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Competitive Whinging

June 16, 2009

Elizabeth Bernstein at the Wall Street Journal has hit on something here.  In today’s column she notes that water cooler griping was once a form of commiseration among beleaguered colleagues, but has now become competitive with each of us trying to outdo the others.

No doubt the times they are a-tryin’.  But we’re clearly in this together, whether we like it or not.

Yesterday, a friend’s Facebook status update indicated he was writing an editorial about the Administration’s proposed cuts to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.  In short order, several people added their comments bemoaning the cuts and adding their voices to the chorus of the aggrieved.  Each seemed to take the cuts personally, and many not only took offense at the cuts but also saw some sinister intent at play.

In truth, the Obama Administration has proposed a $400 million cut in the AFG program.  At the same time, it has proposed a doubling of another key fire service program called SAFER taking it from $210 million to $420 million.  Meanwhile, fire departments got another $210 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the Stimulus Package).  By my count, this puts them ahead by $10 million.

When I brought this to everyone’s attention, they still weren’t happy.  “Democratic math,” they called it.  Look at all the money they’re shoveling towards Wall Street and the car compaines, they said.

While I would prefer not to see so much money committed to paying for more firefighters and fire stations rather than programs that encourage mitigation and prevention or support volunteers, I am not inclined to complain too loudly.  The decision to put more money into these programs clearly represents an effort by the Administration to give firefighters and mayors what they’ve been asking for: money for job retention and creation.

We could complain that the Administration is just trying to make everyone happy, but the evidence suggests otherwise.  It seems among firefighters, at least, that everyone is unhappy.  Perhaps this proves what they often say in Washington, D.C., a policy that offends everyone is probably the best option.

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