Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Many news outlets (some of which are nothing more than partisan hack web sites) have been atwitter about the scandal involving the water supply of Flint, Michigan... And they should be, because it is a genuine scandal in which governments have actively harmed the citizens they are supposed to protect... But unfortunately, much of the so-called reporting about this scandal is off base.

Since I'm talking about the media, it should not surprise anyone that the coverage has tried to blame Republicans for Flint's water scandal. What makes this suggestion laughable is that everyone directly involved in the Flint situation is a Democrat. While it's true that Michigan's governor (Rick Snyder) is a Republican, he is, at most, only a peripheral figure where Flint is concerned.

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Like many Midwestern cities, Flint is a one-party jurisdiction that has been run by Democrats for generations. And like many of those cities, it has spent the last few decades in a state of erosion. A number of reasons for that erosion can be cited -- not least of which are that Flint's Democrat-run government does a bad job providing basic services, and that it creates an environment in which it's hard for businesses to succeed.

For years, Flint purchased its drinking water from Detroit. As you probably know, Detroit has also been run by Democrats for generations and is a shadow of its former self... Unfortunately for Democrat-controlled Flint, this set-up resulted in it being price-gouged by Democrat-controlled Detroit. Therefore, Flint decided to stop buying water from Detroit and start buying it from the Karegnondi Water Authority. That decision, made in 2013, was to take effect in 2016. However, Detroit reacted like a jilted lover and told Flint that it would stop providing it with water two years' early, in spring of 2014... This drove Flint to find a temporary water source for the period from 2014 to 2016, and the source it chose was the Flint River -- which makes sense when you consider that the river was already the city's back-up source; but does not make sense when you consider that the river is polluted, and that the infrastructure for delivering its water to the public was known to be inadequate.

If you want to keep scoring this on a Democrat vs. Republican basis, it looks even worse for the former party when you consider the agencies charged with ensuring such things as safe drinking water... The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (which was founded by Nixon, but has for years been a leftist oasis staffed almost exclusively by Democrats) knew that "switching the water supply could enhance pipe corrosion and thus increase lead levels in residents' drinking water," yet it failed to inform the public. This has led to the resignation of Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman... Meanwhile, at the state level, Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (another leftist oasis staffed almost exclusively by Democrats) simply told the city to "monitor the water for a year" -- a horrific bit of advice when you consider that Flint's 100,000 residents were drinking the water every day and many of them were being sickened by it.

Consuming the water exposed residents not "only" to lead, but also to Legionnaire's disease, E. coli, and other chemical byproducts. An outbreak of Legionnaire's resulted in 10 deaths, plus 77 serious but non-fatal illnesses. It is reported that as a result of the scandal, somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 people have dangerously high levels of lead in their systems.

Large segments of the press would have you believe the Republican Party is to blame for all of this. In the most disgraceful example that I have seen, Cagle Cartoons published this doodle depicting Governor Snyder shoving the city of Flint into toxic sludge "in the name of deregulated trickle-down government," while the GOP elephant stands nearby crowing "Amen." Curiously absent from this truth-murdering cartoon is the Democrat donkey, despite the fact that it is Democrats who have been calling the shots all along -- and of course, the cartoon has been published by the likes of Occupy Democrats and has gone viral on social media.

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Are there any Republican fingerprints at the crime scene that is the Flint Water Scandal? It would be a lie to say "absolutely not," but those fingerprints are vanishingly faint compared to the ones left by Democrats.

Like I already said, Governor Snyder is a Republican and Flint is a city in his state, so he bears some degree of accountability -- but that degree is minuscule, since it is not in his job description to oversee every municipality's decision regarding its water supply.

Yes, Snyder appointed the emergency city manager who was in office when Flint's water-related decisions were made -- but that manager was a Democrat, and Snyder appointed him specifically to keep from being accused of orchestrating a "Republican takeover" of a Democrat city.

And as I have already laid out, the reason an emergency city manager was needed was that Democrats threw the city into the shitter.

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Republican scandal? Not even close. But it's sad that we (including me) are even talking about political parties. There is no way that Republicans ever wanted to sicken the residents of Flint, but there is also no way that Democrats ever wanted to sicken the residents of Flint. What happened here is a textbook example of what happens whenever a single party holds the reins of power for too long.

What happens with one-party rule is this: The party becomes entrenched; its unelected workers (i.e., bureaucrats) focus on themselves and their benefits, inevitably losing sight of the citizens who employ them but can't discipline them; the party becomes a machine whose goal is to sustain itself; and in due course, incompetence and corruption become unavoidable, with the only question being how bad (in this case, how deadly) the incompetence and corruption will be.

Governments are staffed by people, and every person is both fundamentally flawed and tragically fallible. Each of us is tempted by both good and bad; and perhaps worst, by naked self-interest. And each of us occasionally succumbs to the temptations of bad and, especially, to the temptations of self-interest.

Give people power and make them accountable to nothing except their collective conscience -- on the hope that that collective conscience will stay vigilant 24/7 -- and your hopes are guaranteed to be dashed, often in disastrous ways.

The Flint Water Scandal is a perfect teaching moment. It teaches how government can not be trusted, and how the stated aims of political parties can not be taken at face value.

It would teach America these things very clearly, if only the American media that covers politics would report the story without partisan shading. But the American media that covers politics won't do that, and perhaps that is the biggest lesson of this whole sordid affair.

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