Not high-end GSs. Everybody. Look at total compensation, not salary. Salary is virtually meaningless.
I will use me in the Army vs. me in the private sector as an example in the crude chart below:
Benefit/ Value in the Army/ Value in the private sector
Health Care/ $0/ $190 a mo. plus copays, usally about $250 a month
Cost of Living Allowance/ $600-800/ $0
Housing Allowance/ $600-1500/ $0
BAS/ $150-200/ $0
Taking just these components of "compensation," we’re looking at a $1600-2650 differential. Over a year that’s $19,200-31,800. And none of those dollar values were unique to me as an officer. And oh, by the way, none of it is taxable.
Joe E-1 could get the bottom end of any of those benefits. $35K in compensation for a high school diploma and no experience is not a bad living.
The "underpaid soldiers" myth is one of the biggest lies ever propagated. It was true when my grandpa was in WWII but it was not true when I was an E-1 in 1994. It is not true now, either.
The only soldiers struggling to make ends meet are those who have kids too young. And people who have kids too young in the civilian world don’t get extra BAH.
As an aside, I have some Army friends collecting WIC: one is an O-3E and the other an E-6. Just for fun, calculate the value of free milk, formula, and bread every month.
All the benefits except health care that you mentioned are conditional, though accurate, for a kid living in DC. But for a kid living in the barracks at Ft Hood, COLA, BAH and BAS add up to a whopping ZERO.
You could probably bounce back and forth on either side of this argument for days because the government is just that damn big and there are so many employees. The disparity in pay grades makes the generalization that I originally made inaccurate, but there is no doubt that many government employees are still underpaid. There are some that are properly compensated, yes, but its a broad range.
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