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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/25/16

Could Flint Fiasco Poison Austerity As Stupid, Wasteful & Cruel?

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'Austerity Fallacy' Echoes Its Evil Twin, Sequester

In severity of health damage, media staying power, and political indefensibility, the Flint, MI lead poisoning looms as a national turning point. What disgrace better spotlights Republican government that poisons one hundred thousand of its own people -- failed austerity at its worst? Rarely does stupid and wasteful, if not immoral, merge so dramatically. Here's a public water diversion that "saved" $15 million, only to explode today into a $2 billion must-pay boondoggle. All that without a reliable medical solution to life-long, lead-caused early brain development damage. Will poisoning stadiums full of children (plus eight related deaths) finally expose the failed, here fatal mindset of what qualifies as the great "Austerity Fallacy"?

Despite half-assed cheap shots, even the vast, rightwing conspiracy can't defend the wrongness of negligent austerity behind Michigan state misjudgments from start to finish. After all, what would a standard EIR (environmental impact report) have cost -- perhaps 1% of $15 million? Off the shelf science would have confirmed what happens when dirty river water, untreated with anti-corrosives, pulses through an aging, lead-pipe city drinking water system. Does not Flint prove what Nobel economist Amartya Sen declared: "Indiscriminate austerity . . . does not do anything to change a system while hugely inflicting pain"?

Because the US is a country in crisis, only undeniable calamities break through the ideological smoke and corporate/celebrity media haze. What assures the Flint MI morass has legs is how avoidable it was, the massive health damage, and mammoth penalty for Scrooge-like penny-pinching. Plus, there's no outside scapegoat to demonize, not even Obama. Nor can the right blame terrorists or immigrants or minorities. Not weather calamity or state revenue crises, just criminally negligent officials whose taxpayer sting may well surpass 13000% ($2 billion vs. $15. million "savings"). That's an offset of $130 dollars due and payable for every "saved" dollar.

Silver Linings from a Spectacular Fail?

The final cost-to-budget ratio of $2 billion to $15 million is surpassed only by much larger, Gulf oil spill-like catastrophes (that one weighing in at $100 billion dollars, less unknowable permanent costs, vs. less than $5 million estimated for protective deep water safety devices). While experts figure huge penalties from failed national austerity (Europe, Greece, America), my research could not unearth another singularly costly, domestic health disaster akin to Flint. Suggestions?

Politically, let's consider Flint as an unambiguous, unforced Republican infamy. Aside from Bush-Cheney neocon warmongering (with later enablers re Obama), or belligerence fantasizing the climate change "hoax," the Party of No here openly devastates innocents, mainly minorities. The Michigan GOP governor (plus fellow austerity freaks across WI, KS, NC, OH) is guilty of being a serious, permanent menace to public health and safety. Just when showboaters like Trump mouth off about delivering national greatness, his fellow GOPers are doing exactly the opposite: crushing excellence with the worst form of maniacal bean counting -- by those who can't even count. Having brought about failed states abroad, the rightwing is now actively sponsoring failed cities and states at home.

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For a decade, Robert S. Becker's rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, messaging and frameworks, now featured author at OpEdNews, Nation of Change and RSN. He appears regularly at Dissident Voice, with credits (more...)

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