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We have to distrust each other. It is our defense against betrayal. – Tennessee Williams

Much has been written about the motivations of firefighters.

Though there may be different reasons for why some choose to be full-time, while others are paid-on-call or volunteer; all firefighters CHOOSE to serve the public. The frequency of the delivery of that service varies from city to county to township and the political system that governs their public servants also varies.

After 9/11, a national fire service that was used to operating on shoe-string budgets and doing more with less, was suddenly flush with billions of dollars to improve readiness through the many grant programs offered through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Departments that had been locked into fierce battles with their local governments on funding and staffing needs were no longer hearing “no”.

Then came the betrayal.

As soon as the federal money started to dry up, we found ourselves in Déjà vu all over again. Gains that had been made post 9/11 were giving way to calls to cut spending and in some cases to eliminate it (See: http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/many-dhs-grants-ineffective-lack-proper-oversight).

 Those politicians who were running to the cameras for the all-important photo op were now “phoning it in” or “unavailable”. It would seem that your first impressions of those of a political persuasion were correct after all. But, it was still betrayal.

Not long after the dust had settled at Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood, rescuers who had worked day and night to find their missing brothers and sisters in the rubble, were suffering from lung and heart ailments. Others have been stricken with cancer. Several have died. All have one thing in common; they worked at Ground Zero.

And when the medical bills started to escalate; the city, state and federal governments denied that illnesses were caused by exposure to toxins at Ground Zero until December of 2010. That is when the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/wtc/html/health_compensation/health_compensation_act.shtml) was passed by Congress. The bill was designed to provide medical services and compensation for responders who were exposed to dangerous toxins while working at Ground Zero.

The bill currently does not cover cancer and in 2011, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the agency evaluating what illnesses will be covered under the Zadroga Act, determined that there was still no connection between exposure to dusts at Ground Zero and cancer (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-197/pdfs/2011-197.pdf).

This is a betrayal of monumental magnitude.

Firefighters that are governed by a taxing body are required to be insured against work-related injuries and illnesses referred to as workers compensation insurance. For small departments, that can be the largest portion of the budget. But, through donations and fundraisers, you can keep the doors open.

Then, along comes the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide health insurance to their employees.

For volunteer fire departments, that means that the IRS will regard volunteer firefighters as employees of the city, county or fire district for departments that have 50 or more members. The cost will be enough to drive some fire departments out of business. (See: http://www.iafc.org/onScene/article.cfm?ItemNumber=7013)

So, all of the hype-all of the “good things” that we heard about the bill leading to the run- up to the 2010 elections have created a great divide between the healthy, who aren’t buying it to the ones being told that they will lose their insurance. And we were told repeatedly that we could keep our plan and that we could keep our doctor.

This is betrayal by the people who are supposed to be FOR THE PEOPLE.

And unfortunately, since we don’t live in a world populated by unicorns and rainbows, public servants are affected by self-serving, public “serpents”.

MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz has been regarded as the go-to guy when there are issues affecting public servants and especially firefighters. He has voiced strong support for unions as well. Then, reports surfaced that Schultz was receiving “compensation” for “representative services”-some $200,000. (http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/03/unions-gave-k-to-msnbcs-ed-schultz-116972.html)

We look upon someone who takes money from interest groups as someone who is “for sale”. We believe that they will be influenced by the people who bankroll them. I remember a time in this country when a disc jockey who took inducements from a record company to play their records was indicted in the “Payola Scandal of 1959”. Both Alan Freed AND D*** Clark were targeted by the federal government. Freed left the profession and Clark continued on with “American Bandstand”. And the stink of payola never went away. (http://www.history-of-rock.com/payola.htm)

I guess Ed Schultz has been nothing more than an infomercial for whoever is paying him at the time. You have to wonder if he is the only one. I doubt it.

Betrayal bought and paid for.

In Illinois, where we own the distinction of having the worst pension problems in the nation, pension participants were short-changed by their employers-state and local governments and school districts-who were not faithfully paying their share into the employees’ retirement fund.

Now, current employees and pensioners have been told that our state government has “fixed” the problem by increasing employee contributions, increasing the retirement age, taking the average of total years of service to determine pension benefits and allowing employees to invest in other types of retirement funds.

For the retirees, their cost of living increases will be a fixed amount per year and not based upon their retirement amount; as I understand it. And I believe that they will also be paying more for less insurance coverage. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/illinois-pension-law-sign_n_4393614.html)

So, in Illinois, there is plenty of bi-partisan betrayal to go around.

Despite all of the depressing, demoralizing and disgusting realities that bombard them daily, firefighters are still responding; knowing that a profession that is intrinsically dangerous is even more so with the latest round of reductions.

In any other profession, with the exception of public safety, an employee would simply seek employment elsewhere.

Firefighters, however, will continue to show up and protect each other as if their lives depend on it, because IT DOES!

They will continue to serve a public that at times is indifferent to the many dangers that firefighters face and will do so without hesitation, because they know that victims need their skilled assistance for the best, possible outcome.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

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Tags: 9/11, chiefreason, firefighters, goodrich, illinois, zadroga

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on January 7, 2014 at 2:10pm

Bobby:

It was a crazy 2013 for me. Starting all over at a new job at age 60 was a real bear. On top of it, I had to learn a new job function all together. Then, I got a new computer, lost all of my contacts and have battled with Windows 8 for the last 3-4 months. I was about to give up writing then discovered Speech Recognition. Plus, I am negotiating with a certain someone to illustrate The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie. I didn't think it was a bad first article after being gone for so long.

Without sounding political, I hope to see less big government in the future.

Comment by Bobby Halton on January 7, 2014 at 12:15pm

Art,

It is great to see you back and in rare form! I think that the Obama care a.k.a. affordable care act issues are an amazing illustration of the law of unintended consequences. When bureaucrats start producing laws that are too long and too complicated for anyone to understand that's the beginning of real problems. We are faced today with far too many bureaucrats. There was tremendous wisdom when James Madison wrote:

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the law be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.  Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?”   - – Federal Papers, #62 

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