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Our fire policy makes no sense

Considering the smoke that has periodically enveloped my home and others here in Denver as Front Range wildfires rage, it would be easy to look at this recent Associated Press story and shake my fists at those in Washington afflicted with what I've previously called Selective Deficit Disorder. That's the pathology whereby politicians cite deficit fears as rationale to slash domestic social programs, but suddenly ignore those fears when supporting far more expensive stuff like wars and corporate welfare.

The AP story about "the federal government spending less and less on its main program for preventing blazes" can seem at first glance to fit within this pathology - it looks like another example of politicians who cheerily back bigger defense budgets and an expensive border buildup pretending to be fiscal conservatives by irresponsibly shortchanging the most essential of domestic programs. But, then, thankfully, there's no evidence that this funding cut has hampered efforts to stop the fires currently burning. And, more important, while Selective Deficit Disorder may in fact be the cause of the reduced federal funding for firefighting, a look closely at the wildfire problem suggests that in this rare case, such reduced funding may inadvertently be the most responsible long-term policy.

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