Rangel: Those With Decent Career Options Don’t Join Military
New York Congressman Charlie Rangel was on Fox News Sunday yesterday continuing to flog his faux “plan” to initiate a draft. He rejected Chris Wallace’s citation of Heritage Foundation statistics showing that Army recruits are more educated and come from more affluent backgrounds than the population as a whole:
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
AllahPundit has the video.
I wrote about the Heritage report almost exactly a year ago.
- According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
- 98% joined with high-school diplomas or better. By comparison, 75% of the general population meets that standard. Among all three-digit ZIP code areas in the USA in 2003 (one can study larger areas by isolating just the first three digits of ZIP codes), not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among its recruits.
- In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.
- Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don’t hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation’s population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data. Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.
I closed the post with this:
These data notwithstanding, this myth will continue as the conventional wisdom. Mostly, I suspect, this is because elite journalists and other opinion shapers simply can not fathom why anyone would willingly volunteer for military service if they had other options.
Rangel, who has been touting this draft non-option for years, was one of the targets of my criticism. A draftee himself, it is inconceivable to him that people would join the military if they had options.
To be fair, many people do enlist for the educational benefits and other incentives. One only has to look at the recruiting commercials to know this. Only the Marines challenge people to arduous service. The others emphasize training, benefits, or adventure. Many, many people join the military, especially the Army, for motivations other than patriotism, let alone the desire to fight.
Still, it is absurd to suggest that people are joining up during wartime oblivious to the risks involved, let alone doing so because they couldn’t find a decent job on the outside. Anyone with the fitness, education, and clean record required to qualify for military service could find work that does not involve getting shot at. Our unemployment rate is at historic lows and the pay of junior enlisted personnel is not exactly lavish.
People join the military, as with any other job, for a variety of reasons. Sure, not too many people with multi-million dollar contracts from the National Football League on the table or with great jobs at Goldman-Sachs join up. But everyone who does has other options. The risk of dying in combat, though, is outweighed for many by the sense of pride, adventure, and duty that comes with service. And, frankly, the calculus of the young is far different from that of the middle aged in such matters.
UPDATE: As to the Heritage study, I should note that comparing recruits to the general population, rather than their generational cohort, is somewhat problematic. Presumably, a larger percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds are high school graduates than those in the over-50 generations, for example. It should also be noted that the statistics are somewhat skewed when one combines all the services rather than isolating the Army, which does the bulk of the fighting and absorbs almost all the casualties. Even factoring these considerations in, however, the Army draws its recruits from a wide swath of society, with the very poorest and dumbest as well as the very richest and smartest underrepresented in the enlistee pool.