The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All-Time

#3. Charging for Suicide Hotline Calls

It's comforting to know that when you're going through some kind of crisis, there are an assortment of free services just a phone call away to help you get the help you need. If you live in Australia, though, you should probably set some money aside for those unforeseen suicidal meltdowns, because Australian phone companies charge users for calls to crisis and suicide hotlines.

"If you can't afford the call, maybe you really don't have much to live for."

To be fair, Australian crisis organizations such as Lifeline and Kids Helpline are and always have been free to call ... from a landline. But this is the age of the cell phone, where ever-increasing numbers of people are opting for pay-as-you-use prepaid cells over those obsolete tied-to-the-wall things you can't even use to bother people at the movies.

The plus side is that more people have personal access to a phone no matter where they are, but if you're calling Lifeline on a cell from a trash bin with rags for blankets, prepare to be slugged a dollar per minute. Shit, for that price you might as well call a phone sex operator. At least they're actually prepared to do anything to make you happy.

Oh yeah, baby, nothing turns me on more than guys who decide to not kill themselves and discuss their problems with trained professionals.

Considering that the number of calls placed to crisis hotlines is expected to rise 50 percent by this time next year, and a typical session can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, the phone sex option may even be a cheaper bet. Predictably, this policy often causes people to be disconnected mid-call, because (surprise) folks who spend their off-time swimming in money and cocaine don't usually call suicide hotlines.

#2. Locking Up the Mentally Handicapped for Cash

One thing can be said for New York state -- it really looks after its mentally disabled citizens. With Medicaid pumping several times more money into services for the disabled than the national average, the state might even look after you forever.

Sometimes nature makes our political cartoons for us.

At a reimbursement of $4,500 per person per day, compared with an average of $700 for other states, Medicaid brings about $1.2 billion into the New York economy, well exceeding the cost of caring for the people for whom it's generously provided. So it's always in the state's interest to have as many patients in its care as possible, even if it means never letting some of them out, basically turning state facilities into prisons.

And without McMurphy to liven up the place.

Now, obviously some of the people committed to New York's mental treatment centers desperately need to be there. But when just a single occupied bed is worth more than $1.6 million a year to the state, you can see how there would be room to outrageously abuse the system. Sure enough, one newspaper did a study and found that New York locks up as many as 700 percent more people for brain disorders than other states, regardless of population.

Crazy may be New York's greatest natural resource.

And mental health care isn't the same as going to prison, where you're at least given a clear sentence and know how long you'll be there, just as long as you don't stab anyone on the inside. A doctor only has to say "You're not ready to go back yet," and bam, another year of keeping you locked up from the world until you finally smash out a window with a water fountain.

#1. Letting a House Burn Down Because the Owners Didn't Pay

On Sept. 29, 2010, Gene Cranick's rural house in Obion County, Tenn., caught on fire. Without wasting a second, Gene called the nearest fire department, located in South Fulton, and begged them to hurry and save his home. The FD refused, and the building, together with all the family's possessions -- including four pets -- burned to the ground. Why? He hadn't paid his fire protection money.

That is, he forgot to pay the annual $75 fee that nearby South Fulton demands for emergency services coverage. Whoops!

Hey, water doesn't grow on trees, OK?!

Because Obion County doesn't have its own fire department, most of its residents rely on South Fulton services, which we'll assume are advertised with the slogan, "That's a nice house you've got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it."

When Gene heard that the firemen were not coming, he even offered to pay up-front on the spot. But the department responded that, if people were allowed to pay up-front, then everyone would withhold payment until their houses were on fire. Basically, the South Fulton Fire Department made an example of him, stopping just short of coming after his knees with a baseball bat.

Citizens of Obion County! You have been warned!

The kicker on this whole ordeal is that the firefighters actually did show up, but only when the fire spread to the home of Cranick's neighbors, who had paid the fee. We imagine they also employed giant fans to blow the water away from Cranick's burning house, because allowing the firemen to inadvertently put out the fire would be irresponsible.

"Hell no, we don't take checks."

Even then, when Cranick's son got pissed off and attacked the fire chief for watching his home burn, the South Fulton PD sent out officers to arrest him for aggravated assault. Because apparently, you can still get emergency services out there if you annoy the local government.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at

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