Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
You’ve probably never heard of Sebring, Ohio. Despite tainted water, which the EPA knew about for months before the public did, shipments of water bottles for the angry residents, two EPA employees being put on leave, and all the other elements of a scandal, it was missing something.
Sebring is 98% white. Ohio governor John Kasich is a Republican, but currently favored by the media. So talk of Sebring being the next Flint remained just that.
St. Joseph, Louisiana might have been the other “next Flint,” but before long Louisiana had elected a Democratic governor. St Joe’s is mostly black and there are no Republicans in sight to blame for its water crisis. Plenty of villages, towns and cities have tainted water. The cause is usually local, but the media is only interested if it has the right victims and the right villain for its manufactured drama.
The closest counterpart to the media’s wildly dishonest coverage of Flint’s water troubles was its Katrina reporting. Even though New Orleans had an incompetent Democratic mayor, who would be sent to jail, and a Democratic governor, all the blame was directed at the Republican president. The crisis coverage was filled with hyperbolic exaggeration in which Brian Williams’ own lies garnered no attention. New Orleans was a post-apocalyptic hell on earth where the residents had devolved to cannibalism. All because of Bush. The Flint coverage is the old Katrina coverage with Snyder swapped out for Bush.
If Romney had won the last election, Flint would be his fault. But with Democrats in the White House and in Flint, the media chose the lone Republican in the middle. It had no interest in asking questions about the EPA’s slow response to the crisis or in investigating local Flint politicians.
These included Councilman Wantwaz Davis, a convicted killer, whom the media celebrated as the hero of the Flint crisis, while dismissing his time in jail for murder. Davis was expert at getting media attention by playing up his background and denouncing the tainted water as “genocide”.
But, like much of Flint, Davis wasn’t paying his water bills. The media is still playing up Flint’s high water rates. What it doesn’t mention is that they’re so high because Flint is full of water deadbeats.
Flint’s Democratic mayor, city council and emergency manager made the transition which caused the crisis. But the media chose to overlook all of them and blame Governor Snyder. It cheered the election of a new mayor, Karen Weaver, who, like Wantwaz, was an “activist” fighting for the people of Flint.
Mayor Weaver claimed that the crisis happened because, “The people weren’t put first, the health of the people was not put before profit and money.”
Now Mayor Weaver has been hit with a lawsuit accusing her of funneling donations for Flint’s water crisis into her own SuperPAC. Instead of going to help Flint residents get safer drinking water, the money was being redirected to a group named after Weaver’s cheesy campaign slogan. Karenabout Flint.
Weaver, not Snyder, had been allegedly putting profit and money ahead of the health of the people. Karen didn’t care about Flint. Like the city’s previous mayors, she only cared about Karen.
The media is treating the lawsuit as a Snyder conspiracy, even though former administrator Natasha Henderson, who filed the whistleblower lawsuit, had just as shaky a relationship with Governor Snyder as she did with Mayor Weaver.
For decades, Flint has been going through a cycle of corrupt mayors and state takeovers. Democrats spend Flint dry forcing the state to step in. And then the state is denounced for spending cuts that were inevitable because there was no money. Weaver follows in the footsteps of great Flint politicos like Woodrow Stanley, who was kicked out of office after running up a $30 million deficit, and Don “The Don” Williamson who lied blatantly about the deficit. That deficit will now hit nightmarish proportions.
Flint’s water bills will double and a sizable portion of its residents, about a quarter of whom are already felons, will go on not paying them. Michigan has been forced to spend millions dealing with Flint’s mess. But the problem goes back to the simple question of whether Flint can run its own affairs. And it can’t.
Michigan is faced with a Catch 22 problem. Either it keeps taking over Flint’s affairs and getting the blame. Or it lets Flint go to hell on its own while getting the blame for an even worse situation.
This crisis did not happen to Flint. It happened because of Flint.
Katrina exposed the problems with New Orleans in the same way that the water crisis exposed the problems with Flint. Fixing them won’t be nearly as easy as tinkering with some pipes.
The only outsiders exploiting Flint are in the media. And they are using Flint, just as they used Ferguson, to tell a very particular story. That story isn’t about Flint and it has nothing to do with fixing the troubled city. It’s just another dramatic episode in a culture war where moral narcissists pose next to little black kids as human props from Africa to America.
Their moral is that Democrats are good people who care and Republicans are bad people who don’t. Democrats value people. Republicans only care about profits. And then the filming stops, the episode ends and the TV crews head on to the next location. Michigan gets a Democratic governor. Everyone suddenly forgets about the most important city in America. And Flint gets worse.
There are legitimate questions to ask about Flint. Here is one that we ought to start with.
What happens when a city can’t afford the infrastructure that it needs to exist and its democracy is so dysfunctional that it can’t make the decisions that it needs to survive?
It’s not just a question for Flint. It’s also a question for Detroit, Oakland and plenty of other cities.
The media’s answer is that the rest of the state and the country ought to bail out Flint with as much money as it takes and for as long as it takes without ever interfering with the mismanagement by its corrupt politicians.
That’s a bad answer for Flint and it’s a bad answer for America.
When New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy in the seventies, President Ford’s refusal to bail it out was the right thing to do. “The people of the United States… will not be asked to assume a burden that is not of their own making and should not become their responsibility,” he said.
The same is true of Flint.
And he warned, “Other cities, other States, as well as the Federal Government, are not immune to the insidious disease from which New York City is suffering. This sickness is brought on by years and years of higher spending, higher deficits, more inflation, and more borrowing to pay for higher spending, higher deficits, and so on, and so on, and so on. It is a progressive disease, and there is no painless cure.”
The cure was not painless. It took hard lessons and better management to put New York on its feet. The cure didn’t just fix balance sheets. It made the city a better and safer place to live.
That is the kind of tough love that Flint needs. It’s either that or give in to all the demands from Wantwaz Davis or Karen Weaver while Flint becomes an even worse place to live. Pouring money into cities with rotten leadership is no solution. We’ve tried it and they’ve only gotten worse.
A crisis is an opportunity for leadership. Flint’s problem isn’t clean water, it’s leadership.
The only people who can save Flint are already living there. If they can’t do it, no one else can.