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Jerks, Freeloaders And Ingrates

That’s what the Cranicks of Obion, Tennessee are according to Kevin Williamson of The National Review. You see, their house burned down while firefighters watched a few days ago. Why? Because they didn’t pay their annual fee of $75 to the fire department from a neighboring town in order to be eligible for services from that fire department.

Kevin Williamson isn’t alone in his assessment of the Cranick’s fate. Take a look at the charming comments here.

I think that most Americans agree that this is an asshole point of view. And most of the opinions on the web express moral outrage over what happened here, so we can take comfort in knowing that the assholes are outnumbered by the rest of us. But I can’t just leave my thoughts at “they’re just assholes”. It’s more than that. They’re idiots. Sure if you’re mean enough, you can take modicum of twisted satisfaction from the belief that these deadbeats got what they deserved. But what about everyone else? What about the neighborhood that now has a burned out house on the block, thereby lowering everyone’s property value? What about the kids? Did they get what they deserved? What about the bank that holds the mortgage on a home that is most definitely going to go into foreclosure over this? What about the community that now has more homeless people living in it? Does being panhandled by a ten year old child while getting your morning coffee sound beneficial to anyone?

The “mean girls” of the world are completely incapable of thinking their meanness through. They take too much satisfaction from being mean to put any thought into the long term effects of their nasty utopia.

But they’re fucking morons. I don’t want to waste any more time talking about them. Let’s talk about the far left liberals who see this incident as proof that privatization doesn’t work. They’re wrong. There was no corporation involved here. The fire department involved in this incident was a neighboring town’s fire department; i.e. a government entity.

Let’s be clear about what happened here; a government agency sat back and watched a family’s home burn down because that family didn’t pay the annual fee that would have given them access to that fire department’s services. Don’t worry, I’m not getting all “pro corporate” on you. I’m just trying to get the facts straight here. This was a failure of government. Two governments, to be exact. The local government in Obion failed to create the infrastructure that would ensure fire response in their town. The South Fulton government failed, when they instructed their fire department to sit back and callously watch as someone’s house burned down to the ground.

Here’s the most absurd part of this whole thing – the local representatives for Obion (all republicans) voted down a 13 cent property tax increase to create a fire department for Obion! This was bad government. And this is why so many people believe that government is bad.

This tragedy wasn’t a result of privatization gone wrong. And if you’re using it to make that point, you’re creating a false argument. Do I support the privatization of community services? Fuck no, I’m not an idiot.

This story does demonstrate why that won’t work. The Cranik’s failure to pay the annual fee of $75 (I’ve spent more than that on lunch!) demonstrates that voluntary fees for these types of services don’t work. They need to be paid for through mandatory taxation. Who among us hasn’t made choices about what we cut from our monthly expenses when times are tough? Who among us hasn’t dropped health insurance at one time or another because we simply couldn’t afford it? Haven’t we all taken that gamble before? You need to eat every day, so that’s not an expense that can be cut. You need a roof over your head, so that’s not an expense that can be cut. So when you look for expenses that can be eliminated, it’s human nature to take a gamble with expenses that don’t appear to be an immediate need. Don’t be so fucking judgmental with other people, because I know you’ve done it yourself.

You can’t do that with taxes. They’re taken out before you can even make those decisions. It’s out of your hands, so the fire department will put out the fire in your house. And these services are cheaper if every single member of the community pays in.

I have no idea how the South Fulton fire department came up with that $75 per household figure, but it sounds rather arbitrary to me. What if only 50% of Obion residents paid in? Would it still cost South Fulton $75 per household to respond to Obion fires? What if 100% of Obion residents paid in? Would it cost less than $75 per household? Who the hell knows. I do know that they had already used resources to arrive at the scene, so not putting out the fire before it spread was just inane.

The house shouldn’t have burned down while the people that could have stopped it watched. Most reasonable people can agree on that. How to prevent it from happening in the future shouldn’t be approached from an ideological perspective. It should be based on reasonable solutions. Two local governments failed. That doesn’t mean that government sucks (I’m talking to you, intellectually lazy conservatives and teabaggers). It means that you need to improve the government because there is no more efficient way to run fire departments, than to centralize through one entity. The homeowners failed, but this service should never have been provided on the basis of a voluntary “fee”. I don’t know why or how some people can look at a “fee” as something that’s better than a tax. You need a fucking fire department!

Personally, I think that fire departments should be run on a state level with partnerships on the county level. It seems to me that centralizing shared services would lower the overall cost. And the taxes to pay for fire departments should be collected on a state level. This ensures that you have an even per capita contribution and allocation. But that’s just my opinion, and I’m certainly not convinced that my way is the best way to do it. Maybe there are advantages to having each municipality run their own fire departments. That’s a debate I’m happy to have. But I will not entertain the “government = bad, so no government = good” bullshit. That’s just stupid and lazy.

If you don’t believe that good government is possible, then you ensure that you will never get good government.

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