlistment bonus.

    I would be interested in seeing some media people truly crunch out the numbers and find out if the “food insecurity” is due to actual cashlessness …. or if it’s just due to the normal American tendency to not budget very well.

    1. tevhatch

      According to my uncle food allowance money is being withheld from service members’ pay to provide them with three meals a day, if they eat at the DFAC, on-board, etc, and extras like ice-cream, etc has additional deductions or payment in kind. Barracks are usually only for the youngest men, most must live in either contractor run on-base housing at a cost or off-base, even serving in many overseas locations.

    2. redleg

      They have families, who can’t eat at the mess and who need to be housed. That’s who needs the support.

    3. agent ranger smith

      ” If the Army wanted you to have a spouse, it would issue you one” is a saying from the days of the Draft-staffed Army. As such, it is irrelevant in today’s time of the all-volunteer Army.

      Perhaps the en-hungered spouses of serving Army members should find a way to inform all the millions of people who are part of the targeted-for-recruitment population sectors that the Army will Not not NOT help you support or even feed a spouse, let alone children; and does not care if a spouse or children live or die.

      If that point were gotten across so very clearly to all the “liable-for-recruitment” young people that they could not pretend they did not understand it, then recruitment would over time fall off so deeply that the Lawmaking Government would force the Army to in-reality pay every joining recruite a family-thriving wage.

      Perhaps military spouses could set up ” don’t join” booths just beyond the property line of every recruitment center. Or since that would get their in-the-army spouses in trouble, maybe it should be veteran spouses who man the “don’t sign up” booths outside all the recruitment centers.

      And when the Army is forced by law to pay a thriving wage, then the “don’t sign up” booths can all be taken down.

      1. Linklater

        Whole-heartedly agree with this post. There needs to be an organized and visible education campaign.

  12. Dom Vidrine

    Parts of this article don’t add up. A married E-4 (probably been in the service about 2-3 years) with BAH (Fort Bragg BAH) and BAS takes HOME approximately $47,000 per year, with zero medical and dental costs, and is on target to receive a pension after 20 years. And let’s not forget he/she is probably only about 20-22 years old… This is hardly “food insecure” wages and benefits territory.

    As to the author’s assertion that her spouse (12 years in the military as an officer, so probably at least an 0-4/0-5) and her would need to borrow money for food is ludicrous. A married 0-4, again, at Fort Bragg for example takes HOME $107,000 per year. Again, with no medical or dental expenses.

    Yes, the military has many issues, but compared to the average worker in the U.S. a young married service member with a kid or two is way better off that working the average hourly job. Do you need to budget? Yes, of course but much of this article doesn’t, literally add up.

    Source – DoD and I retired from the Army in 2013.

    All this is publicly available knowledge from the DoD pay/BAH/BAS websites.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, there are plenty of independent sources on the internet that confirm the author’s account.

      These are from independent organizations:



      And from military-affiliated sources:

      Congress barely dents scourge of hunger in military https://rollcall.com/2023/01/13/congress-barely-dents-scourge-of-hunger-in-military/

      Demands of Military Life Behind Rising Food Insecurity Among Families, Reports Find https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/06/07/demands-of-military-life-behind-rising-food-insecurity-among-families-reports-find.html

      You also apparently completely missed her points about housing and child care costs if you are waiting for a slot in program.

  13. Dom Vidrine

    Yves, thanks for the reply.

    Child care costs are a real issue, especially if you are on the base waiting list for sure, but considering the pay across the service is the same by grade, I don’t think it’s a service wide issue on food insecurity.

    Yes, lower enlisted who are married and whose spouse has difficulty finding work (moving around every few years is definitely a barrier) will have to budget their money, and as many Commander’s will tell you, they struggle with that.

    Probably a simple fix would be to honestly raise the BAS rate, especially for the lower enlisted, and maybe even pay a higher rate to a family with more that two children? As it is now, I think it is the same rate regardless of how many kids you have?

    I still contend if you are in your early 20s married with children, you are living a decent quality life. And yes, you would think with our enormous DoD budget this is an issue that could easily be addressed.

  14. JBird4049

    >>And yes, you would think with our enormous DoD budget this is an issue that could easily be addressed.

    But there is no profit in that, and that being so, is there not enough motivation for anyone to do anything?

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