How the Water Crisis Put a $136 Price Tag On Flint Lives
What if I told you that one of the most violent and poverty-stricken places has a government that is knowingly poisoning its children? Now, what if I told you that place Is not in a war-torn foreign country but is a city in America called Flint, Michigan?
This hasn't exactly been a banner year for Flint, Michigan. Statistics has placed us at the top of several "Worst _______ in the United States" lists. Here's just a few of those lists and where we've placed on them:
- 2015's Fastest Shrinking Cities in America (Ranked 12th)
- 2014's Most Dangerous Cities in America (Ranked 4th, reportedly on pace to be 1st in 2015)
- 2015's Poorest Cities in America (Ranked 2nd poorest for city its size)
- 2015's Most Deteriorated Roads in America (Ranked 1st)
When you add a serious health hazard to the city's drinking water to those bullet points, you have to start questioning why anyone in their right mind would live in a city like this. Well, most of us have no choice.
If you are unaware of the water issues I'm referring to -- check out this detailed timeline of Flint's water woes from WNEM TV5
After much debate, misdirection, flat-out denial, and a possible cover-up of the lead contamination by the city, independent studies by Virginia Tech University and Hurley Hospital (that found elevated lead levels in the blood of children in Flint) have forced the officials to admit that there is a problem.
While switching back to Detroit as a water source seems to be the easy fix here, the $12 million price tag has the local and state government saying no. Instead, the state is putting $1 million towards filters for people's taps and offering a mere "hang in there, the new pipeline is coming soon." It's the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a broken leg and, god dammit, it's just not good enough.
Any politician will tell you that there's no price you can put on a human life. However, actions speak louder than words, and the actions of our state and local officials reveal that they have put a pretty specific dollar amount on your life. They are putting roughly 88,000 people at risk of lead poisoning to avoid paying $12,000,000, so they're basically saying that a life in Flint is worth less than $136.36 (give or take). That breaks down to about $352.94 per household -- about two and a half times the average monthly water bill of a Flint resident (which is eight times higher than the national average, by the way).
In my opinion, the local and state government have failed the city in many ways, but none as crucial as this. When I first wrote about the dangers of Governor Rick Snyder's EFM bill in 2011, I wasn't as interested in or as well-informed about politics as I am now. I'm by no means an expert, but even then I understood the dangers to which the bill could open the door. It gives Snyder, a businessman and accountant, the power to overthrow the elected local government as he sees fit. Once the chips were down in Flint, that's exactly what he did.
Snyder appointed several emergency managers in Flint, one of whom (Darnell Earley) made the decision to cut costs by pulling our water from the Flint River as oppose to Detroit. It was a decision that was not favored by residents and was pretty quickly identifiable to all as a huge mistake, but it's a year and a half later and they're refusing to pull the plug on this. This is what happens when you put accountants in charge of human lives. They make cost-effective decisions and since there is no exact dollar figure you can put on a human life -- to them our lives are essentially worthless.
If the local government isn't going to help, and the state government isn't going to help, who is going to save Flint from these ruthless bean counters that are selling our future for $136 a head? Is it Amnesty International? FEMA? The Supreme Court? President Obama? Whoever it is, will someone please get them on the horn before things get too far out of control?
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