Rescuing Main Street and the people who make a difference
Published: Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:10 PM EST
By Leo Canty
Who made the rule that we should bail out bankers, hedge-fund managers, and corporate executives instead of the people who are really important?
If your house is burning down, do you page your banker to help put out the fire? Do you think Bernie Madoff or his hedge-fund buddies would help someone fix a flat tire? Has a health insurance exec ever been called to help defibrillate a heart-attack victim?
So who is really important?
A severe medical emergency brought local police and ambulance personnel to help a family member this week. Their committed efforts and skills in saving lives struck me as a stark reminder of just how important these people and services are, and how we can’t do without them.
While politicians and captains of business and industry are all chasing bigger slices of a smaller pie, many people are doing incredibly important things — helping those in need, rescuing loved ones from danger, and saving lives.
The problem is, in many instances, they have to do more with less help.
Windsor, for example, has a volunteer ambulance service, WVA, that made more than 4,000 calls last year. It’s a million-dollar operation that gets its money from patient billing, subsidies, and fundraising. The staff of two paid, do-everything managers and more than 75 volunteers respond to emergencies, save the lives of thousands of loved ones, and keep the operation at the ready for everyone. They are part of the team that helped keep my family member alive. They are incredibly important people.
Knowing that they are so important, why aren’t they treated like the Wall Street elite? Why aren’t bailouts, TARPs, and stimuli being tossed their way?
Funding to support the WVA operation is down. Revenues pay for equipment, supplies, staff, and pizza for volunteers. Patient billing brings in the most money, but customers who have lost their insurance, jobs, and the ability to pay have put a damper on the billing.
Windsor supplies a building for a minimal lease-back fee and a $10,000 subsidy. The subsidy used to be bigger.
And you can guess how well the fundraising is going during this recession.
What it all means is that the people who do incredibly important things are struggling to make it all work — for us.
I really don’t ever want either of the two WVA top dog EMTs and operations crew members, Laura Kennedy or Dan Moylan, shout out the “clear” call as they spark a defibrillator on me. But you can bet that if I get in that spot, I sure don’t want to be under the paddles when some crusty old defib battery that needs to be replaced craps out.
Having up-to-date, good working equipment, necessary supplies in ample quantities, vehicles that can be counted on to make the transports, facilities to support and train the volunteers, and paid help to keep the operation operable requires resources.
The payback for that investment could be your saved life.
Talk to Moylan and Kennedy and you’ll see how determined they are to make the program work, no matter what it takes. They aren’t complaining about the lack of support, and they’re proud of what they do within the limits that are put on them. But their eyes light up when they talk about how they could improve the program — if only they had the resources.
Windsor is fortunate to have great, caring, committed people working for the WVA. They do what it takes to help us.
As we let big business, big insurance, entertainment moguls, banks, and Wall Streeters corner the money market — wrestling away funds that support the WVAs of our country — we need to recheck our priorities.
Let’s get the important people at the WVA what they need to do a better job to help us.
That’s called putting Main Street ahead of Wall Street.
Leo Canty is a labor and political activist. He lives in Windsor.
CT@Work is America’s only weekly column authored by an individual labor leader/political activist printed in a commercial paper. It can be found in the Journal Inquirer (CT's 5th largest circulation) every Thursday.