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First Responders Bill



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I disagree slightly with Charles Krauthammer in the matter of the First Responders bill. Charles says:

It’s not a question of cost, it’s a question of the absence of hearings, the absence of oversight, and also the absence of scientific evidence conclusively showing a link between the illnesses and the activity at the 9/11 site.

That is certainly an important sub-question. The big question, though, is why, at a time of looming fiscal crisis, Congress is still allowing the Trial Lawyers Association to use the public treasury as a personal ATM.

I thundered about the bill on Radio Derb two weeks ago:

Yet more news from our nation’s legislature. Another trial lawyers’ scam against the public fisc, in fact. It sometimes seems as though the entire business of Washington, D.C. consists of lawyers looting the Treasury. Here they are at it again.

This is the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, advertised as, quote, “giving federal medical benefits to first-responders sick from Ground Zero dust.” I think we all know now by instinct that any congressional bill whose title contains a person’s name is deeply suspect. This one is a ripoff in so many ways I don’t have time to enumerate them all.

You can start with the eponymous James Zadroga. Who he? Well, he was a New York City police detective who spent some time at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan following 9/11. He developed a cough, so in 2004 the Police Department put him on permanent disability status. With Zadroga’s twelve years’ service, that means benefits around ninety thousand a year, inflation-proofed, all medical expenses covered free of charge. For life, Officer Zadroga being 33 years old at this point. This kind of thing is routine in big-city police departments, one of the reasons that the finances of our states are in such an unholy mess.

That same year, 2004, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund also gave him a cash award. At this point Zadroga was set up very nicely for life, with all the medical attention he could want, all paid for by other people — i.e. by you and me — and a handsome income for doing no work at all. Fair enough, you may say: he was a first responder, and I won’t argue the point.

Then in 2006 James Zadroga died. What did he die from? According to an autopsy report signed off on by New York City’s two chief medical examiners, he died after injecting himself with ground-up prescription drugs in solution — nothing to do with 9/11 at all.

Once the Trial Lawyers Association see a big pile of taxpayer gold glittering on the horizon, though, there is no stopping them. Obviously they goofed by not stuffing those Chief Examiners’ pockets with cash before they wrote their report, but they came back with this James Zadroga Act.

Now look: We should all be grateful to those first responders who showed up at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 93 crash site. Face this fact, though: We live in a nation where any widespread sympathetic emotion will be milked for cold cash by unscrupulous attorneys. These first responders all belong to well-funded public-sector unions with extravagant benefit packages. There are people here in New York City retired on disability from the Fire Department, nothing to do with 9/11, pulling down $200,000 retirement packages in their fities, with full medical coverage on top. Nobody’s going short of anything here. The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund added cream on the pie, as James Zadroga’s own case illustrates.

The James Zadroga Act is a trial lawyer’s scam, just like the Pigford rackets. Oh, would you like to know how many people will get payouts from the James Zadroga Act? Answer: at least 71,000. You didn’t know there were that many first responders, did you? That’s a major-league baseball stadium full of first responders, all with their hands out. Twenty-four of them are from Wyoming, which is a long way from Ground Zero. We know this because we heard it from Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who has been leading opposition to this shameful scheme.

Well, on Thursday this week the Senate filibustered down the James Zadroga Bill. Good for them. You can tell it was good by all the lefty scam artists who were bleating about it: Both New York’s lefty senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, and the egregious Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and of course New York’s whiniest, Michael Bloomberg.

Oh, and James Zadroga’s father Joseph. Waking from his dreams of an endless supply of taxpayer money sluicing in through his mailbox, the outraged Mr. Zadroga said the Senate vote made him, quote, “embarrassed for his country.” Fiddlesticks. Citizens who do their duty in our police and fire services are already very amply rewarded, so much so their rewards are helping put our nation in fiscal peril.

The real embarrassment here is that a raft of trial lawyers should play on public sympathies to enrich themselves from the public fisc. That’s the embarrassment, Mr. Zadroga — and Senator Schumer, and Mayor Bloomberg, and all the rest of you who think our public resources are infinite, or who have been bought and paid for by the Trial Lawyers’ Association.


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