When the Flint, Michigan disaster hit the newspapers, the focus was on the Governor, as well it should have been. But what was also discovered was that unelected leaders made some of the decisions. Michigan’s emergency management law gave the “governor’s appointee sole decisionmaking power on budget issues in cities like Flint.” See: The Poisoning Of An American City, Josh Sanburn, Time, p.34, February 1, 2016.
That is the danger of the belief that the private sector and not government have the best solutions and can provide for society better and less costly. The near religious believers forget that unlike private enterprise, government is held to a moral and ethical standard and the elected officials are more likely to pay the price for not acting ethically or morally. It is easy to be removed from governmental office.
It is much easier for businesses and corporate entities to cast off the costs of their profit generating activities onto the rest of society. When government does that, results like Flint, Michigan occur. The belief that an outsider of government would be able to do a better job than government itself, lead to the Flint, Michigan disaster and the resulting cast off costs will affect the lives of those who likely voted austerity into the Governor’s office. Despite a warning memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a vote to return to Detroit’s water supply, the decision was made by an unelected emergency manager and Governor appointee.
Now the cast-off costs will be paid by a group that is stepping up to the plate. President Obama designated Flint as a federal emergency area allowing for $5,000,000.00 in aid. Government had to ameliorate the problem and the tax payer was now stepping up to the plate.
Governor Snyder said that “Government failed you. I am sorry, and I will fix it.” And yet it was not completely the government that failed the citizens of Flint. The fateful decisions were removed from the governmental decision making process, influence, and control. In the Time article, it was stated that the answer to how government can fail at a job so fundamental was “a disastrous combination of bad policy, shortsighted decisions and bureaucratic malfeasance. Added up, the chain of neglect and incompetence has led many in Flint to see something more sinister: an absence of democracy.” If the decision making was removed from government and given to “business thinkers” and those that believe that cost cutting and removing government from our daily lives will result in a garden of Eden, then the “many in Flint” are correct. But not everyone makes that distinction. The Time article quoted a Michigan State University expert who said that “The state was in charge of the city, So the state kind of has to own the problem.” But the decision making was removed from the state, including a derelict Governor.
Providing water to a citizenry is best handled as a socialist governmental activity and when capitalist thinking and the related overwhelming profit motive and cost concerns are applied, it is only natural that such disasters might occur generating even greater cast-off costs to everyone in society.