While in Detroit rallying union members yesterday President Obama made a statement that the water crisis in nearby Flint, Michigan, where government water authorities have knowingly supplied 100,000 residents with unhealthy, high lead level water, demonstrated the need for more government.
It followed a week of Democrats calling for the resignation of Michigan’s Republican Governor for not solving the problem sooner. And blaming the crisis on Republican penny pinching.
As it turns out, many levels of government, and politicians and bureaucrats of both parties, have known that Flint residents were being supplied with poisonous water for months, including officials at the EPA.
The reason the crisis is happening is that politicians have incentives to defer maintenance and upgrades on infrastructure and instead spend public funds, even to the point of bankruptcy, on buying votes, especially from organized special interests like unions, with programs like luxurious pensions or bail outs of failing corporations. Like the unions Obama was in Detroit to rally. The result is that citizens, in the words of analyst Mark Aesch, “are paying Ritz Carlton level taxes and getting Bates Motel quality government”.
One aspect of the story that has gone uncovered is that it isn’t new. It’s a repeat of a very similar event that happened only 12 years ago.
In 2004, Washington, D.C.. was discovered to have been serving up high lead content water to its residents and to some neighboring communities like Falls Church, Virginia, that used water from its municipal water authority. During that crisis, where it was discovered that the water authority, WASA, had fired their own scientist, Seema Bhat, when she started to inform the EPA of the high lead levels, and the almost all Democrat D.C. City council spent weeks distributing bottled water and water filters to pregnant women and families with small children, held many CYA hearings, and tore up most city streets and replaced water pipes for almost two years, there was discussion that the problem of high lead levels in public water systems was probably ubiquitous and that the EPA does nothing to monitor it proactively.
Back then D.C. had a luxury Flint doesn’t have, a booming economy based on an expanding federal workforce paid for with taxes from the rest of the country. D.C. was adding 1,000 highly paid bureaucrats and lobbyists to its population monthly, and they were driving up real estate prices about 25% annually. The local government was taking in income and property taxes and replaced its lead water pipes and also built a new $800 million convention center.
Breitbart, the Daily Caller, and other alternatives to the mainstream media didn’t exist in 2004. Journalists didn’t hold negligent Democrats accountable. But the D.C. government did still feel the need to spin the story and avoid law suits from those damaged. It hired a silk stocking corporate attorney as its spin meister. His name? Eric Holder.
So what Democrats normally do when caught poisoning their subjects with lead water is (1) not learn from the crisis, and (2) reward their PR flaks with high level presidential appointments. Holder must think the water is safe now. He just bought a one and a half million dollar condo in downtown D.C.