In a recent press release touting a federal fire grant, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) noted that because “firefighters put their lives on the line every day,” we face a “moral issue” that required us to use federal funds to buy the Somerville Fire Department equipment.

The reality is that despite billions in grants across the United States, the Fire Act program has not reduced the number of firefighter deaths or fires. As David Muhlhausen pointed out in his seminal data analysis paper on the Fire Act program, “fire grants, including grants that subsidize the salaries of firefighters, had no impact on fire casualties [and] failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, or civilian injuries.” More damning, Muhlhausen found that fire departments that did not received federal grants “were just as successful at preventing fire casualties as grant-funded fire departments.”

As with most pork barrel spending, politicians should keep the “moral issue” card out of it and just admit they are doling out favors to those individuals or groups from whom they receive financial and campaign support. Don’t forget, when Senator Kerry ran for president in 2004, his constant companion on the campaign trail was none other than union head Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. In the photo above from the 2004 Presidential campaign, that is Schaitberger on Kerry’s right.