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August 02, 2004

Comments

Alan

Just a few thoughts to offer on this entry from a union firefighter reader....

FF's in general are incensed with the Bush administration over their consistent actions to reduce federal funding to our industry. Successful programs such as the National Fire Academy and the US Fire Administration have been downsized, and enjoy a less prominent role than before, since being rolled into the new Dept. of Homeland Security. Every year, the administration has tried to eliminate a federal program which makes direct grant to local Fire Departments. These things, combined with the great economy which he and the Congressional Republicans have created, have led to the closing of firehouses and the laying off of some of my union brothers. So when you read about the money going to Iraq to create firehouses, yes it is galling to us. There are certain needs which should be taken care of at home first.

This is not to say that I am thrilled about John Kerry. But on the whole, I believe that he will be less threatening to my interests (continuing to have a job, creating a prosperous america) than the present administration. If I could find a true conservative to vote for I would.

Philip

Appreciate your comments and your first-hand perspective, Alan! I do agree that Bush's economic policies have been irresponsible. One reason I don't post much on Bush is that the lack of fiscal discipline is so transparent there's almost nothing left to say. As far as Bush's actions with respect to firefighters, I don't know the institutional details well enough to discern whether there's a good economic argument for federal as opposed to state funding of FFs. I would think states know their own needs better, so lessening or eliminating federal funding could remove a layer of inefficiency. But, hell, I'm open to opposing arguments. There may be externalities that lead states to underinvest.

In any event, I don't object to union workers voting their self interest. What I object to is the moral language that so often accompanies union arguments. "We aren't for this position because it is in our group's self interest--it is because this is the right, decent, and compassonate thing to do." Thus, the picketer's sign: "Shame on you, you greedy company." We in the general public are supposed to support the union worker, against our self interest, because the company is shameful and morally wrong. This is just silly. But it is beyond silly when the persons claiming the moral high ground resent funds that go to other needy persons, to persons that are, in fact, even needier! Then it becomes ugly and hateful. (See Michael Moore.)

The choice between funding FFs in the U.S. and FFs in Iraq is a false choice. The are much more wasteful expenditures in the budget than the funding of Iraqi FFs. Why not compare those espenditures to FF cutbacks? Secondly, if we value human life equally, regardless of race or nationality, then the marginal benefit of funding an Iraqi FF, in terms of lives saved, is probably much higher than the marginal benefit of funding an additional domestic FF. Funding Iraqi FFs is a worthwhile, decent, and moral thing to do. *The merit of increased or diminished federal funding of U.S. firefighters is a separate issue.* Inserting a line in a speech that connects them, and is designed to make workers resentful of needier "foreigners" (and the resources earmarked to help them), is ugly. The labor movement used to attempt to appreciate the misfortunes of needy persons internationally. No longer.

Anyway, I respect self-interested postion that says "this policy is better for me so I'll vote for this guy." I don't respect the argument that says "allocate funds to me because otherwise you are shameful or immoral--oh, and be sure to cut funding for someone needier than me."

(By the way, I haven't decided who the hell to vote for. Might sit this one out.)

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