A small reward for firefighters • There are few people in the United States today who are as deserving of our thanks and admiration as the thousands of firefighters who have been on the lines, defending our lives and property from the rash of wildfires that has broken out all over the West. Thus it was troubling to find out recently that, because this difficult and dangerous work is not technically a full-time job, those folks aren't eligible for job-related health insurance. After some good reporting over the last few weeks in The Denver Post, and a visit to the line by President Obama, that is about to change. Obama has ordered the bureaucracy to figure out how to offer those firefighters coverage. That's not only a fair shake for the firefighters, it's morally essential when you consider that the work they do exposes them to smoke and ash and that could turn into health problems later.
Another housing disaster • Neither the banks nor the governments that are supposed to regulate them seem to grasp the idea that the very last thing the American economy needs right now is another stream of empty, foreclosed and cheap houses dumped onto an already glutted market. Especially when the source of that flow is a particularly mean quirk in some state laws. That is why both the financial industry and the several states need to take seriously a recent report from the National Consumer Law Center that calls out the apparently widespread practice of allowing creditors to buy tax liens from cash-strapped local governments, foreclose, toss the family out on to the street, and turn around and sell the house for many times what they paid for it. People who have managed to build a lot of equity in their homes can lose it all if they somehow fall as little as a few hundred dollars behind on their property taxes. This practice must be outlawed, and soon.
Is this trip really smart? • The habit of hopping in the car and driving wherever you want to go, even if it's a short distance, is as ingrained in the American psyche as overeating and flipping through hundreds of pointless TV channels. So, good for Salt Lake City government for launching the SmartTrips program. Neighborhood by neighborhood, households are receiving letters offering guidance on alternate ways of getting around: walking, cycling and public transit. If enough people take the hint, it could not only cut down on traffic, air pollution and obesity, it could also encourage more of us to get out, meet our neighbors, patronize local businesses and become part of the community where we live.