City Journal Winter 2016

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Tom Gray
Yesterday’s Heroes? « Back to Story

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72% of America's fire fighters are VOLUNTEERS. These are our TRUE American heroes. Indeed, they'd be DELIGHTED to be paid minimum wage, but they'd do it anyway out of a sense of public service -- a concept long forgotten by today's labor union public employees.
In response to "Jack Russell", what you describe is is closer to a page out of a state road "worker"'s handbook. HOW many people are needed to apply that band aid?. In my own medical history, the local fire department ambulance (TWO, count them only two two EMT's) were needed to transport me to the ER for chest pains. On another occasion, when I needed to be transported from the local hospital into the metro area, it was done by a PRIVATE ambulance company with THREE EMT's total. After a motorcycle accident some years ago, it was only TWO EMT's that back boarded me into the ambulance. I in no way mean to belittle the profession of first responders but you are on thin ice justifying the dispatch of an engine house for a scraped knee.
I don't know the details of the case in San Jose, so I won't address that, but as a Firefighter/Paramedic in the Dallas Metroplex, I'll try to clear up a common misconception about fire apparatus arriving with an ambulance. Each of our firefighters is a paramedic. Each apparatus carries all the same equipment as our ambulances. Though we don't roll fire apparatus to every ambulance calls, we do roll to a good number of them and for good reason. First, often the fire apparatus can arrive before the ambulance, thus saving a good deal of time initiating patient care. Second, on more involved calls, such as CPR, there is a HUGE variety of jobs happening simultaneously. Someone has to intubate the patient and manually perform respirations. Someone has to find veins and get IV sticks. Someone has to stick a bag of saline with the drip set and hang the bag in preperation for attaching the line to the IV stick. Someone has to attache the 12-lead sensors to the patient's body in precise locations to read the heart rhythm, oxygen saturation levels, and blood pressure. Someone has to arrange the multiple cardiac medications and ascertain their expiration date and quantity to be administered. Someone has to verify that the dates and quantities. Someone has to enter all the patient's personal information, medical history, age, full list of prescriptions, allergies, etc. Someone has to position a backboard and get help lifting the patient onto the board and strapping them down while all treatments and vitals are monitored and continued. Without discontinuing care, a minimum of two members of the crew have to lift the backboard with patient and strap to the cot while all medical interventions are going on. Then, move the cot down God knows how many floors and across what sort of landscape to the ambulance, load cot into the back of the ambulance, while 4 members attend to the CPR in progress in the ambulance box, another member has to drive the ambulance and communicate with the ER personnel to have them fully prepared to receive this patient when we arrive in the ER. This is no job for a couple of people in an ambulance. I know some places resort to this, but it is WELL beneath the standard of care. If I had a nickle for every time the engine has arrived first at a medical scene only to have the caller e>>>In San Jose, the Santa Clara County grand jury recently criticized a common type of featherbedding—sending fire trucks and crews to respond to medical emergency calls when an ambulance would suffice—and suggested that firefighters’ unions were more interested in preserving jobs than in efficiency.
>>>In San Jose, the Santa Clara County grand jury recently criticized a common type of featherbedding—sending fire trucks and crews to respond to medical emergency calls when an ambulance would suffice—and suggested that firefighters’ unions were more interested in preserving jobs than in efficiency.>In San Jose, the Santa Clara County grand jury recently criticized a common type of featherbedding—sending fire trucks and crews to respond to medical emergency calls when an ambulance would suffice—and suggested that firefighters’ unions were more interested in preserving jobs than in efficiency.
"but they took big pay CUTS the previous two-three years"

Not exactly. Many corporate executives were given stock options and/or deferred compensation instead of cash. You also have to realize that many executives are contract employees, so these salaries are fixed. Many of the deferred compensation packages are now due, in the midst of flat growth in the financial sector. Therefore, another round of pink slips is eminent.
My issue is this: To all the people who are worried about our children's economic future, why weren't you raising this concern 10 years ago, 20 years ago, even 30 years ago??? The passing of the national debt to future generations was a problem when Nixon was President. Why the hellraising now? Oh I understand; many of you will be retiring soon and realize that no one will be able to afford take care of you.
Pretty simple equation. Non government employees have to work until they are 75 to pay for unionized government workers who can retire at 55. Doesn't pencil out well for us regular citizens. And being a policeman or a firefighter are by no means the most dangerous jobs in the country. That would be loggers.
Let their homes and businesses burn and their neighborhoods sink in a high tide of violent crime.
The fourth paragraph was completely unnecessary.

The point is that police work, firefighting work, and the military cannot be viewed as regular jobs. These are services that brave men and women volunteer for, with the knowledge that if something does happen, their families will be taken care of. It certainly was not meant to have 48 years old "retirees" double dipping while having not a care in the world relative to healthcare costs.
For all those that have commented that do not believe fire and police deserve their pensions, please provide your full name and address so you may be placed on a list to be excluded should you need either service.
Mr. Gray nails the problem well. But let me point out something. I spent a career as a city and county manager in three different western states. Many's the time that I took heat from the press for being too anti-union when I opposed outrageous union demands. And then too from the public who depended on the press to understand what the issues were. There's room for lots of blame to go around on this issue and weak and dissimulating politicians get their share. But the 4th Estate failed hugely to inform the public as to what was going on. It's own pro-union bias often the cause of their failure; sometimes just ignorance or laziness.
Excellent article. Let me just add that GREED HAS CONSEQUENCES. It is all but assured that many of California's (and other States and Cities) Plans will fail withing the next 5 years.
And the Feds will NOT be coming to the rescue.
Be prepared to get comments such as "remember 9/11" and "you could not pass the test". IN Bridgeport Ct there is a test today for 15 openings- almost 3000 trying out. It cant be THAT hard. The chief in the newspaper was bragging that you can make more money than a degreed person with pension and OT.. LOL
The reason this was made, wake up California:
Firemen especially have been the one job that seems unaffected by technology. Building codes have reduced fires by 90% since WWII, but headcount has actually increased. By adding EMT(which many people do in rural areas part time, my cohort in IT security does it in a town with 30K pop for free and is certified)they have tried to justify themselves but it is expensive to send a truck with 3 people to every fenderbender. In NYC EMT and Firemen have had fistfights as to who would be the first responder- while the injured party is lying there. Incredible as the job is almost like a blacksmith and much nepotism in getting the job
William R. Barker July 01, 2011 at 1:27 PM
The ultimate solution is to simple outlaw pensions.

Same with benefits.

Of course 99.8% of the population would react in horror to the proposition, but properly explained, I'm guessing the average American would "get" it.

Pay a wage. Call it compensation. Wage = Compensation. Period.

Wages would be higher...

Tax receipts would grow...

Wage earners would become more aware of taxes and react accordingly...

With everyone forced to enter the free market for insurance and investments, the invisible hand would react by lowering prices and increasing value across the board...

Ultimately Americans would once again be put in charge of their own lives.
This is generational theft..pure and simple. This is not just a moral crisis of the first order, this is the moral crisis of our age. We are collectively endangering our children's economic futures without giving them the slightest say in the matter. We are doing this systematically and with malice aforethought. Worst of all, we are pretending not to notice. Shame on the unions and their crony toadie union politicians that have sacrificed our children's future by consuming future budgets for the next 30 years. Los Angeles is predicted to be BANKRUPT by 2014, San Francisco by 2016….as entire budgets are swept to pay the new $100k – 300k for life for folks retiring in their 50’s and on the take for 20 – 35 years plus free medical (that does a millionaire make and does not represent “middle class”) these unions have created the new elite – the new bourgeois - by clearly gaming and bribing the system to enrich themselves over our children and future. Pathetic….and shame on the politicians for enabling them and accepting the bribes.
Whew! Now it's time for Seattle to see what our guys have done to us...
Just allow the citizen to carry a .40 cal pistol and 90% of cops are unnecessary .I can protect myself.And I dont need the extorsionists demanding $100 if I dont "click-it". If there is an actual accident then a cop can perform a useful service. $25/hr is enough for than
gearge hayduke,M.D. July 01, 2011 at 12:20 PM
I saw a full fire crew,ambulance,and police respond to a simple bee sting in Carmel. They insisted on further increasing the $$$$$$$ in costs they had already heaped on the scene by taking the kid to the hospital for a few thousand more in the ER. This was a simple non-allergic bee sting which required NOTHING. AT most,a 5cent benadryl or $10 epi would have sufficed. And that is why we are broke....stupid wasteful unnecessary spending and and CYA
The reason these HEROES receive this pay is because no one would walk in their shoes for minimum wage. The "average city pension", other than these HEROES, does not include people who get shot at or run in burning buildings. Remember, you get what you pay for. Research other agencies nationwide that pay less and look at the amount of corruption or simply poor service they provide. If you want to make these HEROES obsolete, stop calling them. Next time some lovely, wrongfully accused person who was "just about to turn his life around" decides to victimize you, deal with it yourself. Or, just call your local McDonald's and have a minimum wage person handle your emergency situation. With the lack of call volume, the police and fire would have to cut positions until they were eventually gone. Presto! Problem solved.
Read Plunderby Steven Greenhut. These firemen are visible but only the tip of an iceberg which has struck and is sinking the California Ship of State. The administrators who approve of this get many of the same benefits they pass. They are the foxes guarding the henhouse. NO agreement should be able to be approved by any council or administrator. Somehow, an independent 3rd party has to be the judge.
If police and Fire unions don't wake up and forego 3@50,they will become obsolete. Public companies are beginning to bid for police and fire contracts at half the cost. They provide state certified fire and police with no Calpers.
I did a study of the CEO pay of the S&P 500. If you cut their salaries in HALF and that savings was passed on to consumers, the price of such goods and services would drop 0.03%. That's THREE ONE-HUNDREDTHS OF ONE PERCENT.

To put some perspective on what that amounts to, I compared it to the San Diego sales tax -- largely used to pay and overpay public employees. The sales tax cost consumers over 290 times more than the supposedly excessive CEO pay. And that's just the sales tax.
Yes, CEO's got big pay increases last year -- but they took big pay CUTS the previous two-three years -- and quite a number were canned. Somehow that never makes it into the stories.

Not that CEOs' pay voluntarily disbursed by the company owners is relevant to what we are FORCED to pay for our "public servants." Government workers took little or no net pay cuts during the recession -- while job security generally was top rate regardless of performance.
It's sadly humorous to watch the TV crime and firefighter TV shows and listen to them trying to get by on their low pay and modest pensions. It really is a make-believe world -- on film, on TV and down at the fire and police stations.
Gilbert W. Chapman June 30, 2011 at 9:16 PM
While I am definitely not pro-union, "Mary of NYC" does have a point . . .

Particularly when it was recently reported in the Wall Street Journal that the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) of the S&P 500 companies received something like a 15% increase in compensation last year.

Now, the S&P 500 companies include banks and other financial institutions, right? And, yet the boards of directors felt these CFO's who brought on the Great Recession deserve raises.

For some reason, I'd rather see a police officer or fire fighter receiving a $100,000 pension, than some irresponsible CFO ripping off stock holders and the American public for billions of dollars.

Just think two companies: Goldman and Bank of America.
To whine and bemoan the working man's finances and status in this economy has become quite en vogue. Huzzah to US for knocking the downtrodden masses that have earned minimal city wages for YEARS. Now that our poor liberal gliterati have lost their Silicone Valley and Wall Street jobs, their hefty Christmas bonuses and stock portfolios, now lets attack and demean those that care for our sorry souls in good times as well as in bad. Next up?