America, meet the Cranicks. They are the family who now live in a trailer near the charred remains of their home in rural Obion County, Tennessee, all because the local fire department refused to extinguish a fire that destroyed their home. Why? Because they had not paid a $75 fee (on top of taxes) for fire fighting services from the nearby town. Predictably (and perhaps appropriately) they are also about to become a cause célèbre thanks to Countdown host Keith Olbermann, who presented their story as the “the America envisioned by the Tea Party.”
First some background. The Cranick’s grandson was burning trash near the family home when the fire grew out of control. The Cranicks reportedly called 911 several times, but the fire department refused to respond because the Cranicks had not paid the nearby town of South Fulton ‘firefighting’ fee of $75. The Fire Department did respond to a neighbor’s call because they had paid the fee.
Before interviewing Mr. Cranick, Mr. Olbermann introduced the story:
A look now into the America envisioned by the Tea Party. A home catches fire. Firefighters arrive on the scene, and watch the place burn down. All because the home owner did not pay an extra fee. Our number one story. Pay to spray, just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government. In a moment, the man victimized by this policy, where its already in effect, will speak out.
Left of center media outlets have expressed outrage, going so far as to present this as “a chilling vision of what could play out in a third world America, where paying taxes isn’t enough to cover basic services.” Others have bent over backckwards to portray this tragedy as a symptom of conservative policy. Writing for ThinkProgress, Zaid Jalani opines:
As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.
The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee.
The story of the Cranicks house burning down is without question a terrible tragedy, and reasonable people can agree that the way that the South Fulton Fire Department chose not to respond was draconian at best. But to exemplify this story as a means to diminish the Tea Party movement – or call will likely be seen by Tea Partiers as yet another attempt to vilify their grass-roots movement.
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