The Price of Bravery

Criticizing firefighters in New York City is like saying unicorns are boring and rainbows are gay, so we”€™re going to have to start this with an analogy.

Ahem, what if someone saved your life a bunch of years ago and then asked if they could move in? Sure, right? Okay, what if they insisted all their brothers and cousins move in too? Er, you”€™d maybe ask him “€œwhy?”€ But before you could, he”€™d point his huge finger in your face and explain none of these guys would hesitate to save your life. Alright, so now they”€™re all sitting around, eating you out of house and home and you”€™re going broke. As you try to explain you can no longer afford this, they tell you they”€™re going to need even MORE money. Apparently sitting around the house all day is dangerous and it’s affecting their health. As you shake your head and wonder how you got into this mess, you notice they”€™re using your kids as furniture. “€œUm, could you get off my son? I don”€™t think he can breathe,”€ you ask. “€œShut it!”€ you”€™re told, “€œI”€™m the only one here who knows CPR so I”€™ll handle it if he stops breathing. Get back to work! We need more freeze-dried pork briquettes!”€

This is essentially what American firefighters are doing. They are taking the fact they bravely provide a service and shoving it in your face until you suffocate. A New York Post article recently pointed out 80 percent of firefighters are retiring on a disability pension (in 2008 it was 90 percent). “€œDisability”€ means they get their 100k a year tax-free and if they die, their spouses get the money until they die. As the Post points out, this usually runs the taxpayer about two million dollars per firefighter’s retired lifetime; not bad for getting paid to sleep for twenty years.

In defense of The Post‘s allegations, Al Hagen, the mustachioed president of the Uniformed Fire Officers, dragged out the usual crummy lines firefighters like to tell us. “€œFirefighting is an extraordinarily dangerous job,”€ he said. “€œWe only hope that our members who retired under the disability long enough to enjoy those pensions.”€
The irony of this statement is it’s the disability pensions that started the “€œdangerous job”€ myth in the first place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighting is NOT an “€œextraordinarily dangerous job”€ at all. A mere six percent of fatal occupation injuries are Protective Service (police, firefighters, etc). The two most dangerous jobs in America are “€œtransportation and material moving”€ at 26 percent and “€œconstruction and extraction”€ at 19 percent.

To add insult to injury, CalPERS (the California Public Employees Retirement System) recently pointed out firefighters live exactly as long as the average American male. This crap about dying early is a mantra for every union man in the country. Go ask a guy who lays pipe for the city why he deserves $50 an hour plus time-and-a-half for overtime, plus double time-and-a-half for holidays, plus the ability to retire at 40, plus a pension based on his last year worked (which was the year he went bananas on overtime), plus a tax-free disability pension because he claims to have some affliction we can”€™t disprove… ask him about all that and he”€™ll tell you he’s going to die soon anyway. One union electrician told me, “€œLook it up. It’s a fact.”€

“The firefighters love it because the sirens say, ‘Whoooop Whooooop”€”We”€™re here”€”We”€™re doing stuff”€”you need us’ and we love it because, wait, we don”€™t. How about one of the half-dozen vehicles headed to the call says to the dispatcher, “€œIt’s cool guys, I got this,”€ and we all save a few million dollars a year?”

Well, I did look it up. Turns out this whole ridiculous story started with a 1999 article written by Police Policy Councilman Thomas Aveeni. He claims their lives (police lives, not electricians nor pipe layers) must be short because so many of them are on disability pensions. This mindless conjecture became a fact unions from coast to coast have been using to take more than all of our money. Can you wrap your head around this yet? Firefighters justify their exorbitant pensions by saying they”€™re going to die soon and this explanation is based on their exorbitant pensions.

Now, I realize they saved thousands of lives on 9-11. That was a phenomenally heroic day in their history and they should be proud. I didn”€™t even cringe when I saw them in every bar in New York for the rest of September clad head-to-toe in their fancy uniforms and French kissing all the horny women who wanted to show their gratitude. This is what men do. But how long do we have to drop to our knees and say thank you? New York City is 40 billion dollars short on this imminent pension explosion. Civil servants bankrupted California and they”€™re about to do the same to New York. It’s our children who are really going to be hit by this debt. Stop sitting on my kid fatso!

All these bills force you to ask yourself: do we really need all these firemen? 70 percent of the firehouses in America are volunteer and there’s no evidence they are any worse than the ones putting us in the poor house. I”€™ve lived in New York for ten years now and have witnessed a total of three fires. During these ten years I have heard at least two or three deafening sirens a day. That’s almost four thousand alarms per fire. About a month ago I said, “€œscrew this,”€ and ran outside to chase one of these gigantic red beasts. They were storming up Lafayette Street like the sky was falling and were one of about seven city vehicles. (By the way, it’s not unusual in New York to get ten firefighters, five cops, and three EMT for every teen who faints on a field trip to the museum”€”seriously, my wife works there.)

Eventually, we all ended up on Spring Street where a dozen firemen blocked off the street and some EMT workers from the two ambulances on the scene casually walked into a nearby restaurant. I held in my rage and cheerily asked the fireman what was going on. He told me a guy choked on a sandwich but was fine now. I asked why you need a fire truck for that, and all he said was “€œFirst response.”€ He was referring, of course, to the law that says anyone who hears an emergency call and is qualified to handle it has to get the hell over there. Firemen know CPR so, if they hear of a lodged piece of bread, they all pile into the truck on the off chance one of the ambulances doesn”€™t make it. The firefighters love it because the sirens say, “€œWhoooop Whooooop”€”We”€™re here”€”We”€™re doing stuff”€”you need us”€ and we love it because, wait, we don”€™t love it. We hate its guts. Here’s an idea: How about one of the half-dozen vehicles headed to the call says to the dispatcher, “€œIt’s cool guys, I got this,”€ and we all save a few million dollars a year?

I can see one of these huge goombahs look up from the steak dinner he’s making for the guys (for $50 an hour) and say, “€œLet’s see how much he hates us when his house is on fire. Who’s he gonna call then, the Ghostbusters?”€ Yes, wiseass, I do concede we need firemen. My beef is you have taken that basic truth, and milked it and milked it until it can be milked no more. Nobody’s saying firefighters shouldn”€™t exist. They”€™re saying, firefighters, as they exist today, are an unsustainable scam we can no longer afford to fall for. So, New York’s Bravest, get out of my apartment, get off my kids, and don”€™t come back unless there’s a fire. An actual fire. Like, with flames and shit.



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