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Tea Party Types say: Next Overboard, Lifeguards!

By       Message Russ Baker     Permalink
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"And, Lifeguards save lives even less frequently than fire fighters rescue women and children from burning houses."

This is journalism? She notes that she once served as a lifeguard, which presumably qualifies her to criticize the profession. Yet she provides no details on her own experience, and how relevant it is. Certainly, being a lifeguard at a small pool may be quite unlike being a lifeguard at a massive, crowded public beach with strong surf.

Then she describes lifeguards as "glorified babysitters" because they have to catch kids wandering into the surf when their parents aren't looking. This is unworthy, unimportant work?

And -- omigod -- they actually save lives even less than firefighters, who according to her statement only rarely need to pull people from burning houses. Perhaps she'd prefer that the number of fatalities increase for both jobs?

Her article is really, really terrible. You need to read it for yourself to see how bad -- juvenile, really -- it is. If this is what "CalWatchdog" is going to do, well, the watchdogs certainly ought to earn a lot less than the lifeguards.

The article cites the following from the LA Times:

"Municipal lifeguards start at around $60,000 a year, and pay escalates up to $115,000 at the supervisory level. Pensions are based, in part, on a lifeguard's final salary. In Newport Beach, the pay is even better, with some senior supervisors earning $150,000 a year, including overtime."

Let's work this through. Should a municipal lifeguard, who is an adult, may be supporting a family, must be in peak physical shape, and able to brave dangerous conditions and perform heroic maneuvers, instead receive the minimum-wage-level pay the Watchdog "reporter" apparently received years ago?

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The CalWatchdog's rigorous reporting also features Wikipedia's description of lifeguard duties:

  • Enforce rules in order to anticipate problems/injuries
  • Maintain concentrated observation of the duty area and its users in order to anticipate problems (this will enable the lifeguard to intervene with one of the drowning prevention measures) and to identify an emergency quickly.
  • Supervise the use of other equipment when allocated to that duty (such as water slides or any other activities taking place)
  • Carry out rescues and initiate other emergency action as necessary
  • Give immediate first aid in the event of injury to a bather or other incident
  • Communicate with bathers and other users to help fulfill the above tasks

Then, she snottily declares, "that about sums it up for lifeguard duties."

The fellow I heard at my conference, also making hay out of this ridiculousness, makes his living giving speeches that persuade people that government is bad, period. He apparently earns a great deal. Is he so sure he is worth so much more than a lifeguard?

By the way, the Times article was just noting that a supervisor (presumably someone who hires, trains and monitors quite a few other lifeguards) can, after many years, top out his/her salary at $115,000. Is it crazy for someone who spends much of their life rising through any ranks to expect a decent compensation? Besides, as anyone who is familiar with affluent California beach communities like Newport Beach knows, $60,000 a year requires very careful living, and even the rare $150,000 (which importantly was probably only earned by one or two people who put in heavy overtime) hardly makes someone outrageously rich.

The speaker at my conference also made light of the claims of skin cancer risk for lifeguards who are out in the sun all the time.

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This kind of contempt for people who work jobs that require commitment, concentration and good judgment is really beneath all of us. If it makes those who do everything they can not to pay taxes to feel better about their selfishness, so be it.

Let's look at some statistics not reported by CalWatchdog. These are from the United States Lifesaving Association, based on numbers supplied by agencies. Last year, beach lifeguards rescued 56,799 people. There were 25 drownings at guarded locations.

By the way, CalWatchdog didn't bother to provide a link to the original reporting in the Times (which itself wasn't very good or deep and included plenty of lame lifeguard quotes), so we'll provide it here. One interesting stat, among those neither CalWatchdog nor the public speaker I heard cited, is found in this Times paragraph:

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