The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce is collecting holiday donations of canned goods and cash for a group of people not automatically thought of as being in need – service members on Robins Air Force Base.
Can military salaries really be that bad?
Chamber president Mike Dyer says the pay for many full-time service members just doesn’t cut it, especially at this time of year.
"When you’ve got young airmen that are at the bottom of the enlisted ranks, and they’re married and they have a couple kids, they do not make a lot of money," Dyer said.
RAND Corporation senior economist Jim Hosek doesn’t deny that, but says it’s important to remember that military pay has gone way up since September 11th, 2001, "on the order of 40 percent after controlling for inflation for enlisted, and about 25 percent for officers."
"The context for that is that for most workers in our national economy, their real earnings have been basically flat," Hosek added.
Nonetheless, Dyer says he’s been informed by base officials that many service members are having trouble making ends meet.
"They’ve identified 86 families, I believe, and about 200 kids at the base," Dyer said. "Young airmen that are not able to do what most of us would expect to accomplish on Christmas Day, which is feed the family a nice meal and give the kids all a nice gift."
While military pay may have gone up in recent years, Dyer says other perks of living on-base aren’t as generous as when his father was in the service.
Drop-offs are being accepted at the chamber’s office in East Macon through Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8:30 AM.