Something is definitely rotten in the state of Michigan. And it’s not just the lead-poisoned water coming from the corroded pipes undergirding Flint’s public water system. The rottenness goes to the very core of an attitude of managerial expediency unfettered by moral leadership.
Contrary to widespread belief, Flint’s water woes are not the result of decadeslong neglect of critical infrastructure investments — although that is certainly a contributing factor. The long-term blame lies squarely with a legacy of policy choices over the decades. The fact that towns like Flint are facing critical fiscal crises is the result of successive generations of corrupt and incompetent local elected leadership. The immediate cause of the crisis stems from Gov. Rick Snyder’s attempt to rectify fiscal mismanagement through authoritarian, anti-democratic policies.
Mr. Snyder’s decision to usurp local authorities and place economically depressed towns like Flint under the sole control of unelected “emergency managers” is the proximate cause of the water disaster. The philosophy behind Mr. Snyder’s policy choices seems to be that governments should be “run more like a business.”
Under Mr. Snyder’s dubious management-oriented philosophy, principled leadership often takes a back seat to expedient tactics. In Flint, this approach has tragically backfired. The absence of moral discernment has sparked a crisis from which the citizens of Flint as well as for Michigan taxpayers are unlikely to escape anytime soon.
Let’s be clear: The situation in Flint was not an act of nature, an accident or a mistake. It was a man-made environmental disaster, entirely foreseeable and entirely preventable.