Tag: Michigan

Poisoning the Well

This story has been building up in my timeline for a while. But today, Orac has a thorough post on how the Flint, Michigan government poisoned children with lead in their water. You really should read the whole thing. It all started when Flint changed from using water from Lake Huron to using water from the Flint River.

What happened? There were higher concentrations of salt in Flint River water, which led to corrosion of the lead welds in the copper pipes that carried the water to the city. Detroit’s less corrosive water had flowed through the pipes for decades without a problem, but it didn’t take long after the switch was made in April 2014 for elevated lead content to be noticed. Why was the switch made? Here the story gets a bit complicated. In 2010, the Flint City Council voted to join the new Karegnondi Water Authority. Construction of a pipeline from Lake Huron to Flint was begun and is scheduled to be completed in 2016. In April 2014, the emergency manager switched from purchasing treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, as it had done for 50 years, to getting water from the Flint River as a temporary measure until the pipeline was completed. The reason? When Flint joined the Karegnondi Water Authority, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department terminated its 35-year contract with the city. To continue to purchase Detroit water, Flint would have to renegotiate a short-term contract, at a higher cost. Basically, switching to river water saved Flint between $5 million and $7 million a year. That’s why the emergency manager did it.

Residents started complaining immediately about the quality of the water and health effects from using it. Tests started showing levels of lead in the water way beyond anything safe and doctors reported a doubling of children with lead poisoning. And the city and the state … buried the story.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality manipulated the samples tested for lead to eliminate the samples with the highest concentration and thereby produce the result that it wanted: The appearance that the water was safe. It’s true that Flint was in bad financial shape. It’s debatable that its financial situation was helped by Governor Snyder appointing a series of his cronies to run the city, one of whom caused this catastrophe in his desire to save money. His successors perpetuated the damage.

Here’s the even bigger kicker. Even using the Flint River water, the City of Flint could have prevented the corrosion of its copper and lead pipes relatively inexpensively:

Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech who has been testing Flint water, says treatment could have corrected much of the problem early on — for as little as $100 a day — but officials in the city of 100,000 people didn’t take action.

“There is no question that if the city had followed the minimum requirements under federal law that none of this would have happened,” said Edwards, who obtained the Muchmore email through a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request.

Lead is a big reason I favor environmental regulation. For decades, the lead industry insisted that lead in our water, our air and our homes was not harmful. They didn’t do this because they were cackling evil monsters. They did this because they were human. And humans find it very easy to persuade themselves that the wrong thing is the right thing when there’s money or pride at stake.

But this — and the massive mine blowout last year — are an important reminder that government can’t be trusted either. It will happily hide environmental damage to save money, to save pride or to advance an agenda. It will happily tell people befouled land is safe to build on, as they did at Love Canal. it will happily pretend an environmental disasters isn’t happening, as it did with the Gold King Mine. It will happily grant environmental regulation exemptions to business buddies if they “bring jobs” to a state.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? This is the question we must all answer. The answer in Flint should be a thorough independent investigation, the unelection of everyone even remotely connected with this, and criminal prosecution of those who covered it up. I’m sick and tired of politicians and their cronies being able to literally poison children and get away with it. If someone were dumping lead into Flint’s drinking water, we’d prosecute them. I won’t believe that this problem is being taken seriously until people end up in jail.

The Collapse of Detroit

This went out a week ago, but you really should read this article from the Detroit Free Press about the implosion of the city. Complete with animated graphs, it documents how, especially in the last decade, Detroit was the author of its own decline. Contra Krugman, this didn’t “just happen”. It was made. And the people who made it were Democrats.

A few choice quotes.

The total assessed value of Detroit property — a good gauge of the city’s tax base and its ability to pay bills — fell a staggering 77% over the past 50 years in today’s dollars. But through 2004, the city cut only 28% of its workers, even though the money to pay them was drying up. Not until the last decade did Detroit, in desperation, cut half its workforce. The city also failed to take advantage of efficiencies, such as new technology, that enabled enormous productivity gains in the broader economy.

Pension officials handed out about $1 billion in bonuses from the city’s two pension funds to retirees and active city workers from 1985 to 2008. That money — mostly in the form of so-called 13th checks — could have shored up the funds and possibly prevented the city from filing for bankruptcy. If that money had been saved, it would have been worth more than $1.9 billion today to the city and pension funds, by one expert’s estimate.

Contrary to myth, the city has not been in free fall since the 1960s. There have been periods of economic growth and hope, such as in the 1990s when the population decline slowed, income-tax revenue increased and city leaders balanced the budget. But leaders failed to take advantage of those moments of calm to reform city government, reduce expenses and protect the city and its residents from another downturn.

One event that that precipitated the current crisis was a complex debt deal that Kilpatrick engineered. Praised at the time, the deal ended up putting Detroit nearly three billion in the hole. I’ve commented before about cities and municipalities engaging in these complex financial deals that end up bankrupting them, particularly here in Pennsylvania. As I mentioned before, the city also negotiated lucrative deals to lure businesses to Detroit, which both drove non-rent-seeking businesses away and cost them. Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant, funded by taxpayers, ate up $250 million all by itself.

This didn’t have to be. Pittsburgh survived the collapse of the steel industry by reinventing the city. It’s now one of the vibrant cities in America. But Detroit failed to see the problem coming, made decisions that made a bad problem worse and has now completely imploded.

Ah, I’m sure there’s nothing to learn there. Things like Detroit “just happen”. Why here’s the Krug himself, comparing Pittsburgh and Detroit and deciding that Pittsburgh taking “better care of its core” was the difference. Detroit was just a victim of people fleeing the city, which has absolutely nothing to do with crony capitalism, out of control spending and skyrocketing taxes. No sir. It had nothing to do with Pittsburgh having one public employee per 94 residents compared to Detroit’s one per 60 (and even that is misleading, since Detroit pays out more to retirees than to current employees). No, sir. It all has to do with protecting your core, whatever that means.

(In his full article, Krug hilariously states that Detroit is a result of the creative destruction of capitalism. But cities are generally large enough that the creative destruction balances out — new businesses thrive as the old ones fail. When “creative destruction” is that widespread, it’s usually a different kind of destruction.)

Yeah, I know the Free Press has done their research, poring over 10,000 first-hand documents to reach their conclusions. But the Left thought really hard about this one night and came to different conclusions. So who you gonna believe? The excuse-makers? Or the facts?

You Work For Us

Tell me you are surprised:

If you’re a parent who accepts Medicaid payments from the State of Michigan to help support your mentally-disabled adult children, you qualify as a state employee for the purposes of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They can now claim and receive a portion of your Medicaid in the form of union dues.

Robert and Patricia Haynes live in Michigan with their two adult children, who have cerebral palsy. The state government provides the family with insurance through Medicaid, but also treats them as caregivers. For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family’s monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU.

In total, SEIU rakes in $6 million a year from the little scam. A similar scheme, passed by the ridiculous and ineffective union shill Jennifer Granholm, hit in-home daycare providers. Governor Snyder has ended that one; now it’s time to end the other. The bill to repeal has stalled in the state senate.

There’s no quote from SEIU but I would love to see them justify taking money from the parents of disabled children in exchange for … nothing. No union benefits or insurance or anything. I realize that taking care of your own children is depriving a union employee of a job. But some of us see that kind of self-sacrifice as the kind of thing that shouldn’t be punished.

The ACLU and Terry Jones

This is interesting … but thankfully not surprising:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has weighed in on the Terry Jones saga, filing a brief supporting the controversial pastor’s right to protest this afternoon in front of a mosque.

In the eight-page brief to the 19th District Court, the ACLU argued that efforts to make Jones pay a peace bond to protest outside the Islamic Center of America constitute prior restraint of his rights to free speech and assembly.

But prosecutors argued in court today that Jones’ protest could compromise public safety because the Ford Road mosque is located in a heavily trafficked area near churches, a senior center and schools. Police also argued that Jones — who has burned a Quran — has had threats against his life.

The city has said Jones can move the protest to other “free speech zones” elsewhere in the city or pay a peace bond — as much as $100,000 — to cover police costs if he demonstrates at the mosque. He refused, setting up today’s court battle.

It’s fairly obvious to me: Terry Jones is a piece of shit; even a piece has First Amendment Rights.

The courts have been fairly clear on this: people can not be charged a fee for police protection because their speech might provoke violence. This is why everyone from the KKK to the Illinois Nazis gets to have their say. The First Amendment does not protect you from the consequences of your speech. If Terry Jones starts a riot or blocks traffic or something, he can be punished. But he’s an American. He gets to say whatever he wants. And good on the ACLU for standing with this vile creep. I just suggest they take a shower afterward.