Remember the nineteen firefighters who died in Arizona earlier this summer? Young men, many of them leaving widows and orphaned children behind.
There was a lot of speechifying after their deaths. There were promises of support. But now the news cycle has moved on, and depressing reality has set in. Thirteen of the firefighters were classed as “seasonal part-time” employees, meaning that their survivors don’t get the same benefits as the permanent, full-time hotshots they died beside*. Family members are questioning the treatment of two of them, Andrew Aschraft and Christopher Mackenzie. In both cases, the men’s status was ambiguous: they had recently started working full-time hours, but their employee files do not contain updated contracts. The city of Prescott, Arizona is not paying out full benefits for them. Survivors of the other eleven men have even less basis to appeal.
I don’t know what the legal situation is. I suspect the finances of Prescott are as screwed as those of anywhere else in this economic train wreck, and that even if the city officials had a legal obligation to pay out the benefits, they’d be struggling to do so. This is what happens when you starve the beast. Widows and orphans go without, because generosity to them means libraries close, class sizes go up, and roads crumble.
This is financial reality, say the Serious People. This is fiscal responsibility.