Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Burn Baby Burn

Gene Cranick’s house burned down in Obion County, Tennessee. Fires take place every day, but Cranick’s house burned down because he hadn’t paid a yearly $75 fee for fire protection. It sounds a bit like mafia extortion, but rural Obion County residents living outside of the city limits have to pay for emergency protection, something which ought to be a public service. In Cranick’s case, fire fighters literally stood by and watched as his home and his dogs and cats went up in flames.

The story has sparked outrage, but is part of a larger trend. Across the country, accident victims are being charged for emergency service, usually fire department response. Unlike Cranick, they do get the service, but receive bills later.

If this disgraceful state of affairs isn’t proof of the end of civil society I don’t know what is. Americans can no longer count on being protected by their government. Tennessee is a low tax, and therefore low service state. Cranick’s predicament is the natural outcome of right wing ideology run amuck. I think I will stay in high tax New York.

Not only are citizens charged for fire service, but some are sent to jail when they don’t show up for debt related court appearances. Clayton County Georgia eliminated its bus service and Boulder, Colorado no longer lights the streets at night. Camden, New Jersey can’t keep its libraries open and the state of Hawaii has cut the number of school days.

There isn’t even a veneer of a social contract any longer. The ruling class rules, steals our public resources, and we are left with nothing, not even an expectation of a fire department doing its job. It is clear that America is an empire, and it is beginning to crumble. The recession that causes localities to deprive people of essential services won’t end any time soon. It is more than a recession, it is the beginning of something far worse, and we will all suffer because of it.