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Bill Maher Fears a “Teabagger Nation” Would Burn to the Ground

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Posted on October 12 2010 2:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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Comic antagonist Bill Maher thinks he knows what a Tea Party led nation would look like. Posing the topic to his latest Real Time panel, which consisted of P.J. O’Rourke, S.E. Cupp, and Andrew Ross Sorkin, Maher envisioned a world where essential services are a thing of the past.

Maher: I think this is kind of a glimpse of what a teabagger nation would look like if they ever took charge… It was Obion County, Tennessee, a guy named Gene Cranick. His house burned down because in this community apparently you have to pay a $75 fee to get the services of the fire department. He did not pay it. His house was burning down. The fire department showed up and just watched as his house burned down with four pets inside. They only went into action when it started to encroach on the neighbor’s house, who paid the fee.

O’Rourke: But, that’s Tennessee…

Cupp: Simple solution, you can put out the fire and then give him a bill. You can accomplish both.

Sorkin: If we all believe that we deserve the service, if we all believe that the house should be saved and those animals – and what happens, by the way, if there’s a person in the house. What do they do then?

Maher: What happens if they just had a clerical error and he really had paid? It’s just – I mean, it’s insane to me. I’ve been saying throughout the healthcare debate, it’s crazy that we have for-profit healthcare, as crazy as it would be if we had for-profit fire departments or for-profit police departments. I didn’t expect people to take that the other way and make the fire departments for profit. I’m saying none of them should be for profit.

Unsurprisingly, Maher has a loose grasp of the situation. The fire department in question is not run for-profit. It is a volunteer fire department. No one is getting rich off the subscription fees paid by Obion County residents. They cover the cost of equipment and maintenance.

Regardless, Maher’s assertion that this story is emblematic of Tea Party endorsed policies demonstrates his misunderstanding of both the conservative movement and basic American civics. As the Left often does, he conflates the responsibilities of the different levels of government. Outside of the expectation they be managed efficiently, the Tea Party has little to say about municipalities and their fire departments.

O’Rourke’s off-hand comment, intended as a punchline, is nonetheless relevant. While those of us outside Tennessee may scoff at this outcome, it is ultimately up to the residents of Tennessee and Obion County to come up with their own solutions.

With all due respect to Ms. Cupp, it’s not as though billing non-subscribers was never thought of. It was tried and did not work.

Local departments also tried a “pay-as-you-go” system, under which they charged $500 to put out a fire, but were able to collect less than 50% of these fees.

As an outsider, it is easy to cast dispersions and assume the efficacy of simple sounding solutions. However, the people who actually live in a particular community are always better suited to evaluate their circumstances. The systems they come up with are an expression of their will. The only thing the Tea Party prescribes is keeping it that way instead of imposing mandates which require them to act against their own judgment.

Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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