Or so say the headlines that have been making the rounds in the right-wing media the last few days, and are now blowing up my Facebook feed.
“‘A Public Safety Disaster’: ObamaCare Could Force THOUSANDS of Volunteer Fire Departments to Close”
“Coming Soon: Obamacare Burns Down Volunteer Fire Departments”
“Rep. Barletta: Obamacare Could Extinguish Volunteer Firefighters”
“Obamacare Rules Threaten to Torch Volunteer Fire Departments”
Modern journalism is so easy, the puns write themselves!
Anyway, all of the usual suspects are carrying the torch – Fox News, Free Republic, Washington Times, Daily Mail, InfoWars, American Thinker, Red State. If you’re a conservative and you haven’t had your head in a hole since Friday, I’m guessing you’re outraged.
The issue, shockingly, is legitimate, as I discovered that an organization known as the International Association of Fire Chiefs ran an article back in July (targeted towards, I’m guessing, Fire Chiefs) about the potential issue of how volunteers will count under the PPACA. For IRS purposes, they typically count as employees, but the department of labor treats volunteers as their own category. In September, they reported that they’d asked the IRS for clarification, which seems like an entirely reasonable request. They were joined by the National Volunteer Fire Council around the same time. Nearest I can tell, they’ve yet to receive a satisfactory answer in the last 3 months.
This current media blitz appears to be spearheaded by Rep. Lou Barletta (R, Pa), who postedthis rundown of the facts on his webpage last week. While there’s some partisan language in there and some needless slams on Obamacare, it seems that his intention is to get the IRS to answer a question that they were asked months ago, probably at the urging of his constituents. For fire departments that may be affected by this legislation come 1 January 2015, this is probably important.
So what says the dope? Legitimate use of the media, or blatant political grandstanding? I’m tentatively thinking the former.