I usually write to the Providence Journal in defense of the Providence Firefighters and our union when some politician or taxpayer writes and complains that we are too greedy or privileged. I defend the job we do as Providence Firefighters and point out the hazards we face on a daily basis. I point out the fact that we are understaffed and under paid for the type of work we do. I show that many of the popular beliefs regarding firefighters in general, and Providence Firefighters in particular, are simply negative stereotypes placed on us by these same politicians and disgruntled taxpayers.
I need to state that I am tired of the abuse put upon us by these vocal opponents. As for their taxes going up as a result of our pay raises and benefits – so what? I don’t mean that in an uncaring or “in your face” type of way, but rather in a true question of why that makes us any different than the rest of the working population. The same taxpayer who complains about public unions causing a rise in his taxes may very well work for Coca-Cola or some other soft drink manufacturer for example. He/she may have just received a 5% raise and an increase in company benefits that cause the company to raise their prices to distributors. He/she may work for Wal-Mart and may have just received a raise due to the raising of minimum wage or have just qualified for company benefits because they’ve begun to work over 20 hours per week. Either way, when enough of these workers have their compensation elevated it begins to cut into corporate profits, causing the company to raise prices for the products the rest of us have to purchase. This is the way our economy works.
He/she may be a retired person who supplements his/her retirement income with money earned from dividends and investments. This person follows his investments very carefully and dumps any assets that are not earning him the maximum profit. These are the shareholders that corporate executives claim are the reason that justifies corporate greed. He/she may very well be an over-paid and incredibly over-compensated Editor for the Providence Journal writing about the Providence Firefighters’ burden on the City’s taxpayers while sailing on his private yacht to Long Island or the Caribbean. Then, after putting us in our place, he dictates a memo to the appropriate department at ProJo stating that the newspaper is going to discontinue printing obituaries for free – corporate profits have been under performing.
Why is it that the only people who get blamed for the rising cost of living are government employees? People seem to notice that when a firefighter or policeman or teacher get a raise because the politicians talk about raising taxes. They fail to tell the taxpayers that all the other costs of providing those services have also risen and that is a major reason that the costs are up – heating fuel, gasoline, electricity, vehicles, equipment, etc. Why isn’t the public up in arms when their oil company driver gets a dollar-an-hour raise and their oil company raises their price a penny a gallon? Utility prices rise because of many different factors – employee raises and corporate greed among them. These increased prices force a landlord of a strip mall to raise his rent to the four or five small businesses eeking out a living there. These businesses are forced to raise their prices to keep up with their increased fees. The consumers ultimately pick up the tab for all increases. Every increase of business expense has a reciprocal effect – such is the case with government expenses also.
It’s time for politicians and taxpayers and editors to stop accusing government employees of being the cause of all our financial problems. Governmental wasteful spending should be sought out and eliminated. No one wants to have to pay for patronage jobs or unnecessary positions, but it is not good policy to cut spending at the expense of hard-working, dedicated employees. Especially when these people are the ones that are shouldering the daily duties that are necessary to keep the rest of us safe from harm.
Lt. Tom Kenney
Providence Fire Department