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A Very Unheroic Story About Firefighters and Politics

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A family stands before its burning home; the local fire department answers the call, but upon checking a roster sees that the family hasn’t opted in to the county’s pay-or-no fire-protection policy. So as the family watches their home and all their possessions go up in smoke, trying desperately to put out the raging fire with garden hoses and pleading with the county officials to allow them to pay up on the spot in order to save their home, the fire squad stands there, refusing to help. Until, that is, the fire threatens a neighboring household that has opted in. They are on it in a flash, but only to save that home.

So this is what it has come to: a far Right, to hell with the collective good and never mind social services (and why we pay taxes). We hear that mindset far too often these days: the only good government is no government; corporatize everything; privatize everything—Rand Paul’s biggest fantasy come true.

This is no right-wing dream; this is no some conjured story fabricated by radical leftie. This is real news, dateline Obion, Tennessee, from just a few days ago.

Is this what we’re really all about now? Silly me: I have this vision of America that has us all helping each other when necessary. And maybe it’s naive. We build up each other’s homes when they fall in a tornado or hurricane; and in the olden days, our grandparents passed a bucket person to person, helping the volunteer fire brigade when someone’s house caught fire.

Is this really what the Tea Party stands for? Because this is the inevitable conclusion to the Tea Party’s empowerment.

House burning down? Oops, sorry. You couldn’t afford to pay the fee, no water for you! Husband having a heart attack? No insurance? Sorry, take an aspirin and don’t call me in the morning. Ridiculous? Yesterday I would never have believed this incredible, disgusting and scary scenario would have been possible in my country.

Wake up, fellow Americans! Wake up, Democrats and vote; wake up Republicans and be aware of that Pandora’s Box about to be opened. What you’re unleashing is verging on the uncontrollable. Beware! Your home may be next.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • It’s painful to even have to make this case, isn’t it. Thanks, Alan! 😉

  • Paul Westlake (#53), that’s the best damned analysis on this entire thread. Thank you for posting it.

  • #46 “He lived outside of the area covered by a Fire Department. I understand you city-folk have no concept of that but that is a fact of life around most of the country.”

    No it isn’t Every square inch of America is in a fire district and has been for decades, no matter how far away the nearest fire station. The only thing that changed 20 years ago was the fee that was introduced to shift some of the burden of financing the department to the rural community outside of town. And even though $75 may seem like very little, it’s actually way too much. It’s a mostly volunteer department, and the full-timers are on salary. The only additional costs associated with fighting a rural fire are more gas to and from, and refilling a pumper truck or two. Maybe $50. Maybe there are ten rural calls per year, based on the average in my rural volunteer FD. There are probably a couple hundred households that are assessed the fee. Now let’s do the math – 200 X $75 = $1500 per year, to cover 10 calls @ $50/call = $500 per year. Well, there’s the beer budget for the year. THAT’S what this example was all about. The chief of that FD is a walking scourge among his fellow firefighters across the country right now. And he will NEVER live it down. He and the firefighters on-scene who watched the house burn down are a disgrace to the profession.

  • Clavos

    …or whomever…

  • Still waiting for THIS headline:
    Tennessee Man Doesn’t Think Family’s Safety is Worth $6.25 a Month

    I can’t buy car insurance AFTER the wreck, either.

    As such, defending the Tennessee fire fighters is easy.

    But the actions of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, who seem
    hellbent on torching the entire STATE
    , are entirely inexcusable…


  • Whatever their political views, I think most reasonable modern people agree that there are certain essential services which should be available and provided, when needed, without quibble. On most people’s lists of such services would be defence, roads, policing, firefighting, water, sewage, trash collection… and healthcare.

    (The fact that there is even a debate about whether healthcare is indeed an essential service is one of the most absurd things about this often crazy country.)

    How these services are funded should be the only question up for legitimate argument. It seems to me that it is not unreasonable for taxes to be levied for this purpose. That way, the community pays. The taxes are not optional because they are for community services, and the community is, 100% guaranteed, going to need to use those services at some point.

    The other way, we end up down the absurd path of giving the invading army a list of targets they may attack with impunity: i.e. the houses of people who’ve opted out of paying their taxes for national defence…

  • Doug Hunter (#49), I was nonplussed to read your comment today. “Never should your house be allowed to burn, that’s a bad rule.”

    Whoa, I thought, can this be the same Doug Hunter I argued with yesterday? I decided to copy and paste all your comments on this thread, and read them without the distraction of intervening posts from other voices.

    I think where it all went wrong, Doug, and why you were so misunderstood by me and other respondents, was in the second paragraph of your very first comment (#14): “The family made a decision and now they get to live with it.”

    Considering how Gene Cranick lost his house, your cold and off-putting remark poisoned everything else you wrote. And as I pointed out later (#29), Mr. Cranick simply forgot to pay the fee after receiving his bill. “We’re not discussing some right-wing fanatic who opted-out on principle,” I wrote. “Mr. Cranick is a rural working stiff who kept up with his homeowner’s insurance but forgot to pay the firefighting fee. For that he and his family should be hung out to dry?”

    By the time you finally proposed (#21) what you called “the obvious solution,” I think you’d already cast yourself as the aloof, archly analytical villain in this thread, so it was easy to overlook your suggestion: “Charge people who refuse to pay the risk fee for the cost of the response rather than letting their houses burn. … it [would] be better to get a $2000 bill and still have a house than to lose out completely.”

    In the light of this glorious new day (where I live anyway), I agree with you, Doug. Your solution would be better, and as you say it should’ve occured to the county long ago.

    Having belatedly conceded that point, however, I must restate my original objection at how Barbara Barnett framed this as an argument against the Tea Party. “The only good government is no government; corporatize everything; privatize everything,” she wrote sarcastically, “Rand Paul’s biggest fantasy come true.”

    I reiterate that Gene Cranick and his family are victims not of no government, but of bad government. And I still think this article typifies how writers in the Blogcritics politics section routinely twist a news story to advance their ideological agenda. It sucks.

  • Doug Hunter

    #45 maskay, maybe you should think more and comment less. If you are outside the fire department jurisdiction and you must be charged because the fire department has deemed it necessary due to budget contraints, etc., at absolute worst you shoud be billed for the cost of the response after the fact. Never should your house be allowed to burn, that’s a bad rule.

    I’m not sure exactly how that makes there ‘be no fire department’. You don’t pay for gas until you need it, that doesn’t mean there ‘be no gas station’. You’re going to have to explain that one a little more to me.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Countries are founded on all sorts of principles, kids, and many of them are absolutely abhorrent considering the way time and information change the world. So when you talk about the principles America was founded on, realize too that America is a completely different nation now – whether you like it or not.

    This whole mess seems a simple case of a refusal to acknowledge that the mindset of the founders is perhaps a little different than a suitable mindset modernity would call for. All this kicking and screaming appears to be little more than evidence of a refusal to evolve.

  • Robert

    He didn’t pay his “taxes” for fire service – $75 (why we pay taxes).
    He lived outside of the area covered by a Fire Department. I understand you city-folk have no concept of that but that is a fact of life around most of the country.
    I guess his house and belonging weren’t worth the $75, I notice he keep this homeowners policy paid.

  • maskay

    You are right Doug, if there was an option to pay after the event, and if everyone choiose to wait until it was needed to pay for it, there would be no fire department.

    And really, $75 a year–can’t afford that?

  • Russ

    Pay your insurance. That’s all. If voting Democrat means promoting irresponsibility and letting people slide when they don’t pay their bills like everyone else, it makes me seriously wonder why I’m not a registered Republican. Thankfully, things aren’t that black and white.

  • Doug Hunter

    Us too Gatersaw. Last , and only, time I started a grassfire volunteer firemen from three local towns came out and were real nice. I thought for sure I’d have to pay some fee because it was my own stupidity that started the blaze (and I think that legally they can fine you), but they didn’t. Fantastic response times at very little cost, their operating expenses are donations and their equipment is the same grant equipment every other paid department gets. I make sure and send in a little donation now and again(and of course after they took my information I made their mailing list). It’s a great example of how a different type of service can work. New York City may need something else because of the workload or complexity, but that’s the great thing about letting people choose at the local level.

  • “the monopoly granted to this one fire company by the local government. So in fact, government is the problem, as usual.”

    There is no competition for fire coverage anywhere, all fire districts are monopolies.

    “it be better to get a $2000 bill and still have a house”

    It costs about $50 a call out there. Most of the firefighters are volunteers and the few full-timers are on salary, so no extra cost per call, no OT. Some gas and a pumper refill is about it.

    Fire protection isn’t about individuals, it’s about everyone. The great Chicago fire started in a barn. Similar fires nearly razed New York several times in the 18th Century. If we piecemeal fire protection, we create an unnecessary risk for everyone, not just the people who refuse or forget to opt in. Fire is too deadly, spreads too fast, and becomes uncontrollable too quickly to be left to anything but a comprehensive approach, in all places, at all times. Period.

  • gatersaw

    You’re not understanding Rand Paul’s logic. This country was founded on libertarian principles. Fire departments used to be volunteer. I grew up in a volunteer fire fighter/EMS town. The tea party and Rand Paul want you to have options. Government is not entitled to impose compulsory fees. This is liberty. If you don’t like it Canada and Mexico are very close. I suggest you start liking liberty or start moving because Ron Paul is the only hope this country has at solvency. “We live in revolutionary times.” Ron Paul 2012!

  • Doug Hunter


    It’s telling that, unlike your imagined selfish strawman, I do care.

  • Doug Hunter

    #36 Hey smartalek, in communist countries where everyone and everything is government are there no longer heartwrenching stories? Do breadlines cease? Are they no accidents (umm, Chernobyl ring a bell)?

    You play it up to selfishness because it’s an easy strawman to take down and gives you a reason to pat yourself on the back for your moral superiority. It’s shallow analysis for simpleminded with more heart than brains. I’ll offer you a chance to answer the same question all the rest of you bleeding hearts have ignored. You seem to care so much about this one family losing their home. Great, I do to and suggested a real world solution that would not allow this to happen again. What are you going to do about the tens of thousands of homes and properties reposessed every year because people can’t afford their property taxes which go to fund the bloated government bureacracy you enjoy so much?

  • Jordan Richardson

    You’re taking the easy way out saying the government should do everything for everyone

    And you’re suggesting that I’m using straw men?

    I used examples, Doug. That the leukemia one rubbed you the wrong way is telling, though.

  • Doug Hunter

    Jordan, who was talking about kids with Leukemia or is this just another of your right fantasy boogey/strawmen?

    The solution for roads is different than a rural area outside a fire department jurisdiction in Tennessee which is different than a kid with Leukemia which is different from a police response.

    Gas tax is the appropriate solution for roads, not tolls. Tolls and road ownership are inefficient and redundant, just tax the fuel. It’s got a built in subsidy for fuel efficiency and and yes, it falls squarely on those who use the roads most. Police are not usually called by the criminal or at-fault party except in vehicle accidents, usually there is a fine for the person responsible. We’ve already discussed fire departments, because the cost of a response really isn’t all that great if you don’t have an agreement at absolute worst you get charged for the response (but your house is not allowed to burn), seems reasonable to me. For the kid with Leukemia I don’t know the ‘best’ answer. Right now, if you have insurance you probably get the best service in the world, if you’ve got government or military care you’re on another tier but still have good access, if you don’t have coverage then you fall into a lower tier but will still get treated.

    Each health solution has it’s benefits and costs. You want me to feel personally responsible for the illness of someone because of our system, how bout you feel responsible for the 15% higher death rate for cancers in Europe (with the UK lagging even the European average) How do you balance expanding access and squishing the different tiers together against say a 15% worse care when an illness does strike? How much is enough to spend on healthcare? what if it only extends life a week? What if one cure costs 2 million to save one person but you know you could use the same money to save 10 people? Do you take the funds for the Leukemia away from the retirement system, or the police or fire, or add it to the struggling middle class tax bill?

    Expecting me to answer the unanswerable in order to have any opinion on an unrelated topic is lunacy. You’re taking the easy way out saying the government should do everything for everyone and that’s expected to be good enough. I’m sure it’s good for your heart, but it does nothing to answer the underlying questions and ultimately is a simple cop out for people long on heart and short on mind.

  • 32 – Doug Hunter: “It is perfectly reasonable to consider the problem as a whole instead of focusing on one heartwrenching story of one family.”

    Yes, but other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?

    The “problem as a whole” is that there will always be “one heartwrenching story of one family” after another.
    There is no “problem as a whole” other than that.
    I’m becoming more and more convinced that conservatism, at least as it is represented in the here-and-now of 2010 USA (I dearly hope this wasn’t always true, because I’d hate to have to think of Goldwater, Buckley, and so many other great Americans in such crass terms), is nothing other than the politicization of an utter inability to imagine oneself in someone else’s shoes.
    It’s no coincidence that the Rand Paul differs from his teabeggar supporters on the key issue of cutting Medicare payments. (And it’s impressive that he’s honest — or foolish — enough to say he opposes cutting them because “physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” and not because of the value of the patients’ health or lives being saved.) It’s no coincidence that the Americans w/ Disabilities Act was passed only because of the support of the otherwise “free-market”-solutions-oriented Publican leader and failed Pres candidate Bob Dole, who had become “disabled” himself in fighting in WWII. If and when Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell and DOMA are repealed / reversed, it will be only because there are now increasing numbers of leading Publicans such as the Cheneys and the Reagans with queer family members who are out.
    May God save America — because after 30 years’ ascendancy of “The Virtue of Selfishness,” we may well now be incapable of doing so ourselves.

  • Jordan Richardson

    For the record, Alan, I don’t have any sort of longstanding personal animus towards you. I’m not even sure I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with you for more than a couple of months, so I doubt any inkling towards you at all could be considered “longstanding.”

    I don’t even know you. I only know your behaviour on these threads and, going by that alone, my description of you seems more than apt.

    Doug, would you also have people pay to use policing services? I mean, they should have to, right? If you’re dumb enough to be in a situation where you have to dispatch police officers to your home to help, you should have to pay for their time specifically so that I don’t have to.

    I realize that a possible form of “Utopia” is one in which people only pay for the services they personally use. That way there’s no foolish springing for services that could be used by somebody I don’t give two shits about, like, say, my neighbour. After all, I don’t want to have to help chip in just because his idiot kid has leukemia or some other such thing. What am I, made of money?

    And why should I have to pay for any roads I don’t drive on, for that matter? Every road should be a toll road to be paid for only by those who drive on them. Any road improvements and so on could come out of that tab, provided people actually use the road. If not enough people use it, it’s not worth repairing.

    I could really get behind this idea, Doug. I could totally see myself backing it if I had no concern whatsoever for others.

  • Doug Hunter

    “The fact that Doug thinks it’s perfectly reasonable makes sense, since he probably thinks our awful health care insurance system is just fine too.”

    A reasonable alternative (with the tweaks I suggested), yes. I’m not exactly pushing for the system where I live. It doesn’t make me any difference whether I pay an annual premium directly or through property taxes or for the services as I use them, I want the fire department to come when I call. It’s not bad to have a choice though, people who were struggling could opt out of the annual premium and risk having to pay for the response, it’s better than simply losing your house to tax foreclosure.

    Our healthcare system seems way too expensive and I’m not sure exactly why, but we do get fantastic care if you can stomach the bill. I’m not sure why we need a federal solution. If you think universal care will save so much money and be such a preferable system, just implement it on a state by state basis and lead by example. Show us how great it is and how good it works (maybe people will then stop their exodus from blue states to red).

  • Doug Hunter


    Well good for them, Alan said that was a dumb analogy. I think the Tennessee firefighting system as described is very similiar to an insurance system.

    It is perfectly reasonable to consider the problem as a whole instead of focusing on one heartwrenching story of one family.

    How many tens of thousands lose their property to tax foreclosure because they can’t afford to support government’s out of control spending rate every year? I’d say it’s multiple orders of magnitude greater.

    Rather than just take jabs, I proposed a simple and easy to implement solution that would not require them to change the system they chose. Just charge people for the cost of the response if they haven’t prepaid for coverage. Simple, easy, guaranteed fire protection, no firefighters have to stand idly by and watch a house burn. The bill wouldn’t be more than a couple thousand for a serious firefight and could easily be taken from the insurance proceeds.

    I don’t know what is so evil and preposterous about my solution, it’s no worse than forcing a tax solution on everyone and then foreclosing on tens of thousands of homes for non payment. My system would work fine for fire, not so much for healthcare.

  • Some commentators used the firefighting analogy during the health care debate, comparing our current [cruel, greed-based] health care insurance system in the US to the type of pay-in-advance-or-lose-out firefighting that this Tennessee county practices.

    As I recall, it was used as an “outrageous” hypothetical example by people arguing for a public option. Now it turns out to be a real, shocking phenomenon.

    The fact that Doug thinks it’s perfectly reasonable makes sense, since he probably thinks our awful health care insurance system is just fine too.

  • If I can chime in at this point, I think the extortion comparison is fair. This is an essential public service. There ought to be some provision for protecting property regardless of the inaction or oversight of the owner. As described in the article what goes on in this particular county sounds an awful lot like extortion.


  • For clarification, it should also be noted that during his interview by Keith Olbermann yesterday, Gene Cranick contended that he had simply forgotten to pay the fee after receiving his bill.

    In other words, we’re not discussing some right-wing fanatic who opted-out on principle. Mr. Cranick is a rural working stiff who kept up with his homeowner’s insurance but forgot to pay the firefighting fee. For that he and his family should be hung out to dry?

  • Doug Hunter

    Anyone else can chime in then, I think it’s a fair analogy. Didn’t know about your exchanges, I try and skip other people’s arguing and stick to exchanging ideas (or participating in my own arguments).

  • Ridiculous. Considering his longstanding animus against me personally–he once called me a “crotchety old fuck” on another thread–Jordan is the most biased third party observer you could enlist. Why don’t you invite your mother to arbitrate?

  • Doug Hunter

    I think we should use Jordan as a third party observer. I think he’s fair even though we don’t always agree.

    Jordan, would you say that the way that county is running their fire department, charging a premium to be covered and refusing service to those in an emergency who aren’t covered is somewhat similiar to how insurance companies operate (whether you agree with the idea or not)? In short, is that a valid analogy worthy of a blog comment?

  • “Namecall”? What name did I call you, other than Doug Hunter?

  • Doug Hunter


    I’m not responsible for your inability to comprehend simply analogies. You can rant and namecall all you want.

    They are running the fire system in a manner similiar to how insurance companies run, you pay a premium in advance and then when something bad happens (your house catches on fire) they take care of it. It destroys their model if you allow people to not pay the premium until after their house is on fire in the same way you can’t let people purchase car insurance after a wreck (else no one would pay the premiums and you wouldn’t have an operating budget).

  • Doug Hunter (#18), your “insurance model” is nonsensical.

    The case under discussion involves a burning house and refusal by the local fire department to put it out.

    It has nothing to do with insurance. As it happens, Gene Cranick’s home was insured, and during his interview by Keith Olbermann yesterday, Cranick expressed satisfaction with his insurance adjuster’s response.

    No one here has suggested that if Cranick’s home had not been insured, he should be entitled to apply for such insurance retroactively. That is absurd, and you know it.

    Rather, what we are discussing is the possibility of Cranick opting in to an existing government firefighting program when his house is ablaze. The program is already in place. Trained, fully equipped firefighters are standing by and within reasonable distance to respond.

    By opting in during his 911 call, Cranick would receive nothing more than what other homeowners, who are already part of the program, are guaranteed. And the next day, with the fire extinguished, Cranick would no doubt willingly go down to City Hall and pay his fee. He doesn’t receive $15,000 from the City. He doesn’t get 15¢ from the City. He pays them!

    If you want to make dumb analogies, feel free. But you’re insulting our intelligence.

  • Doug Hunter

    Also, only a handful of houses are lost this way in a year. Many tens of thousands more are reposessed for non payment of taxes and further still are repossessed because people couldn’t pay their mortgages after income taxes.

    Fire departments aren’t a great example because the cost/benefit is so far in favor of them, but as a general rule yes, I believe in letting people enjoy freedom even in the face of consequences. Allowing people to eat fatty and sugary foods or not participate in an exercise program WILL result in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. I don’t think that warrants the government mandating diet and exercise. Sometimes you just have to make your own decisions and live with them. I take measured risks in my life and even if it backfired up to the point of killing me or someone in my family (I am setting idly in front of a computer rather than exercising and eating celery right now), I think freedom is worth it. You don’t.

  • Doug Hunter


    The obvious solution, which should have occured to the county before now, is to charge people who refuse to pay the risk fee for the cost of the response rather than letting their houses burn. That solves the infant problem and while still not ideal (it’d be great if god in heaven would just magically put out the fire at no cost to anyone) it be better to get a $2000 bill and still have a house than to lose out completely.

  • Cannonshop

    #19 I doubt they’d let it burn down with people inside-that would be a Public Relations disaster, whereas just showing up to watch (and display all the high-speed gear) while not doing anything because the homeowners didn’t pay the vig is just free advertising and a reminder to others what can happen if they don’t want to pay what the SFFD requires.

  • Jordan Richardson

    What if there were people stuck inside the burning house? How would that change the dynamic of this conversation?

    If an infant burns to death because the family lacked “fire insurance,” what’s the response? Tough luck?

  • Doug Hunter

    It’s sounds alot more like the insurance model to me. You pay for fire response insurance or you don’t, you don’t wait until a fire occurs then run out and get the insurance or it would defeat the purpose.

    After I wreck my car, I’d love to go to Geico and pay a $100 monthly premium so they could replace my $15,000 car and they could certainly afford it (at least on occasion, you know they’re rich and have an unlimited supply of money). Unfortunately, that would ruin the entire market for their services.

  • “Pay up or we’ll burn your shit down.”

    Cannonshop (#16), are you accusing the South Fulton Fire Dept. of arson? Extortion? Please share with us whatever evidence you have of their “strong-arm tactics” or other criminal wrongdoing. If you have none, your comment is goddamned reckless, sir.

  • Cannonshop

    Reads like a government-subsidized protection racket to ME…unless there are OTHER fire-fighting companies in the same area, it’s a really interesting demonstration of how Monopolistic pricing and strong-arm tactics work when they are supported by the hogs at the trough.

    “Pay up or we’ll burn your shit down.”

  • Alan–Had no idea. I actually don’t type my name. It auto-inserts, and clearly did it wrong. Thanks for the catch.

  • Doug Hunter

    I like the idea of being able to opt out of government programs you don’t want to support, I wish all programs were like this one.

    The family made a decision and now they get to live with it. It’s more emotional when you lose your house to a fire becuase you didn’t pay for the fire service, but it’s much more likely you would lose your house because you couldn’t pay your mortgage because you were struggling paying the 15% – 50% taxes and fees the government takes.

    I’d suggest the latter happens far more often in this country than the former. Why so many crocodile tears over the extremely rare occurrence while completely ignoring the overburdened working class getting their ass kicked trying to subsidize both the rich and poor through government.

  • Troublemagnet (#10), I appreciate your simple explanation, which is most helpful to me. And I readily defer to your knowledge of what the Tea Party wants for this nation.

    Accordingly, I’d like to ask a follow-up question. You say they advocate “limited government where people have the ‘right’ to opt out of government services.” But, please, would the Tea Party also deny people the right to opt back into such services if and when they were needed? (In particular, during an emergency.)

    If so, that sounds pretty anal retentive.

    I realize that you and Barbara Barnett are very busy people. Hell, Barbara’s so rushed for time that she even misspells her own surname in comment #12, typing an “m” instead of “n.”

    But if you could please provide a hyperlink to some Tea Party web site that advocates denying people the right to opt back into government services during an emergency, I promise not to bug you again. Thanks ever so much.

  • Thanks troublemagnet. You are right in my reasons for writing this. Whether they like them or not, social services-some sort of health and safety net is good for everyone. That burnt out hovel does wonders for property values if it’s located in a neighborhood with other homes.

    People are usually not willing to pay into somethings that’s for a public “good.” Some people simply cannot afford it. So what happens: survival of the fittest? The richest?

  • I’d argue that taxes and government ARE bad, but in to some extent they are a necessary evil. The question is how far we allow them to go. Rather than being an example of how privatization is bad, this article really exposes a different category of government abuse of power, just one with a superficial resemblance to something else.

    And for the record I pay directly for trash collection and many other services where I live and it’s not a burden, but they are not essential services and there are alternatives available to me, from moving somewhere else to hiring a different company for the trash or other services.

    Part of the problem in Cranick seems to be the monopoly granted to this one fire company by the local government. So in fact, government is the problem, as usual.


  • Troublemagnet


    You are right, what happened to Cranick is not the Tea Party’s fault. You are correct that these policies have been in place for decades and the Tea Party is recent. However, the point of the article is that *this* scenario is what the Tea Party wants… a limited government where people have the “right” to opt out of government services. If the Tea Party has their way this is the way it would work everywhere.

  • Whether the policy is one or thirty years old, it’s a cautionary tale. There are many (as I have heard bark on radio, television and in print/pixel) who would make this county’s practices the norm. No taxes, full stop. Taxes are intended to pay for what individuals are to pay for collective goods: either those impossible to do on an individual basis or those people are less likely to voluntary pay for.

    You might eventually be willing to pay for garbage collection, but what about regulation of environmental issues (a more amorphous “good”). Taxes and government are not bad, and there are those who misguidedly suggest otherwise are misguided and misguiding a whole bunch of people who will follow like lemmings.

  • I don’t see this as a left-right issue as it is presented in the article. As Connie says it’s just an example of poor governance and stupid people.

    Basic and essential infrastructure is one of the legitimate roles of government which almost everyone on the political right can agree on. Government should provide fire protection, or at least provide support to volunteer fire departments.

    This situation in Tennessee is unfortunate but also unusual, and it’s a case of an arm of government essentially becoming a kind of semi-private protection racket.

    It is not that there is “no government” here as Barbara suggests, but rather that the government which does exist is corrupt, and that’s a problem we should all be able to object to regardless of our politicial perspective.


  • Sunshine Connie

    This has happened in various places and comes down to poor government and stupid people. In the Phoenix Metro area we have county zoned properties who choose not tp be annexed to avoid taxes. The people can get county services but the county has no FD. The rates they want to charge individual homeowners annually are in excess of what the annexed taxes would be. So, people gamble with their life and property. Some people pay a very high price for freedom and low taxes. I pay city taxes and get by.

  • After reading El Bicho’s comment, I watched the referenced segment on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Burned-out homeowner Gene Cranick said that the South Fulton FD had in the past made exceptions to their pay-for-spray policy, “back when we had a real fire chief. He had enough gall about him that he would do things.” Three years ago, when fire broke out at the home of Cranick’s son, the chief waived the fee till the next day and the FD responded to Cranick’s call.

    Under the present chief, however, Cranick said he knew of three other houses in the area that were allowed to burn down while the FD watched because homeowners hadn’t paid the fee, and added that the FD also let a barn burn that had horses in it.

    Would someone please take a minute out of their busy, Tea Party-bashing day to explain this to me in plain language? Imagine you’re talking to a sixth grader.

    According to Olbermann, the South Fulton TN policy in question is 20 years old. Isn’t the Tea Party a recent phenomenon? How are they responsible for this event?

    “We hear that mindset far too often these days,” writes Barbara Barnett. “The only good government is no government; corporatize everything; privatize everything–Rand Paul’s biggest fantasy come true.”

    Barbara, get a grip. The South Fulton Fire Dept. is neither corporatized nor privatized. It’s an agency of city government.

    Gene Cranick and his family are victims not of no government, but of bad government, one that enforces stupid and inflexible rules.

    Barbara’s article is typical of the hysteria at play every day in the Blogcritics politics section. Writers twist a news story to advance their ideological agenda, and damn the facts of the case. It’s almost as shameful as what the South Fulton FD did to Gene Cranick.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Nevermind America. It shouldn’t happen anywhere.

  • Janice

    Disgusting. Not your article. Your article was great. It’s just disgusting that Americans can actually respond like this. I cannot imagine that this happened in the country I have grown up proud in. I hope the uproar and backlash is HUGE and it never happens anywhere in this country again.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Holy shit.

    Sorry, that’s about all I can muster with this one.

  • Have to catch it later–stuck at work for a late meeting. I’m sure I’ll be able to see it on YouTube at some point. I’m very interested in what they have to say.

  • I believe the family is just about to be on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann after the commercial break