The condition of the water service in Flint is in a wretched state. Everyone seems to have a view on it, and many have slanted it to fit their political agendas. The left somehow feels that the root cause of the water crisis is the market, since the city switched utility providers in order to save money. Crusaders like Michael Moore have used it as a launchpad to decry the perceived failures of Michigan’s present Republican administration. Michael Moore has gone so far as to blame the entire crisis on the Govenor Rick Snyder, calling for his immediate resignation. While I doubt that people really ever take Michael Moore seriously, he brings up an interesting point that is worth discussion.
The right, generally speaking, has remained quiet on the issue. When it is brought up by conservatives, it is used as an indictment of public utilities in general. This is a gross generalization, although its underlying premise is also sound. The government-enforced monopoly that is a “public utility” is hardly ever good for consumers. What is the utility system good for? Well, it is good at reducing infrastructure clutter. Nobody wants six different electrical companies all with their own transmission lines criss-crossing their town.
Now how can we, average critical-thinking Americans, reconcile these two seemingly opposite viewpoints on the matter to try and figure out a real, viable solution to the problem at hand? And what is the actual problem in the first place? Well, the underlying problem that has barely been hit on by the mainstream is actually money. Money is said to be the root of all evil, which is not untrue in this case… however, in this case it is the lack of money.
The City of Flint has been in a budgetary crisis for years. Flint has been overspending for years, and compounding it by not preparing for future revenue losses due to its dwindling tax base and business community. Flint is a showcase for the dangers of fiscal irresponsibility. It doesn’t take a strong grasp of economics to know that if you spend more than you make, you’re gonna have a bad time. Now, it is facile to blame Governor Snyder or the emergency managers for this water mess, but shouldn’t the real culprits be the people who led the City into its budget crisis?
We as a nation should take this as a warning and a wake up call. Overspending and budget deficits are a very dangerous and toxic situation for any group to be in. The current U.S. national debt is estimated to be at 103% of our gross domestic product, up over the past decade by nearly 60% (www.usgovernmentspending.com). That doesn’t even include state and local government debt. To put this in layman’s terms, the entire value of all goods and services sold in the United States in one year is not enough to settle our federal government debt.
While public debt in and of itself is not such a terrible thing, when it becomes so inflated that it eclipses the GDP of a nation, let alone the nation with the highest GDP in the history of earth, that is a huge problem and huge threat to the stability of that nation. Outrageous government spending is the exact thing that led to the Flint water crisis. While basic public services like water are outside of the federal government’s scope (much of the current Federal Government is outside of its true intended scope of responsibility), things like national defense, diplomacy, and interstate commerce are not. How can we expect to have these important functions of government maintained when the government is in debt up to its proverbial eyeballs? Something needs to be done to rein in this catastrophic spending before the bubble inevitably bursts.
This brings us back to Flint. Michael Moore’s push for the resignation of Gov. Snyder is a bit ridiculous, as he is the one who is trying to rein in Flint’s spending. He is dealing with decades of corruption and bad leadership at the state and local level. This would be akin to calling for Obama to resign over the Iraq war, or Ford over Vietnam. This is especially ludicrous since the problem was caused by uncontrolled spending under the previous Democrat administrations. This isn’t to say that Democrats are the problem, but to imply that the Republicans are solely to blame is either naive or unscrupulous.
If we really are to take the lessons from Flint to heart to prevent this from ever happening again, we must recognize the dangers of unchecked spending. Any politician advocating further spending increases after we have doubled the national debt in ten years should be viewed with extreme skepticism as we are on the verge of an uncontrollable cycle that can only end up in the pathetic position Greece is in. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into this trap, as George W. Bush so aptly put it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, can’t get fooled again”