Hot new concept: Pay-to-play fire departments!
The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.
Interesting, no? I'd love to know whether the Cranicks are Teabagger sympathizers, just for full background.
If their house had been -- as Grover Norquist once counseled regarding governments -- small enough to drown in a bathtub, then they could have put the fire out themselves. See? (h/t to socratic for that one)
But the fascinating part of this story for me is that the firefighters ended up having to put the fire out on the property of a neighbor who had paid the fee. That's actually why we have taxes and common payment for essential services like fire fighting. Yes, the Cranicks saved on tax-like fee payments, and yes, they suffered the consequences of doing so. But their neighbor paid for protection, and suffered fire damage anyway. And not because of random accident, but because the firefighters were forced to refuse to come to the Cranicks' assistance. If they had, the neighbor would have had no damage at all.
It's also why we do things like treat even undocumented immigrants in hospital emergency rooms. No, they haven't paid. But yes, you stand a much better chance of not getting their tuberculosis when you hire them on the cheap, pretending not to notice their immigration status.
I guess I'm also surprised that the fire department wasn't prepared to accept payment for services. If the issue really is limited resources, then surely they'd be interested in recouping the sunk costs of having responded to the scene. The Cranicks offered to pay whatever it took to put the fire out. Why not do so, and then charge as doctors or hospitals might for uninsured patients? Apparently Republican Utopia is filled not with Libertarians, but with moral scolds. Who knew? We all thought it was the opposite! The fiscal conservatives of Obion County, Tennessee threw out the money they spent sending the trucks out, and turned their backs on a profit-making opportunity in exchange for the chance to stick in in the Cranicks' eye. Why, you can practically taste the fiscal responsibility and good ol' fashioned common sense that made America great (but the Confederacy presumably greater)!
Meanwhile, I'm sure the neighbor is wondering right now whether he can get his fee prorated.
The silver lining here is that local water utilities now have a new and untapped revenue source. They can begin squeezing fire departments every time they want to open a hydrant.
Be on the lookout next summer for pay-to-play fire departments dropping lit matches around town to drum up business. And remember, if one of their fires melts your Medicaid-paid mobility scooter, you can still get another free one in time for the next Teabagger rally.