Unless you are living under a rock, you have likely heard of the crisis in Flint, Michigan where the city water supply is laced with lead and threatening the lives and health of the city's citizens, especially the children. The nightmare is the logical culmination of right wing ideology where government spending and government regulations are the biggest threat facing Americans today. Especially if the beneficiaries of such spending are deemed "other" - read black, Hispanic, non-white LGBT, and, the horror, non-Christian. Shockingly, some Republicans have tried to blame the Flint fiasco on "too many government regulations." Paul Krugman had a piece in yesterday's New York Times that properly laid the disaster at the feet of conservative extremists who now dominate the GOP. Here are column highlights:
What we know so far is that in 2014 the city’s emergency manager — appointed by Rick Snyder, the state’s Republican governor — decided to switch to an unsafe water source, with lead contamination and more, in order to save money. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that state officials knew that they were damaging public health, putting children in particular at risk, even as they stonewalled both residents and health experts.This story — America in the 21st century, and you can trust neither the water nor what officials say about it — would be a horrifying outrage even if it were an accident or an isolated instance of bad policy. But it isn’t. On the contrary, the nightmare in Flint reflects the resurgence in American politics of exactly the same attitudes that led to London’s Great Stink more than a century and a half ago.In the modern world, much government spending goes to social insurance programs — things like Social Security, Medicare and so on, that are supposed to protect citizens from the misfortunes of life. Such spending is the subject of fierce political debate, and understandably so.There should, however, be much less debate about spending on what Econ 101 calls public goods — things that benefit everyone and can’t be provided by the private sector. Yes, we can differ over exactly how big a military we need or how dense and well-maintained the road network should be, but you wouldn’t expect controversy about spending enough to provide key public goods like basic education or safe drinking water.Yet a funny thing has happened as hard-line conservatives have taken over many U.S. state governments. . . . . . Not surprisingly, they have sought to cut social insurance spending on the poor. In fact, many state governments dislike spending on the poor so much that they are rejecting a Medicaid expansion that wouldn’t cost them anything, because it’s federally financed. But what we also see is extreme penny pinching on public goods.
It’s easy to come up with examples. Kansas, which made headlines with its failed strategy of cutting taxes in the expectation of an economic miracle, has tried to close the resulting budget gap largely with cuts in education. North Carolina has also imposed drastic cuts on schools.
Public construction spending as a share of national income has fallen sharply in recent years, reflecting cutbacks by state and local governments that are ever less interested in providing public goods for the future. And this includes sharp cuts in spending on water supply.What we see in Flint is an all too typically American situation of (literally) poisonous interaction between ideology and race, in which small-government extremists are empowered by the sense of too many voters that good government is simply a giveaway to Those People.But you can’t understand what happened in Flint, and what will happen in many other places if current trends continue, without understanding the ideology that made the disaster possible.
Governor Snyder needs to be removed from office, as do others who allowed this disaster to happen. Meanwhile, what I find most shocking is that far right conservatives are incapable of seeming common humanity in others unless they look just like them and cling to the same mythical religious beliefs. Worse yet, these "conservatives" likely go to church on Sundays and congratulate themselves on their godliness and piety. I think I am going to vomit simply thinking of these foul people.