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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Navy Seal Pay Compared With Teachers and Wall Street

Navy Seal Pay Compared With Teachers and Wall Street

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 15:44

In the wake of their successful assault on Osama Bin Laden's hideout, ABC News did a short feature on the Navy Seals. The report tells us that the people who hold this highly demanding and dangerous get paid about $54,000 a yeat. It then adds that:

"The base salary level [of Navy Seals] is comparable to the average annual salary for teachers in the U.S., which was $55,350 for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Digest of Education Statistics.'

That is one possible comparison. There are other possible reference points. For example, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan both pocket around $20 million a year. This means that they make almost twice as much in a day as a Navy Seal earns in a year. Not many bank heads have to worry about getting shot in the line of duty.

Of course some Wall Street types do even better. Hedge fund manager John Paulson reportedly pocketed $5 billion last year. If we assume a 3000 hour work year (presumably he had to put in some overtime), Paulson had to work about 2 minutes to earn as much as a Navy Seal does in a year. 

Comments (8)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, May 04, 2011 7:58
Not to worry. How do you think Erik Prince of Blackwater got his start. A 54k salary is little more than intern change compared to what they'll get in the private sector just for being a Seal alone.
CEPR should start issuing izzatzo awards
written by Brett, May 04, 2011 9:38
For stupid comments or stupid articles. The "izzatzo award," named after the commenter who spends all day reading Dean Baker just to quickly write some offhand, petty comment such as ALL Navy SEALS, upon retirement, immediately go on to fund multi-million dollar Defense contracting companies.
written by Jay, May 04, 2011 10:24
I am far removed from my labor econ class. Perhaps, my memory is faulty but I thought risky jobs were supposed to pay a premium to get workers. Although, I suppose intangibles like a sense of loyalty, national pride and adventure make up the difference to SEALs.
Other reference points
written by darkmatter, May 05, 2011 12:54
A point that you forgot to mention is that there are many politicians saying teachers have a great salary and pension and it needs to be cut. However, I suspect you will not be able to find one politician of any flavor that is going to say seals make too much and need to have their pensions cut. I won't state the obvious reasons why. And you can make up as many as you like but the simple answer is "re-election." And that's not because America values seals more than teachers, rather the military machine is sacrosanct and those who we hire to teach our kids are not.

seal wages
written by tom, May 05, 2011 7:22
Question about Seal wage?
I think it should read $54,000 PLUS food, clothing, medical, etc. i. e. what is called in the military "wages + BENIES (benefits). Benefits are very significant in military pay packages.
Also, a large retirement income after 20 years service.
So the implication that teachers and Seals have the same pay is not accurate. Seals make much more!
written by skeptonomist, May 05, 2011 9:12
Another reminder of how moronically oversimplified is the way that economists approach motivation. Somehow everything is related to how much money is gained by a particular action, whereas in the real world it is obvious that motivations are very complex and typically socially and not monetarily or morally determined.

Liberal economists claim to be able to adjust incentives such as tax breaks to modify economic behavior. Conservatives' attitude is that whatever it takes to accumulate a huge amount of money is not only socially beneficial but morally praiseworthy.

Economists in general not only know very little about what motivates people but show very little interest in learning.
first blood
written by frankenduf, May 05, 2011 9:19
the article then goes on to point out that the seals embody the highest form of enterprise: the free market- in the real economy, it's all about gutting ur competition rambo style, not some commie system of social reward going to some pansy who helps kids blow their nose...
written by liberal, May 05, 2011 12:54
skeptonomist wrote,
Another reminder of how moronically oversimplified is the way that economists approach motivation.

I think some people have done studies which show that monetary rewards can actually result in decreased creativity.

Another point: people need to study the economic incentives of economists. A priori, we'd expect them to whore themselves out to the rich and powerful, because that's where the money is. And the empirical data certainly appear to reflect that.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.