Government is not a business.

When you treat government like a business, with the balance sheet driving all decisions – and with no moral compass to guide you – here is what happens.

Yesterday, the House Kill-All-Regulations Committee chaired by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) held a hearing on the Flint water crisis.

The testimony included that of Keith Creagh, Interim Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the hand-picked scapegoat for Gov. Rick Snyder’s starve-the-beast governance of the state of Michigan, policies that put balance sheet concerns over the duty of government to provide safe drinking water to its citizens. Conspicuous in their absence were Gov. Snyder and the man he handpicked as the “emergency” city manager whose decision led to this man-made catastrophe.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) leaves no doubt about his feelings on the literal poisoning of the children of Flint Michigan:

A news account and the full hearing video is below.

Flint drinking water crisis rattles Congress

Democrats battered the administration of GOP Gov. Rick Snyder – and by extension the Republican Party’s anti-regulation approach to governing.

“This is the consequence of putting ideology ahead of human beings and their needs and their welfare,” said Democratic firebrand Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia. “The difference in political philosophy matters. I do accuse. I do lay this at the doorstep of those who hold that philosophy.”[…]

the focal point of Wednesday’s squabbling was the nearly four-hour House hearing, which was punctuated with applause, groans and sobbing from an audience of Michiganders clad in “Flint Lives Matter” T-shirts who brought along bottles of dirty drinking water for the cameras.

Even as some Democrats thanked Chaffetz for holding it, others derided the hearing as a media stunt – noting that Snyder, who has faced calls for his resignation, was conspicuously absent from Chaffetz’s witness list. Also absent was the former head of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, who resigned under pressure.

Democrats noted that it was Snyder’s hand-picked emergency manager who, in the name of saving money, had orchestrated the fateful switch of drinking water sources for the hard-hit city’s 100,000 residents – from Lake Huron to the notoriously polluted Flint River. And it was Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality that failed to heed drinking water regulations that would have prevented the water from corroding old lead pipes and fixtures.

Full hearing video.

Participants:

Joel Beauvais
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator Environmental Protection Agency->Office of Water
Keith Creagh
Interim Director Michigan->Department of Environmental Quality

Marc Edwards
Member Flint, MI->Water Interagency Coordinating Committee
H. “Morgan” Morgan Griffith
U.S. Representative [R] Virginia
Sheila Jackson Lee
U.S. Representative [D] Texas
Dan Kildee
U.S. Representative [D] Michigan
Leeanne Walters
Resident Flint
Justin Amash
U.S. Representative [R] Michigan
Matt Cartwright
U.S. Representative [D] Pennsylvania
Jason Chaffetz
U.S. Representative [R] Utah
William Lacy Clay Jr.
U.S. Representative [D] Missouri
Bonnie Watson Coleman
U.S. Representative [D] New Jersey
Gerry Connolly
U.S. Representative [D] Virginia
Elijah Cummings
U.S. Representative [D] Maryland
Paul Gosar
U.S. Representative [R] Arizona
Michelle Lujan Grisham
U.S. Representative [D] New Mexico
Glenn Grothman
U.S. Representative [R] Wisconsin
Jody B. Hice
U.S. Representative [R] Georgia
Robin Kelly
U.S. Representative [D] Illinois
Brenda Lawrence
U.S. Representative [D] Michigan
Ted Lieu
U.S. Representative [D] California
Cynthia Lummis
U.S. Representative [R] Wyoming
Mark Meadows
U.S. Representative [R] North Carolina
John Mica
U.S. Representative [R] Florida
Mick Mulvaney
U.S. Representative [R] South Carolina
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Congressional Delegate [D] District of Columbia
Gary Palmer
U.S. Representative [R] Alabama
Stacey Plaskett
Congressional Delegate [D] Virgin Islands
Steve Russell
U.S. Representative [R] Oklahoma
Tim Walberg
U.S. Representative [R] Michigan

  14 comments for “Government is not a business.

  1. JanF
    February 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    The federal government declared Flint a federal emergency back in the middle of January and yesterday responded with more specific help.

    Feds deploy health ‘strike team’ to Flint

    The Obama administration is stepping up its involvement in the worsening water crisis in Flint, Mich., with the deployment of a team of public health officers to the city this week.

    A total of 16 members of the public health commissioned corps are now tasked with working with children who have suffered from lead poisoning because of the city’s drinking water.

    “The water crisis in Flint is a public health crisis and demands a public health response,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

    The trained health officers will help lead an on-the-ground response in Flint amid an ongoing scramble between the city and the state’s elected officials. Both Flint and its state leadership have faced mounting criticism for their lagging response.

  2. JanF
    February 4, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    People still hope to see the governor testify and ultimately held responsible. His ideology led directly to the penny wise and pound foolish cuts that created this mess.

    Water expert blames DEQ ‘cover-up’ for Flint crisis

    “One-hundred percent of responsibility lies with those employees at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. There’s no question,” Marc Edwards, a water expert at Virginia Tech University, told the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

    But Edwards also faulted the former Midwest chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Susan Hedman, who last summer discredited a key in-house memo that should have set off alarms about the failure of water officials to properly treat Flint River water.

    “EPA had the chance to be the hero here, and Ms. Hedman snatched defeat for EPA from the jaws of victory,” he said. […]

    Republicans focused more on the EPA’s shortcomings in Flint, while Democrats tore into the state’s role. But the officials the committee most wanted to hear from were not in the room.

    Chaffetz said former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who refused an invitation to testify Wednesday, would be served with a subpoena by U.S. marshals if necessary. Earley, in a state-appointed role, oversaw the city when it switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure.

    Democrats also continued to call for Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, to bring Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to Washington for questioning, saying the committee couldn’t conduct a comprehensive investigation without him.

    At least one Republican saw the governor as the culprit:

    U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-MI (Cascade Township), said it was “outrageous” that a “government-made” situation like Flint’s could happen in the United States, calling for an independent, nonpartisan investigation and for more state aid for Flint.

    “The state spends $33 million on the Pure Michigan ad campaign, yet has provided only $28 million to make sure the people of Flint have pure water,” Amash said at the hearing. “The state has the resources. The state needs to make it right.”

  3. JanF
    February 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    WaPo

    The initial decision to change Flint’s water source was done to save money while the city was [facing] economic troubles.

    Experts testifying before the committee said the city could have avoided the crisis by adding phosphates to the water supply when they switched water sources, as legally required. This would have cost $80 to $100 a day, they said.

    “In general, corrosion control, for every dollar you spend on it, you save $10,” said Marc Edwards, a municipal water expert and professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech. “But in Flint’s situation, every dollar you spend on it, you would have saved $1,000.”

    These numbers struck a chord with lawmakers.

    “For that much money, we poisoned the kids in Flint, didn’t we,” Mica said.

  4. JanF
    February 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    USA Today

    “My home used to be a place of peace and comfort for my family,” said LeeAnne Walters, a Flint resident and mother whose refusal to accept assurances that the water was safe helped lead to revelations about the city’s water supply. “That was taken from me. … Now my home is known as ground zero.”

    It eventually led to tests showing significantly higher blood-lead levels in children and, despite earlier assurances from the DEQ that the water was safe, tests showing increased lead levels in residents’ tap water.

    • February 4, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Jan–Thank Goddess for this:

      The federal government declared Flint a federal emergency back in the middle of January and yesterday responded with more specific help.

      Take that, “Saint” Ronnie! Remember how that old balpoot said “the most frightening words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

      Hope the old balpoot is whirling in his grave at the thought of the “poors” in Flint getting some help.

    • February 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Imagine being a mother in that situation, knowing that your children could be permanently brain damaged, all because the Rethugs value dollars more than human lives. Damn them all.

      Thanks for providing writeups and links, Jan!

      • JanF
        February 5, 2016 at 6:07 am

        I can imagine being a mother in that situation. It would be awful. I hate when my baby even has a cold!

        Maybe we have found something that even reflexive Republican voters can get angry over. In Kansas, Sam Brownback and his starve-the-beast budget has severely damaged the public schools. His opponent in the 2014 race hammered on that and got close but in the end the voters chose to let their schools deteriorate (last year they had to close early because they ran out of money). Republicans don’t much care for public schools and rarely use them for their own kids education but EVERYONE NEEDS SAFE DRINKING WATER. That is so vital. One of the Republicans, a guy from Florida named John Mica, said that exact thing.

        If we can get Republican voters to concede that there are some things that the government has to do, maybe we can get them to agree not to destroy it.

        • JanF
          February 5, 2016 at 6:36 am

          At about 1:32:48:
          “In government, we have a fundamental responsibility and that is – this glass of water [places glass in front of him and points at it] – that’s our responsibility to make sure that water is pure and drinkable”

          Period. End of conversation about the proper role of government.

  5. JanF
    February 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    More heroes…

    “As part of a watchdog effort focused on state-appointed emergency managers, a grant from Ford funded the work of journalist Curt Guyette, hired by the ACLU of Michigan to investigate how the decisions of emergency managers were impacting financially strapped Michigan communities. That assignment brought Guyette to Flint, where through dogged reporting he was able to draw awareness not only to the water crisis, but also to the lack of transparent and accountable government in Michigan.”

    http://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/the-crisis-in-flint-is-about-more-than-poisoned-water/

  6. bfitzinAR
    February 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    The purpose of government is to provide the goods/services – the “general welfare” – a society needs but are not profitable if provided to the whole society. That’s whether you are talking roads, water, “security”, education – not even mentioning the safety net. The Rs want the goods/services without paying for them. It’s a battle I fought and lost at the county level by a 5-1 vote. The 5-1 vote is why I gave up and didn’t run again.

  7. JanF
    February 5, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Senate Democrats have filibustered the Energy Bill to force amendments to be added to authorize money for Flint Michigan.

    Senate Democrats have carried through on their threat to derail a comprehensive energy bill until Republicans address the manmade water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

    Republicans expected the 424-page bipartisan energy bill, co-sponsored by Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Washington senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, would pass the senate easily after it was approved by the energy committee 18-4. But Michigan’s Democratic senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, have led a successful effort to filibuster the bill until Republicans stop blocking federal aid for Flint from becoming part of the package.

    “We are asking our colleagues to care about the children of Flint like you care about your own children,” pleaded Senator Stabenow.

    The filibuster had the support of Minority Leader Harry Reid who urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to include assistance for Flint in the bill in a floor speech yesterday.

    “I invite my Republican colleagues to come to the floor and explain to the people of this country why Flint is not worthy of assistance,” challenged Senator Reid. “Sens. Stabenow and Peters have worked hard to negotiate with Republicans, but almost having an agreement in place isn’t an agreement.”

    The Michigan senators attempted to attach an amendment to the energy bill providing $600 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements in Flint. That figure was a compromise – half the estimated cost of replacing corroded water pipes that have caused elevated lead levels in the drinking water. But at the last minute, Republicans kept the compromise amendment from being added for procedural reasons.

  8. JanF
    February 5, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Charlie Pierce wants Bernie and Hillary to use the Flint MI debate locale to go straight at Republicans and their ideology:

    As part of the deal that was wrangled out of the Democratic National Committee, there will be more debates, and one of them will be in Flint, Michigan. So here’s my tip for the two candidates, and for all their followers currently engaged on Twitter in the Battle of Antietam:

    Knock that shit off for one night.

    The only issues to be debated in Flint involve the failure at all levels of Republican (and conservative) government, and the destruction of the political commonwealth by the same. Just take turns pointing that out for a couple of hours and you may not have to worry about who you’re running against. Also, if you can have a big pitcher of lovely yellow water on your podiums for the camera, that would be nice, too.

    The Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue and our candidates need to pound it home: there is an important role for government and “burn it all down” is not a choice.

  9. Geordie
    February 7, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I taught pensions and deferred compensation for over 20 years, am still teaching a graduate tax course in deferred compensation once a year, and one of the concepts I try to drive home is fiduciary responsibility. In pension law, this is a specific duty of pension managers, but I think the fiduciary notion undelies all of government – government officials, from the President down to the local city councilperson, hold their offices as fiduciaries of the common good. I tell my students that lawyers hold the fortunes and frequently the lives of their clients in their hands – they are the fiduciaries in that relationship, charged with managing those fortunes and defending those lives solely for the benefit of the client, not themselves. So it is with government – those in positions of authority MUST consider themselves and think like fiduciaries, they too hold the lives and fortunes of the public in their hands and they must run the government for the sole benefit of the public, not themselves. These criminals in Michigan – and elsewhere. I’m sure – apparently have never heard about any of that, or if they have, are true criminals and think they can get away with profiting from poisoning children. They must be made to pay for this.

    • JanF
      February 7, 2016 at 11:30 am

      “Fiduciaries of the common good”. Exactly.

      And while they certainly are required to be judicious when spending the taxpayers money, another form of fiduciary responsibility, there is no one anywhere who would ever claim that providing safe drinking water is not a necessary role of a city government.

      I think that this is where the “businessmen are better than politicians” theory falls apart. A CEO owes an obligation to the shareholders to increase value, in fact if they spend the shareholders money doing good works, they can be sued under the Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. ruling. Shareholder value trumps everything. But when you are an elected official, you are not the CEO … you are the governor, or state legislator … and your duty lies to the well-being of your citizens. The bottom line does not trump the state constitution or the statutes.

      When people diss career politicians and lionize businessmen as better suited to run a state or a country, they run the risk that the businessmen just won’t get it. In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Freaking Johnson (R), who got his start in business thanks to his father-in-law, ran against the establishment. He was out of his depth and had no clue what government did. We get a do-over this year as former Senator Russ Feingold (D) is running for his old seat. I hope that people realize that “career politician” can also mean “person who has dedicated his life to service”. The voting public needs to be wiser in identifying the canards in amongst the talking points.

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