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What Trump still doesn't understand about military raises

Donald Trump's remarks to the VFW convention led to an awkward question: what kind of president lies to servicemen and women about their pay?
US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)
US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014.

Donald Trump addressed this year's national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) yesterday and repeated one of his favorite claims about servicemembers and their salaries.

"I'm also thrilled to say that we have secured for our military servicemembers and their families the largest ... pay raise in almost a decade. Largest pay raise.... You deserve it. You really do. It's been a long time since you've gotten a raise."

In recent iterations of the claim, the president has been even more specific, telling audiences that servicemen and women haven't received a raise "in 10 years," but yesterday, he switched it up a bit. Now, it's been "a long time" since the troops received any raise at all, and Trump believes he delivered the "largest" raise in almost a decade.

The trouble, of course, is that Trump still doesn't have any idea what he's talking about.

First, the most recent pay raise for servicemembers isn't even close to being the largest in a decade. In fact, the most recent raise was actually quite modest. The Associated Press recently explained, "U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for the past 10 years and several have been larger than this year's 2.6 percent increase. Pay increases in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more."

Second, the president seems completely convinced that the troops haven't received a raise in "a long time," but that was as wrong yesterday as it was the previous times he peddled the bogus claim.

As we discussed a few months ago, the basic elements of reality are not in dispute: there were raises for our military in 2017. And 2016. And 2015 and 2014. And every other year of the Obama era. And every year of the Bush era. And every year of the Clinton era.

In fact, the military has gotten a raise practically every year since the end of World War II. It’s the sort of detail a competent Commander in Chief should probably be aware of -- especially when addressing a VFW convention.

As for why Trump keeps repeating this lie, I suspect there are a couple of angles to this. The first is this president is eager to present himself a special ally to those who wear the uniform, and the other is the fact that Trump is equally eager to suggest Barack Obama wasn’t.

It’s a strange and lazy way to see the political landscape, and it has no basis in fact, but Cadet Bone Spurs really does seem to consider himself some kind of unique champion of the military.

It’s probably why Trump will keep repeating the lie, reality be damned.