Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What A-La-Carte "Limited Government" Truly Looks Like

This week has already been another busy one, from a news perspective. The ongoing foreclosure scandal - from the same Wall Street "geniuses" responsible for the economic crash two years ago - seems ready to boil soon. Nearly unlimited campaign financing, allowed by the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, is putting some of the highest offices in America up for sale to the highest bidder. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been discovered taking foreign money and depositing it in the same bank accounts the Chamber is using to try and buy local U.S. elections. And according to leading economists, the legislative gridlock by Congressional Republicans on Democratic economic plans could conceivably keep unemployment levels near 10% for the next decade.

Still, the fire we're looking at putting out today is, we think, just as important as any of these topics. It's about the very nature of our government, about why we create communities.

In rural Tennessee last Friday, Gene Cranick's grandson was burning trash legally when the fire got out of control - and spread to his house. Normally, you'd expect that he could dial 9-1-1 and the fire department would come racing to the scene to do their jobs.

Mr. Cranick, however, lives in Obion County, a place where the extreme conservative view of limited government is a reality every day. While the nearby city of South Fulton has a fire department, the county where he lives does not. About twenty years ago, his county instituted a policy requiring those living in the county, outside the city, to pay a fee - now $75 - in order to receive fire control service.

Mr. Cranick hadn't paid his fee. So the fire department came out - and watched his house burn to the ground.

While we could call Mr. Cranick stupid for not paying the $75 annual fee, or mention how the entire "pay for spray" policy sounds more like a Mafia protection racket, the fact of the matter is that we organize communities for the health and safety of the community as a whole. The founding fathers even thought the "general welfare" of a society was important enough to include in the Preamble to the Constitution.

Any service that is vital to the public's health and safety should never be optional - that's why we have taxes.

We agree that there are details that could be argued: for example, Mr. Cranick offered to pay "whatever" it cost to put out the fire when he called 9-1-1  - and the city fire department had temporarily waived the $75 fee in other previous cases.

Details aside, the extreme conservative, tea party, social Darwinist position that we are each on our own, and just happen to conveniently live near each other has been moved from a paper theory to a reality in the ashes of Mr. Cranick's home. Pretending that kind of ideological insanity serves the public good is... disingenuous at best.

While the merit of other, less pivotal public services, such as beautification, can be debated, taking care of the stability, health, and safety of our communities is something anyone who truly believes in America supports. The idea of an "ownership society" - the kind where we are each on our own - is uniquely UN-American, and anyone who supports such a disgusting idea should be ashamed of themselves.

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