Home » Economics » Penny-wise, pound-foolish with fire protection

Penny-wise, pound-foolish with fire protection

I have noted repeatedly over the years how all eyes are focused on the budget and none on the actual leading to incredibly stupid decisions at the government level. The Dallas Morning News (09.15.2011) reports that the state Forest Service budget was underfunded by some $10 million so as to ensure that the “budget” was balanced. Already this year, the state has had to provide an additional $121 million to pay for fighting fires that had gotten out of control. So we actually spent $121 million this year to balance the last budget by $12 million. This is a strange way of investing wisely. The cost of this year’s devastating fires to owners and their property are not reported but those of 2005-6 are: 19 deaths and $643 million in property damage. So basically we take $10 million out of the budget and spend $600 million in actual money?

No one claims that it is possible to stop fires completely but the Forest Service had a plan to hire more firefighters and more equipment so that it could squelch blazes before the fired up. There is no knowing how many of the1,554 homes in Bastrop County could have been saved by those extra firefighters but the professionals in the Forest Service believe it would have been a significant number. Instead as the article notes, quoting former Republican State Representative David Swinford, we see an “ongoing dereliction of duty” by lawmakers who “almost always prefer to spend money only after a crisis has unfolded.”

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