I recently had a conversation with a colleague who told me that the Democratic presidential candidates were making him feel like an asshole for working himself through school and trying to make a better life for his children. I asked him which Dem had said such a thing and in what words, but the conversation drifted before I could pin him down. In retrospect, his contention sounded a lot more like something Limbaugh might say about the Democrats than something the Democrats might actually say. In any case, perhaps there was something of a guilty conscience at work in the good lad’s psyche.

See, we Chicago firefighters are a very fortunate lot. With no entry requirement other than a high school diploma, we can easily make close to (and into) a six figure income while having more time off than a ballplayer on injured reserve. I’d like to do an historical analysis of this, but I have a hunch that an element of our job’s culture that makes our membership a very rare political fishbowl contributes to a dynamic that makes my coworker feel like he might be regarded by some as an asshole.

This coworker lives in the 41st Ward, which borders on the northwest suburbs and is the only ward in Chicago with a Republican alderman. There is also a high concentration of city employees living in the ward, a concentration that includes firefighters and police officers. Both firefighters and police officers in Chicago are represented by unions. I don’t know the percentage of firefighters in this ward who vote Republican more often than not, but I’d be willing to bet it’s more than half. For that matter, I’d be interested to know how many firefighters in the entire city vote Republican. Do you see where I’m going with this?

I know our mayor and the whole Democratic machine of Chicago have a reputation for corruption, but I challenge you to find a large city in this nation (hell, in the world) that doesn’t have its share of corruption. The enmity that many in the fire department have toward the mayor rings hollow for me. We are among the most highly paid professional firefighters in the country, and we have a rather generous benefit package. While at times we have had to fight with the city to maintain our favorable situation, the results we’ve maintained are far better than any you’ll see in the private sector, and better than many you’ll see firefighters enjoy in other U.S. cities. So while I agree that some complaining in any situation is to be expected, and is often therapeutic, let’s not bullshit ourselves. We’ve got it good. There’s got to be something more than mayoral hatred that sends these guys behind the elephant.

That leads me to an article that my friend Flo sent my from The article is written by none other than Naomi Klein, and I’ll let you, my intelligent reader, draw your own connections between what you read there and what I’ve blathered on about here. One thing I will add, though: on any given day, if you walk into a firehouse in the daytime and find a television on, it will likely be tuned to one of those cable ‘business’ channels with the stock ticker at the bottom of the screen. Now get thee to the link and read.

Disowned by the Ownership Society
by Naomi Klein

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