Can budget cuts lead to tragedy? Draconian budget cuts have real life consequences.

>>> we talk a lot about budget battles on this show, whether it’s wisconsin, washington or all across the country. but i want ewe to know this isn’t just about facts and figures. real numbers have real consequences. sometimes a teacher gets paid $5,000 less a year, as happened in wisconsin and they can’t afford to take their kids on vacation anymore. well, sometimes it’s even worse. some of our current spending cuts have been so extreme, they have cut to the core of what our government is supposed to provide. remember, the government’s core mission is to protect its citizens. everyone can agree to that. conservatives and liberals alike. for example, the government provides for national defense to protect citizens from threats abroad. the government provides for police to protect p at home. it provides from firefighters to protect citizens from disaster. fires spread and your neighbor’s bad wiring can take out the whole block, or in the old days, the whole city. and then there’s the epa and fda to make sure your food and water don’t kill you and that the bankers don’t rob you. the government is supposed to protect you from foreign invader invaders and local muggers and the pollution in the water and air. that’s job one. can government be too large? of course it can. but can it be too small? of course. but the republicans say the goth is almost always bloated, useless and freedom restricting. that’s obviously absurd but there’s a reason why they do that. house speaker john boehner called cutting government a moral responsibility.

>> we have a moral responsibility to address the problems that we face. and that means working together to cut spending and to rein in government.

>> why do they want to cut government so bad? sometimes it’s because we have budget problems. everybody gets that. but other times it’s because a campaign contributor doesn’t want top kops on wall street, or laxer regulations at the epa to make an extra buck. and sometimes they’re just greedy and they want to make less taxes no matter how much money they make. ironically, republicans flip it on the head and say it’s immorrall not to cut government services. but do you want to see what’s really immoral? in new jersey chris christie made a tough choice to cut funding of police in the crime-ridden city of camden. of course, he did that rather than raise taxes on the rich. now, do you want to see the results? as a result, camden laid off 46% of their police force. that’s 167 cops. they also laid off 60 firefighters at the end of last month. the result? the ” cherry hill currier post” reports the number of shootings has doubled over the last year. doubled. and other violent crimes have also gone up. one local camden woman said, quote, people are already getting jumped left and right because criminals know they can get away with it.

>> now across the river in philadelphia, the consequence of budget cuts might being whe having even more dire consequences. a fire break out in the northeast intersection of the city. the closest fire station is engine 61, just over a mile away. but engine 61 was closed on tuesday. it’s what they call a brownout and it was done to cut costs. so the nearest fire station wasn’t able to respond to the call. that meant the call went to engine 51, which is almost two miles away. normally that might be a distance that doesn’t make much of a difference. except in cases of fires where it makes a huge difference. . the fire trucks didn’t get there in time and two little kids, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old were killed in the fire. now, did the budget cuts contribute to their deaths? here’s what firefighter mike cain of the philadelphia firefighters union said, quote, whether that engine 61 being browned out, if that company was in service, they would have made a difference? he doesn’t know. nobody can answer that, he said. because we don’t have a crystal ball. what we can say is maybe if they were there, they would have had a shot. maybe them kids would have had a shot. cutting spending definitely has a moral component. i’m just not sure it’s the kind john boehner was talking about. i’m not just blaming this on republicans. philadelphia is clearly a democratic city, but spending cuts doo trickle down. when the federal government and state government keep taking money away from your budget, at some point you run out of money for vital, vital services. cutting isn’t always the answer. but when you’ve cut to the bone and you’re risking the lives of your citizens, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to look at the other side of the equation and say we need to raise revenue so that we can at least provide for the core mission of our government. that’s protecting our citizens. joining me now is mike cain, the man we just told you about. he’s a battalion chief with the philadelphia firefighter and also chairman of the trustees with the philadelphia firefighters union. mike to me about the engines being closed down in different times here. engine 61 was closed down on that date. what are they doing in philadelphia exactly?

>> exactly what they’re doing. they have rolling brownouts. so one day a company from maybe oak lane is browned out. the next day it’s maybe north philly. and they roll that every five days. basically what the city does is they’re throwing a round in a chamber and playing russian roulette with the safety of citizens of philadelphia, not only the citizens of philadelphia, but also the firefighters. our union contention is very simple — fire spreads exponentially. that means a fire doubles every 30 seconds. not only is it more dangerous for the people whose houses are on fire or maybe trapped in a fire, it eels also more dangerous for the firefighters showing up. instead of getting to a fire in its incipient stage at the very beginning, if we have a two or three minute delay, we may go to a well evolved fire, not only putting citizens in danger but our firefighters in danger.

>> in one case, two fires broke out at the same time. it took 30 minutes to get to a child development assistanter. how much can a fire spread in 30 minutes?

>> well, what you have to understand and i invite your entire listening audience to go to www.iaff22.org. and on there, we have a video. it’s called seconds count. and it’s not some union video that was made with trick photography. united laboratories did this study and they did this video to show just how fast fire pro-investigation is. and you will see a smoldering chair and in two minutes the entire room is engulfed in if flames. that latest fire, engine 51, the first arriving units were there in five minutes. what he didn’t explain was the first arriving unit is a battalion chief. he comes up in an suv. he doesn’t have any water to put on the fire, any ladders. what he has is communications. he pulls up, gives natures and provisions and he gives orders. he can’t do any physical firefightering.

>> last question. some republicans have called you elites because you’re part of a public union. how do you feel about that?

>> my thing is when they talk about the money, people have to understand for decades, firefighters and police officers have taken less money to ensure better benefits. and we get to a point where, wait a minute, your benefits are too rich. “firehouse magazine” did a study about firefighter’s pay in philadelphia and we were about 35th in the nation in pay. we have to understand, 33 years ago when i came on the job, there was 2,800 firefighters and now we have 1,900 firefighters. i have seen 21 companies close and that’s not counting the brownouts. we’re spread thinner than anything. when the commissioner went to the last council meeting he said we’re cut to the bone and then he turns around and offers camden our help. if we can’t protect our own citizens, how are we going to protect the citizens of camden?

>> all right, mike kane, thank you for joining us tonight. a compelling story. joining me now is ezra klein. he writes for “the washington post” and also an msnbc contributor. some of these budget cuts have a political agenda.

>> it’s not just all about money, unfortunately. there are a number of things we’re doing in the budget that don’t save a lot of money, but fulfill a treasured gop objective. those things can be dangerous. if you don’t have financial regulators on the job, you can save salaries but it costs the country trillions. that’s the things we have toll worry about here. when we’re using government spending as an excuse to achieve other ideological objectives, you have to worry about how that’s all going to come out in the wash if we even really discussed what the underlying intention really is.

>> and ezra, one more thing. the national cuts sometimes they affect constituent and local jurisdictions as well. tell me about that.

>> the federal government is currently supporting a ton of state spending. we’re basically handing states money and say here, use this to not fire a teacher. when we take that money away, what do they do? they fire a teacher. when we take that money, state and local budgets are going to basically collapse. right now, goldman sachs is saying gop bill would cut two percentage points from gdp growth in the latter part of the year. that basically means much less job growth, much less gdp growth and a worse economy. when the gop came in and said they’re going to create jobs and goldman sachs say you’re going to cut gdp growth, you have to understand what the theory is here. whatever it is, it ain’t what they said it was, creating jobs, creating growth and getting the economy back on its feet.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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