Bail out Flint, MI?

The Washington Post opines that Flint, MI may need bailout money – big bailout money – to fix its water system.

The residents of this battered city have lived for years under some of the worst conditions in urban America: soaring levels of violent crime, poverty, unemployment and blight. Now, for many, the catastrophe of a water supply that may be poisoned indefinitely appears to be the final insult.

. . .

Less than a month after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency, only one thing is clear: Resolving the crisis will be very expensive. Mayor Karen Weaver has estimated the cost of removing lead service lines from 15,000 homes at about $45 million. Combating the potential impact of lead poisoning in the 9,000 children exposed to tainted water starts at $100 million, according to Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who is proposing the multifaceted program.

Overhauling Flint’s water­ distribution system, if necessary, could cost more than $1 billion, a tab only the federal government could pay.

There’s more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

In so many words, they’re arguing that the federal government should pay for the overhaul or replacement of Flint’s water system.  To that, speaking as a federal taxpayer, my answer is not just “No”, but “Hell, no!”

The screw-up in Flint was the result of a wrong decision by a state-appointed emergency manager, who was trying to sort out decades of municipal mismanagement and corruption.  The problem is local, and was caused locally.  Why on earth should taxpayers all over the country be forced to pay for something that was not, is not and never will be our problem?

Sorry.  If Flint needs a bailout, it should come from local and State resources.  The city has no legitimate claim, moral, ethical, legal, constitutional or otherwise, on national taxpayer funds.  Any attempt to provide the latter to solve Flint’s problems would be nothing more or less than robbery of the national exchequer for partisan political ends.  (Of course, that’s happened often enough – on both sides of the political aisle – that it may well happen again.  That doesn’t mean we should let it go without a fight, and doing everything we can to stop it.)



  1. I will consider a bailout when you fire every elected official, and 80%+ of the appointed officials and functionaries in the district, and permanently ban them from government employment (directly or as contractors, or even sub-sub-sub-contractors), and reduce the government payroll by at least 25% in real dollar terms. Until then, no deal.

  2. Thousands of municipal water systems are well managed and deal with lead piping every day in the US.
    If the idiots that ran the Flint Water Treatment plant had added about $50,000 per year of phosphate compounds to the water, the lead would not have leached out of the piping in the houses. The cause of the lead poisoning was incompetent water treatment by the city. It was compounded by the complete neglect of the problem by the city, the Michigan DEQ, and the EPA. They knew there was a problem, they knew what needed to be done to fix it (add phosphate), and did nothing! NOTHING!!!

    They did not even warn the residents.

    I have no reason not to believe if they switched water sources and added the proper water treatment chemicals today, that the water in the piping would be safe within a few weeks. The lead would again be prevented from leaching by the barriers the phosphate compounds create. Pay me ten million, and let me hire some competent people, purchase the right treatment chemicals and equipment, and I can find a way to fix the problem by April.

  3. As one who spent some time living in Africa many years ago, the difference between the first and third worlds is in many cases of water supply. The first world has always seen this as a priority whereas the third world hasn't.

    Seems like the good old US of A is slipping out of the first world window.

  4. There aren't that many people in Flint. How much to move them to say Detroit? Probably cheaper, especially since the city has not economic rationale for existing anymore.

    Cities rise and fall based on their economic purpose. These motor cities no longer have a purpose since they priced themselves out of the auto manufacturing market.

  5. It's my understanding that Flint had been getting their water from Detroit, switching to a backup source when Detroit greatly increased their price in order to get the funding to fix Detroit's water infrastructure problems.
    The backup source had a slightly different chemical composition that ate away at the compounds that had formed over exposed lead pipes and joints thus exposing the lead to be leached into the water supply.
    This apparently happened some two years ago, and Flint residents have been drinking and cooking with contaminated water ever since.
    Administrators at every level of government and public service are guilty not only of failing to anticipate the problem, but much worse of trying to cover up knowledge of it once they were informed.
    Bailout? Oh hell no! When you reward bad behavior all you do is encourage more of the same. The line of municipalities with neglected water systems and their hands out would stretch the length of the country.

    1. Bailout? No. Trials and convictions + prison time? Sure, that'll suit me just fine! Frickin corrupt, arrogant, autocratic bureaucrats! If we can't hang the whoresons(daughters too, don't want to be discriminatory after all) from the lampposts, we can at least lock them up…I hope.

  6. I agree with JK Brown above – relocation to a safer location would be a better solution. If the area is decaying already and the future looks just as bleak, just better to sell out and move.

  7. @anonymous, sell out to who? Who would be stupid enough to buy?

    although, at the bailout sums that they are talking about, it may actually be cheaper to buy out than to fixup.

    renters should bail and move, but that will leave the actual property owners in deep trouble.

  8. take it from some one who lives within driving distance of flint there is no amount of money that can fix what is wrong with that city let alone the water problems

  9. The United States population is 318 million. A billion dollar repair job is three bucks a person.

    Since apparently you don't care about children suffering permanent and irreparable brain damage for something they didn't do, tell you what. I'll pay your share.

  10. @John Seavey: Thanks. Very generous of you. Now, what are you going to do when the next town down the road also wants a Federal bailout for something or other? Or the next city? Or the next state?

    Sorry. Federal money should be used for constitutionally mandated Federal responsibilities. In a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or a major earthquake, disaster relief is also legitimate, IMHO. However, money to rehabilitate what is specifically a local responsibility, and to repair a mistake made under state supervision, is not a Federal responsibility. If we don't draw that line hard and fast, pretty soon the central government will be the 'bailout of last resort' for any and every expense.

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