Sunday, February 15, 2009

Unfortunately, however, we will have to sell the boat

As I listen to the robber barons of Wall Street moan and groan about salary and bonus limitations that accepting a taxpayer bailout involves, I am reminded of an incident some 38 years ago, when I was stationed at Ft Wolters,TX instructing helicopter flying.

Officer students attending flight school at Ft Wolters encountered new found wealth. It was a TDY assignment, and they drew flight pay. Thus, they were drawing full pay and allowances, PLUS $24 in per diem (Tax free), PLUS $150/month flight skins (taxable), and would do so for 11 months, or about $9,500 more than "usual" while in training. I the late 60's/early 70's that was significant bucks.

So, our dauntless students looked at this new found wealth and began to elevate their lifestyles with, most typically, new cars. Being able to easily make 11 monthly payments of $870 or more could buy a couple of cars back then, and they did. Our local auto dealers were more than qualified to explain how it was done. And, since flight school was normally followed by a year in RVN, where even more $$$ could be saved, some extended the plan to include the financial windfall of that.

But then, shock of shocks, DOD did its periodic review of per diem rates and found that they should only be receiving $21/day! Talk about gloom, doom and mayhem! LTs and CPTs scrambling to figure out how to stay afloat with $120/month less. We actually had to set up financial management classes to help them avoid defaulting. So, a number of us permanent party were given training on how to conduct small group ( 5 or 6 students) counseling sessions and we went for it. The sessions began by having each student express their plight and what they thought they must do.

At the first session I conducted, I was amazed at how shattered these guys were, and how stumped some were as to how to handle it. Some were outright hostile toward DOD over the change. The last one, however, seemed quite calm, and sure of a solution. He said that he and his wife had been quite prudent. Rather than buying a Corvette, like so many others, they stuck to the Ford Mustang. One for each of them, along with a Ford station wagon for "family use." They had only bought an amount of furniture that could fit in a U-Haul trailer(TDY moves don't cover household goods), another reason for the station wagon. They would pay a car-less student to drive one of the Mustangs to Ft Rucker for the second half of training.

In closing, he said, "So, you see, with a bit of prudent planning, and a willingness to sacrifice a bit, it need not be a crisis. Unfortunately, however, we will have to sell the boat."

I shared that story with my colleagues, and the student's final words became an oft quoted quip when one of us was expressing mock sympathy.



Charles Gittings said...

My first real job in 1973 (analyst trainee at Bank of America) paid $600 per month. Which was plenty for a 21-year-old kid at the time.


Anybody heard anything from Phil lately?

Aviator47 said...


I keep trying to put the burden of being limited to a mere $400,000 to 500,000 per year in wages into some sort of perspective. What immediately comes to mind is that such a person will, in about 4 years, earn more than the total lifetime earnings of 75% of the population, whereas previously, they could do it in a year or so.

Unfortunately, however, they may have to sell one of their boats.


Charles Gittings said...

Well the NYT had an article about how someone who was living in Manhattan actually might not be able to get by on $500K.

My own home town, San Francisco, is also grossly expensive now.

Aviator47 said...


Having grown up in an affluent bedroom Westchester County suburb of NYC, and still having friends and family there, I can assure you that the alternative is not simply Brooklyn or Hoboken.

Furthermore, these poor souls earned many times more than $500,000 while they were turning a loss for the world's economy. If they were living hand to mouth and not saving, that's even more outlandish. If my tax dollars result in Mr Exec not being able to afford a nanny, so be it.

If these folks are looking for sympathy, I would suggest they look in a dictionary. It's located right between "SH*T" and "Syphilis".

Is it so hard to understand that someone should pay for their mistakes?


Charles Gittings said...


No, I understand that we pretty much deserve every bit of the shit we're up to our necks in. I got my wake up call a long time ago.

But people are people, they have families, and I actually consider myself blessed to be poor... I feel sorry for those who have so much to lose, and equally, I fear for what they will do. I grew up as a Boomer watching the children of the Great Depression. I've studied a lot of history, and know how regular these cycles of boom and bust are. And I'm a systems analyst who understands that the swings are getting more massive and speeding up, right along with our technology... and that the whole mess is pretty much out of control.

So I worry about the kids... and about the hell we've constructed for them.

basilbeast said...

I believe I've found Cap'n Carter.

Speaking of clean breaks from the past, one challenge for Carter is going to be dealing with his new subordinates. As the AP's Lara Jakes reported, some Rumsfeld-era political appointees have managed to get themselves declared civil servants in order to stay on and, presumably, gum up the Obama/Gates agenda from the inside. One of them who'll work with Carter, apparently, is Tara Jones, whom a defense insider described to me as a "very partisan, pro-Gitmo Bush political appointee -- think the Monica Goodling of detainees." Ouch. Good luck with that one.


Charles Gittings said...

Wow. That was a good answer Basil.

basilbeast said...

I just pasted the bit from Ackerman, no answer from me.

I'm not as witty and clever as I used to be. I found out a while ago that I'm being RIF-ed out of existence soon, so I've been dealing with that and will for a while.

It's probably a good thing we've got this kid in as prez, facing all this muck.

Me, I'd probably go postal in a heartbeat, or is it "going all chimpanzee" these days?

I posted a query for you over at chief's. Are you back in the pink now or still recovering?

Maybe I should ask, will California recover?

Charles Gittings said...

Actually, my attempt at optimism fell flat -- I've been diagnosed with lung cancer. "Non-small-cell carcinoma", which they tell me is the most common and worst kind. Don't have much information beyond that... My first appointment with the oncologist is Monday, that's when I'll get the details.

basilbeast said...

Oh damn, that's not right!

After reading your posts for years now, even conversing from time to time, I've always considered the group who posted at I-D as friends.

I'm headed down to St. George Wichita in a couple of days, I'll set them praying for you.

Besides giving you some encouragement, I think it helps knowing someone cares how you're doing.

If you'd like to contact me,

mwoods at carrollsweb dot com


Aviator47 said...


Sorry to hear of your illness. Prayers will be coming from Greece as well.

Best wishes


Charles Gittings said...

Thanks Al... :)

Charles Gittings said...

...and thanks Basil!

So here's another question...

What's up with JD?

pluto said...

Sorry to hear about your illness, Charles. Best wishes and keep us up to date if you can. We care about you.

mike said...

Charles: Sorry to hear this. Get a second opinion. Don't sell the boat yet, they are doing great things lately against the big C.

Al: Good post!

FDChief said...

Charles: It's Monday now, and I'm thinking of you and hoping that the prognosis is good.

Al: One of the worst things that I see has happened to our country since the "Reagan Revolution" is the deliberate trashing of the idea of humility and responsibility of wealth and the demonization of poverty. We're reaching back for the Gilded Age mindset where the wealthy are the favored of God and the poor are poor because they've done something wrong or are just "bad".

Aviator47 said...


A most concise and accurate description of modern times.


seydlitz89 said...


All the best.