Commentary

Flint water crisis: A model for conservative privatizers?

It’s an open secret that many modern American conservatives want, as one of their ideological leaders put it with horrific and violent imagery a few years back, to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

And here in North Carolina, we can attest that the plan is fully operational. In area after area, our state’s right-wing leadership is doing its utmost to undermine our public structures — in education, healthcare, environmental protection — as part of a plan to hollow them out and sell them off.

Indeed, it’s not too far-fetched to begin to see some parallels between the Flint, Michigan water crisis and what’s going on here. Think about it. As I point out in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing (“The Right’s disingenuous propaganda about ‘choice'”) there are actually some striking parallels and important lessons:

“The simple truth is that public education is not a commodity or a consumer product. It is an indispensable component of a free and healthy society – like clean air and water or a public safety system.

Imagine if we told the people of Flint, Michigan that they are now ‘free’ from the ‘burdensome regulations’ of a failed public water system and have ‘choice’ when it comes to where they get their water. As outrageous as that would be, it’s hard to see how it differs much from the bill of goods school ‘choice’ champions are peddling here.”

Indeed, that’s precisely the nature of the scam: Keep under-funding public systems and structures and then, when they fail to perform up to snuff, blame it on the very nature of government and “bureaucracy” and use it as a justification to perpetuate the vicious cycle by cutting spending still further and selling off more public assets.

Let’s hope the crisis in Flint wakes people up to the simple reality that the only way for Americans to save their public structures and common good institutions from the privatizing vultures is to nurture them, invest in them and keep them strong.

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