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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Having Power in America

    When you live in America, you probably have concerns about cancer. Perhaps you have concerns that you’ll die with Alzheimer’s. When you live in America, however, you do not expect to freeze to death. Tragically, Marvin Schur did freeze to death, at 93 years old, in his home in Michigan.

    Why? Because apparently, without his knowledge, his electric company installed a power-limiting device in his home. This is a man who fought in and survived World War II, and he died because of a completely preventable circumstances.

    Not surprisingly, this presents a few problems, particularly because of the record cold temperatures that have swept across the country over the last few weeks.

    People need to keep warm in the winter.

    Most people receive and pay their heating bills, but this terrible event goes to show that the companies that bill their clients are impersonal and know little to nothing about their customers.

    Ironically, in Schur’s case, it wasn’t even a matter of not having the money to pay the bills — he died with a small fortune to his name. Schur was suffering from normal senility and had no family to remind him to pay the bills.

    The fact that the Bay City Electric Light and Power company installed the power-limiting device and never checked up on how the man was doing shows a complete lack of care for its costumers. The company had no idea who was living in the house and how its actions affected him.

    It can be said that companies like this bill hundreds of people and can’t possibly know everyone. Nevertheless, when customers freeze to death, there is something very wrong with the publicly-run company that is supposedly providing a service to the costumers.

    Perhaps this problem can create new jobs. What would happen if just one employee in the electric company knew the people in the neighborhood that he billed each month? The current system is, to say the least, inefficient if people can freeze to death only days after having a device implemented. A new job such as this one would make this far less likely to happen, and install some sort of self-regulation into the system so that terrible accidents like this could be prevented in the future.

    But maybe the problem runs deeper than that. There are plenty of companies that provide services that, even when interrupted, don’t cost their consumers their lives. Electric and heating power is supposedly a service too important to be left in the hands of greedy, profit-driven corporations, but why doesn’t this same logic apply to supermarkets?

    I work in a soup kitchen where most of the food is donated by supermarkets in the community, so obviously charitable thinking and good, profit-motivated, services are not mutually exclusive. Maybe what electric companies need is more competition, rather than more bureaucracy.

    Schur could have made the decision to go with a company with a friendlier face-to-face billing plan that better fits his needs.

    Private companies are pretty good at giving the consumers what they want, because the ones that fail to do so don’t last very long.

    There was no reason for Marvin Shur to die as he did, alone and frozen, because his electric company couldn’t be bothered to check up on their device.

    Surely, when something like this happens, its a sign of a flaw in the current system of business.

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