At first, Gene Cranick tried to control the fire behind his rural Tennessee home with a garden hose. But as the flames approached the house, he decided to call 911.
Firefighters from a nearby town, South Fulton, responded immediately, fully equipped to stop the blaze and save Cranick’s house and four pets. But there was a problem: the Cranicks hadn’t paid a $75 fee to South Fulton for fire protection. Upon learning this, the firemen retracted their hoses and watched the house go up in flames. They only acted when a fee-paying neighbor’s field began to burn.
Inexcusable? Yes. Liberal blogs erupted in outrage at the story—not because a fully equipped fire department had let a house burn to the ground, but because the incident is “just a preview of what would come in…the America envisioned by the tea party,” as Keith Olbermann put it.
Let’s look at that.
Liberal blogs implied that this outrage occurred because South Fulton’s fire department is privatized and profit-driven. It’s not. This fire department is government-funded and government-operated. Because the Cranicks live outside city limits, the South Fulton government charged them a fee for fire protection.
This was the government’s fault.
Only government breeds the kind of stupefied incompetence that would lead firefighters to watch a house burn—because they are, technically, playing by the rules. Paulette Cranick admitted as much, telling the AP, “You can't blame them if they have to do what the boss says to do.”
We can rest assured that no one will be fired for the incident, much less punished. Government workers never are.
Earlier this year, a 50-year-old black man in Pittsburgh called 911 nine times over two days, complaining of stomach pains. But the ambulance drivers kept getting lost, and “poor communication” (government-speak for incompetence) prevented responders from realizing how many times he’d called. When the man’s girlfriend dialed 911 a tenth time, he was dead.
“We should have gotten there. It's that simple,” Public Safety Director Michael Hus said.
No one was ever fired for the incident.
In 2006, New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum was mugged and hit over the head in Washington, DC. The ambulance drivers got lost looking for him. When they finally responded, they took him to a hospital on the other side of the city—and completely missed his head injury. Thanks to this oversight, Rosenbaum died after being neglected at the emergency room.
The Deputy Mayor for public safety told The Washington Post that “no one involved in the incident had been fired.”
Of course they weren’t. Government employees have endless layers of job protections that prevent them from ever being held accountable. In fact, South Fulton mayor David Crocker refused to apologize for his fire department’s actions.
“Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t,” he said.
At least if the fire department responding to the Cranick’s house was privately operated, the firemen would be out of work today. Their boss would be doing a public apology tour—probably before filing for bankruptcy.
But when the government’s in charge, no one ever claims responsibility. Instead, they point to the bureaucratic rulebook: “Your house burned down? Ain’t my problem. I followed the rules.”
If you think this is bad, just wait until government employees control the hospitals. Maybe they’ll handle a patient with gunshot wounds the way they handled the fire at the Cranick’s: “He doesn’t have the right identification. Send him to the back of the line.”