Democrats are making a big push to blame the water crisis in a Democrat-dominated city, overseen by a Democrat Environmental Protection Agency of unprecedented power, on the only Republican within a thousand miles, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
The truth is that Flint, Michigan is an extreme case of what always happens to cities after generations of Democrat governance, just like the Democrat Wonder City of Detroit, their peaceful Shangri-La of Ferguson, Missouri, their gun-free paradise of Chicago, hurricane-ravaged New Orleans… or Washington, D.C., which had a water crisis similar to Flint’s a decade ago. We’re not supposed to piece together that every single disaster area has been Democrat-dominated for generations.
Notice how in each of those cases, Democrats scrambled to find a Republican somewhere in the vicinity (or, in the case of New Orleans, suddenly declare state and local government utterly irrelevant, and blamed Republican President George W. Bush for not sending troops into Louisiana to remove the Democrat governor and mayor from power at gunpoint, because he should have known they were murderously incompetent idiots.)
Governor Snyder is likewise being turned into the fall guy for Flint, because he appointed the Democrat city manager who took over from the basket-case Democrat city government, and didn’t realize Democrat-dominated state and federal environmental agencies were either unaware of the water-quality problems or were actively suppressing them.
We’re supposed to forget that Flint’s Democrat mayor in 2014, Dayne Walling, made a big production out of the “historic moment” when his city decided to “return to its roots and use our own river as our drinking water supply,” after 50 years of using water from the Democrat Wonder City of Detroit. He led a crowd of onlookers in a three-two-one countdown, pushed the water-control button with a flourish, and declared “the water quality speaks for itself,” while a gaggle of Democrat politicians and officials applauded.
“It’s a great system,” chirped Flint Utilities Director Daughtery Johnson, boasting of how the city had pushed two years of improvements to the water plant through in a mere nine months. “It’s a great asset the city has. Every drop we pull out, we’re going to clean and put right back in the river.” The biggest inconvenience to customers was supposed to be that it might take more water and soap to lather up in the shower.
It’s now a staple of media coverage to lament that Flint’s water crisis is an intractable problem that will require extensive upgrades to fix, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to what all those Democrats were saying at the time the switch to river water was made.
The toxic-water crisis flows from a deep reservoir of bad government decisions, as do the problems in every Democrat fortress-city. Flint is a famously poor city; its problems are always blamed on the general economy, but that’s no excuse for the long series of bad government decisions that squandered the revenue from soaring taxes, drove away the tax base, and made Flint into the kind of place nobody in their right minds would invest a dollar. Who wants to put capital at the mercy of a failed tax-hungry government tottering on the edge of fiscal collapse?
Flint has extremely high tax rates and extremely poor municipal services, of which the water crisis is only the most headline-grabbing example. As with all Democrat-dominated governments, they spend their money on frivolities, crony arrangements, vote-buying schemes, and madcap regulations, not their most vital duties — because they love to use the perpetually-underfunded vital duties as leverage to extract more taxes from the populace.
One of the biggest drains on the city finances is the pension demands of that bedrock of Democrat power, public employee unions. The Illinois Policy Institute sees Flint’s pension crisis as a “grim look at the future” for their own state:
Unless the city of Flint enacts reform, retiree pension and health expenses will consume $0.32 of every $1 in Flint’s general fund. Emergency Manager Darnell Earley recently announced: “If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years.”
These liabilities have wreaked havoc on Flint’s finances for years. In the past two years alone, the municipal workforce has been cut by 20 percent and employees have taken a 20 percent pay cut, according to Crain’s Detroit.
The Institute recalls that Flint’s voters approved a five-year tax increase to finance public safety in 2012, but now they’re looking at cutting 36 officers from the police department and 19 from the fire department, because the new revenue vanished into the city’s fiscal black hole.
Even a government far more competent than Flint’s would have a hard time providing decent services, in the face of a shrinking tax base, when over a third of its revenue is consumed by retiree benefits.
When the emergency manager tried to trim benefits to save a few million dollars a year, the plan was delayed by an injunction, which was not reversed until after the decision to start using Flint River water was made. The emergency manager warned that if the lawsuit by six retirees to block his reforms was successful, it could drive the city into bankruptcy, with $900 million in debt.
As for the shrinking tax base, Flint’s population has been falling for a long time — it’s currently less than half what it was in the Sixties. The Democrat urban death spiral involves driving away taxpayers and investors, prompting the government to raise taxes on everyone who remains, causing more of them to leave. (There are hopeful signs this death spiral may have finally ended in Flint, as home sales have been picking up.)
Crime is another reason the tax base flees a city. In 2013, Business Insider noted that Flint consistently topped its list of most dangerous cities in the United States, due in part to high unemployment (16 percent at the time), a poverty rate of almost 40 percent, and severe drug-abuse problems. However, it had only 122 police officers on the payroll in 2012, which meant only one officer per 830 citizens — far lower than the rate of 1 officer to 235 citizens in New York City. “Flint is no longer a place where people want to live,” Business Insider pronounced.
The frantic current efforts of liberals to paint the water crisis as racism, to cover the obvious failure of their elected officials, won’t exactly make people more eager to bring their tax money and capital back to Flint. Democrats can never understand why people aren’t eager to move into jurisdictions where they’ll be targeted for blame based on their skin color — toxic racial politics that have a way of seeping into the attitudes of local citizens, sometimes with violent results.
“It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor,” declared Charles Blow at the New York Times.
“We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care,” shrieked Hillary Clinton. “He had a request for help that he had basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what — if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.”
The current Democrat mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, hooked up with the Clinton campaign team for a conference call with reporters, and thanked Clinton for infusing race into the discussion. “This is also a class issue,” Weaver added. “Water is a basic right. it’s a social issue.”
No, it’s a Democrat issue. Democrats made this disaster happen — Democrat city council, Democrat mayor, Democrat emergency manager (appointed to get along with the Democrat local officials he was overseeing), Democrat state bureaucrats, and Democrat EPA. They made their horrendous decision to save money because decades of Democrat rule left Flint in a state of severe financial crisis — much worse than it needed to be, when the auto industry jobs in Flint went away. No citizen of Flint, from any racial background, has been disenfranchised – they voted for the people who did this to them.
“To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before, I am sorry and I will fix it,” Governor Snyder said in his State of the State address, while also promising the release of his email correspondence to refute charges that he knew about the water crisis long ago, and did nothing. He’s responsible for his own actions, and if it can be proven he did know, and could have done more to prevent the contamination scandal, he should be held to account.
So should every single member of the army of Democrats who actually caused the problem, and set the stage for it over previous years. It would be absurd, and downright dangerous, if Snyder is the only one who takes the blame, because it would keep other cities from learning important lessons about Democrat misrule, and the sheer insanity of public-employee unions, before it’s too late.