Social Question

jerv's avatar

How do you feel about emergency services becoming entirely fee-based?

Asked by jerv (31032points) October 4th, 2010

In Tennessee, a homeowner watched his house burn down as firefighters did nothing because he didn’t pay a $75 fee.

Are we now *so*capitalistic that everything is for sale, even stuff that should be free or covered by our taxes? Basic medical care has already become a commodity; what’s next?

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66 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I have read a lot of answers on this site from people who don’t want to pay taxes, but would rather have everything paid for by fees. This is just a natural consequence of no tax people.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Well, i dont know what to say. this is just disgusting. shame on them and shame on everyone who had a hand in it.

Also, ignore the money, what about other people on the street? fire is not exactly known for staying put. If i lived next to this guy and my house was fire damaged even slightly, and i had paid, i would sue the living crap out of them.

This is the kind of irresponsible, greedy, stupid crap that will lead to our downfal as a species.

There should be a law that forces them to act, they can then consider the $75 an official debt. you can then raise the mans taxes or take it out of his pension $1 a month or something.

downtide's avatar

I think this is disgusting, but people have brought it on themselves by refusing to accept taxes. This is what taxes pay for.

Pandora's avatar

That is ridiculous and horrible. Shame on them all. Its ridiculous how we pay road tax, car taxes, county taxes, city taxes and state and federal taxes, property taxes and somehow we still can’t seem to have money for the fire department without having to pay an extra fee. I can understand why he may have wanted to take a stand. Unfortunately it was the wrong stand. The mayor should be fired. And I hope he gets a lot of money by suing the city.
So does the ambulance run over your body in tennesse if you are lying on the road and have no cash on hand or didn’t pay a fee? Another state I am glad not to live in. These days it feels like each state is in competition for the most selfish bastard state there is.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Ok, how is a fee any different from taxes? I mean, sure, taxes has a couple extra letters, a t, an a, an x, and an s that fee doesn’t, but fee has an extra e AND an f.

But really, is there any difference?

downtide's avatar

@papayalily if you pay the tax, probably less than $75 of it would go towards the fire service (and the rest would be divided amongst other services like police, refuse collection, schools etc). But if you pay tax, the fire service would come out to you as often as you needed, whether that was none or several times. So it’s more like an insurance than a fee; you may be wasting your money but if you DO need the service at all you’‘d end up paying a lot less than if you had to pay for it directly.

The man who refused to pay $75 was insane. Unless his house and all its contents really were worth less than $75.

jrpowell's avatar

Part of me wonders how the firefighters could sit while a home burns down. What if there was a kid inside? Would they let the kid die because the parents didn’t pay the 75 bucks? They had the means to put out the fire and were there. I always thought firefighters were the good guys that that risked their lives to protect us. I guess they don’t care and McDonalds wasn’t hiring.

poisonedantidote's avatar

A side thought, have the squirrels paid up their $75? if not, what are they going to do if the forest catches alight.

lillycoyote's avatar

@papayalily Sometimes we pay taxes in order to build and support something that we all use all the time like roads, e.g. Sometimes the taxes we pay are more like paying on an insurance policy. We could go our whole lives without ever needing firemen to come save our houses but we pay taxes in order to support them so that they are there in case we need them. And, because it’s something that decent, civilized people do. We support thing, through our taxes, that benefit not only ourselves and our own family but our neighbors and our community and our country and the world as well.

Frenchfry's avatar

That is a bunch of bullshit. It makes me mad. Who pays for the salary? The government, right?. Fire them all!!!

iamthemob's avatar

There are certain tasks in our society that are properly relegated to the government. Emergency services is absolutely one of them. However the revenue is raised, the services must be provided without regard to the individual receiving the services. Even though we know that some people will pay more, others less…this is one of the things that I believe most questioned would agree that such uneven distribution of payment is worth the price of knowing that, whenever your life, property, etc. is subjected to immediate danger from forces outside your control, emergency responders will not ask you how you’re going to foot the bill before they start CPR, or turn on their hoses.

perspicacious's avatar

I didn’t read the article but I know that some rural communities with volunteer FD require an annual fee. The service has to be paid for by either tax or fees.

Zyx's avatar

Communism isn’t looking so bad now, is it?

Pandora's avatar

Hmmm, I wonder if you have a sinking business in Tennessee if you can get away with not paying a fee and then burn your place down? After all, what fireman is going to go in and call it arson if they won’t even throw water on your place? Great day for crooks!

jrpowell's avatar

@perspicacious :: In our rural communities we have volunteer Fire Departments. I have never heard of them watching a house burn.

Pandora's avatar

@johnpowell True. I knew a volunteer fire fighter and they would just go about door to door taking donations once a year. The police do that too. I never heard them say that, if you don’t pay we can’t protect you. That would be sad. I use to give donations to the police and fire department in my old neighborhood, but then I stopped giving when my husband would donate cash via, speeding tickets. Lets not forget that little source of financial support. In my old town they handed out speeding tickets like it was candy going out of style.

jrpowell's avatar

@Pandora :: In my liberal, tax loving, city of Eugene the firefighters go out with a boot in hand to collect money for supplies in the middle of traffic. It is pathetic. Pathetic for us, not them.

rts486's avatar

This is obviously a case of bureaucracy gone crazy. On the other hand, I’m tired of paying taxes so people can call 911 after doing something incredibly stupid. There is a case in my area where a group of 16–22 years olds go to the emergency room every weekend after copying the stunts from “Jackass”. They call 911 for an ambulance, go to the local emergency room and are treated for broken bones and other injuries. They are all unemployed, have no medical insurance, and do nothing but think up ways to hurt themselves. Then they go to the hospital at the tax payers’ expense. Some of these guys brag about having broken over a dozen bones during their stunts. All at the tax payers’ expense.

JLeslie's avatar

Well that is outrageous. I actually live in TN and I pay around $42 every month on my utility bill for fire services. I once brought up at a town meeting adding it to property taxes, so we can write it off of our federal tax, and everyone went into a tizzy that I wanted to raise taxes. I actually wanted to pay less overall money, but they just didn’t get what I was asking, one board member, or whatever they are called came up tp me after the meeting and said, “don’t worry I will always vote against more taxes.” this is what I am dealing with here, knee jerk no’s. Although, I do want to mention the mayor did completely understand what I meant.

Now, back to the artcile, the homeowner said he didn’t think if he failed to pay that the fire department would actuakly let his house burn down. It didn’t seem like he was unable to pay due to a financial hardship, so the owner sucks also.

Janka's avatar

What it does make me feel is happy to be Scandinavian…

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I think you now know why I am so cynical; too many years around people like that. What I find sick here is the discriminatory nature of such a flat fee. That $75 is about a days pay for me, but not even pocket change to people like my parents. When are we just going to be more honest in this country and just start euthanizing/exterminating everybody who earns less than $50k/yr?

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I think in my town they base the fee on property value, so people in more expensive houses pay more.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie And what about those who rent from a property owner who doesn’t pay?

The_Idler's avatar

Further down the spiral….

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@lillycoyote You don’t have to talk me into taxes, I think this is stupid. I just mean, if you pay a fee for firefighters, and for police, and for EMTs, and for public schools, and for the library, etc, then what exactly is different about fees except that you know exactly how much money is going to each place? I mean, it sounds exactly like taxes to me but where you write more than one check. And that seems to defeat the purpose of not paying taxes.

lillycoyote's avatar

@papayalily Yeah, sorry about that one my friend. I actually got up this morning thinking about how patronizing my response to you was, that it didn’t actually address what you said and that it was probably more than unnecessary.

iamthemob's avatar

@lillycoyote – when people play nice like you just did, this site actually makes me happy!

lillycoyote's avatar

@iamthemob I try to, though I don’t always succeed. so people like you and my friend @papayalily will stick around.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv Good question. First, it is hard or me to believe the fire department would just let a house burn down even if they hadn’t paid, even though we see an example of it in this article. I have no idea what the consequences are for not paying, since I have always been able to pay I never investigated it. Second, I have no idea if you can stipulate that you are not paying for the fire service, but are paying for the rest of the utility bill. I guess maybe you can do that? If you can’t, then if you don’t pay your bill you lose gas, electric, and water. They are right wing enough where I live to possibly think like the city described in the article, but my county is generally blue in a sea of red, and we pay our dues to the county fire department; although that might change, there was an article just last week in my towns monthly newsletter that the are reevaluating our fire services. Now I know to ask the question what happens if someone doesn’t pay.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@lillycoyote No worries. Sometimes it’s late but we still write stuff.

Brian1946's avatar

I think it’s a dangerous idea, at least as the policy was applied in this case, especially in terms of the harm it can do to others in the area, regardless of whether they’ve paid the fee.

In this case the fire spread to the adjacent property of an owner who paid the fee.

Other considerations could be:

What if there are explosives or a leaking gas line in the house of origin?

The air pollution from a Class A fire is bad enough, but there could be numerous hazardous materials involved that could create a toxic, drifting cloud, and just like fire, clouds of pollution aren’t concerned about whether a fee has been paid.

What if there’s a future event involving an escaped murderer and the police?

What if the murderer breaks into a house whose residents haven’t paid the police services fee? Will the police do nothing, even if the victims offer to somehow pay them to prevent being murdered?

When the police are pursuing a suspect, they shouldn’t have to stop to check billing records to see whether they’re financially authorized to deal with a deadly situation at one location or another.

Pandora's avatar

Why don’t they simply just charge every insurance company a small fee. If you think about it, whenever the fire department saves a home or pulls someone out of a wrecked car they are saving the insurance company a great deal of money.
And what happens if someone genuinely forgets to pay that 75 dollars. With so many taxes and fees, is it any wonder that any get forgotten.
What happens to the person who has an illness and hasn’t gotten around to paying it or the bill that got lost in the mail. They are just out of luck if their house catches fire? Who pays for an apartment building? Do they charge per unit?
This fee is stupid. I’m willing to bet someone just lines their pockets with the money. Probably the mayor himself. Thats why he was not sympathetic. He didn’t get his cut. I swear this smells like a shake down. Thugs in suits, that is all they are. I believe the mob called it protection money. No different in my opinion.

Pandora's avatar

@johnpowell I’ve seen them do that in other places as well. Yes it is a shame they have to beg for money. I certainly am not saying that they shouldn’t get funding. I just think that the big wigs that sit in city hall collecting probably 3 to 4 times the amount of a fire fighter should get less money and then there will be more for the firefighters. Look at most agencies and you will see that they are top heavy. Meaning to many chiefs and not enough Indians. So whenever they need more Indians they tell the Indians to beg for their money while the big chiefs have expensive dinners on the publics dime. I use to work for a branch of a city hall and so I knew a lot of the head staff. At least once a month they would have 1 meeting a week and have it catered. That cost easily 300 just for the small food. Every holiday they would throw a big gathering for awards and gifts and have catering with drinks and invite family and friends. The hall cost about 500 and the catering was another 500 to 1000 more. Not to mention the gifts they would give out. There always seemed to be an occasion for a gathering. Yet they would constantly lay people off and give no one any real pay raise except for themselves. Not to mention all the free services they would provide for friends of the city. Now keep in mind that this is in a small town of about 15000 people. Imagine the waste of money in larger towns.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora Great analogy.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah thanks. If you can’t tell this really peeves me off. I mean what happens if a little girl is floating down a river. Are they going to look and see if her parents paid the fire and rescue people? Do they say. Tought luck little girl, your folks didn’t pay. Give me a break. I hope the mayor forgets to pay his 75 dollars and they let his house burn down. Jerk wad.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora That makes me wonder, did they check to make sure no one, or no animals were inside? Or, just watched it burn? It said in the article the fire fighters were doing their job. This is like Katrina to me. That idiot governor never asked for federal help, so constitutionaly Bush could not go into the state. But, I think he should have went anyway and deal with the consequences after the fact, because people were dying and it was for the public good. The spirit of that right/law in our constitution was not to keep people out of the state when help is needed. This is the same, a house is burning, the fire can spread, it is for the public good, the fire truck and fire fighters are already there willing and able, they should help. One of many ironies are these same people talk about being charitable all of the time. Hell, TN is the volunteer state. Yet, they let that happen.

lillycoyote's avatar

I think fire departments get their funding in different ways, depending on their circumstances. With cities I think it’s pretty straight forward but it gets more problematic elsewhere. I’m guess here, that the city of South Fulton is the closest fire department in the area where this happened and it funds it’s fire department from it’s municipal tax base. It wouldn’t have the authority to levy taxes on non-residents, those in the outlying area, so it has to charge a fee.

lillycoyote's avatar

@JLeslie I think the family pets died in the fire.

Edit:

This article mentions that 3 dogs and a cat died in the fire.

jrpowell's avatar

@JLeslie I found this.

“If somebody is trapped in the house we’re going to go because life safety is number one but we can’t give the service away,” Edmison said. “It’s not South Fulton’s problem. It’s not Union City’s problem. It’s the county’s problem. There is no county fire department.”

I’m not really sure how to read that.

Pandora's avatar

@johnpowell, Either way. They could’ve gone in and then charge a fee larger than the 75 dollars for what it cost them in man power and gas and for the hours. If you call 911 falsely, you pay a fine. They could’ve fined him and still saved his house. If they charged him like 5000 dollars than other people will be more inclined to pay the fee, than take the chance of being fined.

jerv's avatar

One thing I miss abut NH is the volunteer fire departments. Sure, they may not have the best equipment, but they were closer (and thus able to arrive a good 15–30 minutes before the city FD) and weren’t in it for the money.

@Pandora That makes too much sense to ever happen.

JLeslie's avatar

@lillycoyote That makes me sick. I agree with @Pandora they should have billed something after the fact if they have this attitude. Maybe not $5K, but certainly fees for water usage, gas, time spent, etc.

Pandora's avatar

@jerv Everytime I think that society can’t sink any lower. They don’t dissappoint! Have we reached slug status or have we gone below yet?

jrpowell's avatar

@Pandora :: I’m not justifying their actions. What I posted was a quote. I just thought it added some context.

This sums it up nicely.

Pandora's avatar

@johnpowell, Pretty swell. I was pretty close to the actual cost. LOL

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell But the labor is exagerated in my opinion. They are totalling up the cost of hours spent and salaries paid I guess, but those men are being paid whether they put out a fire or not I would assume. If $75 was enough to meet the budget of the needed funds for the fire department, then I still find $5K excessive.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie You have to remember that you aren’t paying for a one time thing. For the fire department to function, it has to be available 24–7, 365 days a year. Running a building and paying for up keep isn’t cheap. When you hire an electrictian he has over head. You aren’t just paying for his time. He bills you for keeping his service available because he isn’t going to be busy everyday. He has to account for his slow time as well. The cost of his building rent, his tools that have to be renewed and of course his actual time, cell phone for you to call him, his gas, his work truck. All that is considered in his bill. If people only paid when they needed the firefighters than the cost to maintain would be more per incident.

JLeslie's avatar

@pandora I agree. That is why it should be a tax. People are too stupid, so mommy (the government) needs to make sure her children don’t completely screw themselves, because they are too ignorant and idealistic to realize the possible consequences of their actions.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Alright, I’ve thought about it. At first, I felt like the firefighters were just douchebags for not going “ok, if you’ll pay the fee right now, in cash, we’ll be in there in 30 seconds”. Maybe up it to 100 bucks. But now, upon learning that 3 dogs and a cat died in the fire, even though the animals can’t pay for the service and have nothing to do with it, I’m now of the opinion that these firefighters are MONSTERS for giving so little a shit about life. At what point did these animals stop being living creatures to them?

Really, I think I’d be pretty ok if a few townspeople threw some tomatoes at these firefighters.

jerv's avatar

@papayalily Sadly, in the eyes of the law, animals are property and not living beings.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@jerv And I find that to be monstrous. Especially since the firefighters could have chosen to save the animals then, and then get a slap on the wrist later.

talljasperman's avatar

do the criminals have to pay for their arrests from the police… if they refuse to pay do they get let go…. I’ve heard rumors of prisons collecting restitution from inmates for the length of their stay… has anyone else heard that?...with the Firefighters charging $75 technicality means that I can charge a lower rate and become my own firefighter…seeing its being privatized

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@talljasperman Yeah, I’ve heard that. And experienced it (although, it was just… what’s the one where they lock you up if you skip out on a parking ticket and they want you to go to the court date with the magistrate? Jail or prison?). It’s part of why our prison system is a giant clusterfuck.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder how much people typically pay for fire protection services in the US? This article talks about a fee of $75 a year, I pay around $500, and I always thought it was high, but never researched it.

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie The amount of the fee charged for registering for fire protection is not related to the amount paid by the taxpayers for that same protection. That’s why it’s called a fee and not a tax. (semantics in my opinion)

iamthemob's avatar

@YARNLADY

It’s not really semantics, since the fee is optional – the effects of which led to this.

YARNLADY's avatar

@iamthemob Ahh, good point. Thank you.

iamthemob's avatar

@YARNLADY – I hope the smiley and friendly emoticons came through in my tone.

JLeslie's avatar

My girlfriend who lives in Atlanta pays $200 on her property tax bill for fire protection services. I seriously think I am getting ripped off.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie Well, I suppose you could always stage a protest and have the fire department just watch when your house burns down ;p

JLeslie's avatar

@papayalily I’m not thinking protest, I’m thinking investigation into just how much profit the fire department is making off of the people of my town, and how much the other people who utlize their services pay who live in the next city. Make sure we are not getting rooked.

Pandora's avatar

@papayalily I agree. They wouldn’t have all gotten fired. Just probably a lecture. And I agree. I understand that animals are considered property, but they are live things and its a cruel way to die. I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy or any living thing. I would understand if they wouldn’t go in and risk their lives for the animals, but, really. They could’ve thrown some water on the house and broken some windows, giving them a chance to go escape. Not to mention that it was a big risk they took. We recently had a fire in my town that quickly burned down 3 houses. The first house went up and burnt to the ground in less than an hour. The other two houses had some considerable damage because winds carried the flames to their homes and they caught fire quickly. And that was with several fire departments there at the time. They were lucky nothing else went up while they were watching the place burn down.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Pandora I didn’t read the entire article, but I suppose that you could have a policy to only save the houses that paid the fee. Although, I would think that letting the fire get that big would cost much more than $75 in resources to fight a fire consuming multiple buildings.

@JLeslie Probably a better course of action.

lillycoyote's avatar

@JLeslie If you can point to a single fire company, if you have any evidence that any fire company, anywhere in the world, is “making a profit” I would like to see it.

JLeslie's avatar

@lillycoyote I have no real knowledge of the fire protection business and the financials. Could be interesting to find out.

GeorgeGee's avatar

While I’m sad to see someone’s house burn down or animals die in a fire, the owner is the only one to blame here. Let’s just suppose the town said that everyone must cough up $75 or we can’t buy a fire truck? So Joe Homeowner decides to let everyone else pay but he’s “special.” So there is no truck, and his house burns down. How is this different? The system was explained up front, and he chose not to participate. His actions alone led to the situation. Other folks worked to set up a firefighting service and an equitable way to staff and support it.

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