UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

How Trump Exploited NYC’s Financial Crisis

The Daily Escape:

Iceberg floating near Ferryland Newfoundland, April 2017 – photo by Greg Locke

The Intercept has an interview of Kim Phillips-Fein by Naomi Klein about how Donald Trump made his first big deal during the New York City financial crisis of the mid-1970s. Phillips-Fein’s book is “Fear City”, which describes the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970s that brought it to the verge of bankruptcy. The WSJ reports:

By June 1975, New York faced default on $4.5 billion in outstanding short-term debt owed to a few big banks and to thousands of unidentifiable small investors. Not only did the city have no way to repay $4.5 billion, it could not meet its routine, daily operating expenses, including payroll.

The WSJ says that between 1970 and 1980, more than 823,000 city dwellers left for (literally) greener pastures.

Ultimately the city did not go bankrupt. The banks and the city’s unions were willing to buy enough of the city’s (otherwise unsalable) debt to avoid bankruptcy. Important to the mix was the creation of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC) run by Felix Rohatyn, who became chief negotiator between the city, its labor unions and its creditors. A new type of agency, The New York State Financial Control Board, that controlled the city’s budget, became the model for the type of emergency city managers that we saw last year in Flint and Detroit Michigan.

The NYC financial crisis helped Donald Trump emerge as a New York deal-maker. Trump convinced New York to let him take over the Commodore Hotel, which we now call the Grand Hyatt, just east of Grand Central station. Trump modernized and renovated it, it was his first construction project in Manhattan. Phillips-Fein picks up the story:

…the Commodore Hotel was a previously very fancy hotel from the early 20th century. I think it opens in 1919 at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. And it’s owned by the Penn Central Railroad. And the hotel kind of falls into disrepair and near collapse after Penn Central itself goes bankrupt in 1970.

The Commodore had stopped paying city property taxes and was for sale. The city was terrified that if the Commodore Hotel closed, the blight in Times Square would spread east, into the area around Grand Central Terminal. Trump saw an opportunity, while the city government saw a potential disaster. Together they hatched a plan for Trump to purchase the Commodore Hotel: (parenthesis by the Wrongologist)

What he actually wants to do is buy it and sell it to a state agency, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC)…And then the UDC will lease it back to Trump, [who was] working with the Hyatt organization.

The UDC leased it back to Trump and Hyatt. And this arrangement enabled them to pay substantially lower property taxes than usual. Phillips-Fein:

The New York Times reported that as of 2016, this tax arrangement with the Hyatt had cost New York City about $360 million in uncollected taxes in the years since the development.

Naomi Klein:

So I just want to pause there, because what you’re saying is…Trump and the Hyatt put down $9.5 million…They come up with this…sweetheart deal, a tax dodge. And that $9.5 million outlay translates back into roughly $360 million in tax savings…

The Trump/Hyatt tax deal set the stage for a wholesale change in the city. The fear of bankruptcy was central to understanding NYC politics at that moment: They feared an apocalyptic future. That fear created a need for a savior, and it found two in Donald Trump and Felix Rohatyn.

The NYC government decided that working with the business community was the bail-out it needed. It set the stage for the city’s luxury developments, for using different kinds of tax breaks that stimulated the development of properties primarily dedicated to the needs of corporations and the rich. It set the stage for a wholesale change in city politics from New Dealism to Neoliberalism. And it set the stage for Trump’s political career. Phillips-Fein: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

…you can see the straight line, really, from the Commodore to this skating rink [Wollman Rink in Central Park] to the presidential bid…”I’m not a politician. Washington is corrupt. I know how to do this better…”

Fear makes things that should be impossible suddenly feel as though they’re the only answer. Klein concludes by saying we should be very wary of the political exploitation of our fears, of political exploitation of an atmosphere of crisis.

It is clear that Donald Trump’s career and his fortune were really forged by doing just that.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call -MLK Holiday Edition

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience….Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”Howard Zinn

Today we remember the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was America’s icon of civil disobedience, and a hero to most. And while injustice and inequality continue in the US, the thought that civil disobedience will deliver the astonishing results it did in the 1950s and 1960s seems nearly impossible. In the next four years, we will have trouble enough holding on to the reforms of the New Deal and the Lyndon Johnson years.

Here is a small proof: This week, the city of Biloxi Mississippi tweeted that some municipal offices would be closed on Monday “in observance of Great Americans Day, a state-named holiday”. That was news to citizens of Biloxi. How had the city changed the name of a federal holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr to celebrate unnamed “Great Americans”?

It hadn’t. This from the Guardian:

The incident, however, highlighted an awkward truth about Mississippi’s Martin Luther King Jr Day: that it is also Robert E Lee Day…Arkansas and Alabama also jointly celebrate Martin Luther King Day and Robert E Lee Day, despite annual protests.

States and municipalities were slow to recognize the MLK holiday, with New Hampshire being the last state to officially observe the day, in 2000. You may remember Arizona’s resistance to a holiday honoring MLK. It became a big issue in the late 1980s. In 1986, the year the federal holiday honoring King was first observed, Arizona’s House of Representatives voted down a measure observing it. But, Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt, who was about to leave office, proclaimed the holiday on his own.

Babbitt’s designation of the holiday became an issue in the next election. Republican Evan Mecham promised to overturn Babbitt’s order if he won. And after his election, Mecham reversed the proclamation. Mecham’s move led to dozens of groups cancelling conventions in Phoenix. After Mecham left office, (he was indicted and impeached), the debate continued, eventually leading to a statewide vote in 1990, but Arizona voters rejected the holiday.

That cost Arizona a chance to host its first Super Bowl in 1993 (the NFL’s decisions are made about 5 years in advance). Losing the 1993 game cost the state at least $200 million. The ongoing refusal to create an MLK Holiday also cost Arizona scores of additional conventions and tourist business. Not long after the vote, the NCAA turned down Arizona State’s request to host a portion of the 1994 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It took until November 1992 for the state to finally designate the MLK Holiday.

Does any of this sound familiar? A Republican governor stands against an idea that the majority of America thinks is important, and the right thing to do. The state loses tourism and other business. It becomes a pariah, standing on ground that makes its governor look more like George Wallace than a modern political executive. We’re talking about you, North Carolina! Why is it always a Republican?

In 1991 the rap group Public Enemy released a song called “By the Time I Get to Arizona” on their album, “Apocalypse 91”. They wrote the song in response to Arizona’s’ refusal to create the MLK Holiday. The song is controversial, since the music video showed Public Enemy’s willingness to kill Gov. Mecham. Rolling Stone praised the album, stating that Apocalypse 91attempted nothing short of setting a sociopolitical agenda for the black community.”

Best wishes on MLK day. The struggle is gonna get way more real this year. Here is “By The Time I Get to Arizona”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample Lyrics:

I’m countin’ down to the day deservin’
Fittin’ for a king
I’m waitin’ for the time when I can
Get to Arizona
‘Cause my money’s spent on
The goddamn rent
Neither party is mine not the
Jackass or the elephant
Why want a holiday Fuck it ’cause I wanna
So what if I celebrate it standin’ on a corner
I ain’t drinkin’ no 40
I B thinkin’ time wit’ a nine
Until we get some land
Call me the trigger man
Looki lookin’ for the governor

Facebooklinkedinrss

Trump Promised Jobs. That’s Why He Won

Take a good look at this map. It shows which counties switched parties in the 2016 US Presidential election compared to 2012. Red counties switched from Democrat to Republican, blue counties switched from Republican to Democrat and the vast majority in grey did not switch parties:

counties-that-changed-partys

Source: Brilliant Maps

Of course, it doesn’t show vote margin or size of the total vote in each county. The main thing this map shows is the large number of counties in the North East and Midwest that flipped to Trump, after having been Democratic counties in the prior election. The effect was large enough to deliver the normally Democratic leaning states of Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin into the Republican camp.

Tim Duy has an article about how economists and most politicians get so wrapped up that they miss the human element in economic dislocations. Duy makes the point that they ignore two of the negative impacts of job losses. First, they say how lost jobs free up human capital for use elsewhere in the economy. Of course, as jobs are added to the economy, skill levels and training determine whether laid-off workers are part of that equation.

“High-skilled” workers is what we need, but they are not always the kind of workers that were laid off.

Second, Duy reminds us that most workers have little ability to move to where better jobs might be found. Politicians tell us that the economy is shifting to urban and suburban areas; to higher skilled jobs; that workers must go and get retrained. That misses the point.

Most new jobs for those who were laid off will only be found if workers are able to relocate, to move from rural or devastated urban locations to geographic areas where jobs are expanding. Duy notes it is particularly difficult for rural areas:

The speed of regional labor market adjustment to shocks is agonizingly slow in any area that lacks a critical mass of population…Relative to life spans, in many cases the shocks might as well be permanent.

We don’t have answers for most of these communities. Rural and urban economic re-development is hard. The people living in these regions have experienced job losses (or no jobs growth) for decades; positive jobs growth has occurred elsewhere.

And the laid-off workforce isn’t mobile. In effect, we have limited access to housing in our major cities by pushing housing costs beyond the reach of most middle class workers. This, from Kevin Erdmann:

If you lost your manufacturing job in Buffalo, and you’re thinking of moving to New York City because there are more jobs there, you might decide not to move because it is too expensive. It is the affordability that is keeping you out. But, even here, the affordability problem is just the messenger. It is the rationing mechanism for a housing stock that is relatively fixed for political reasons.

If you decide to move to the NYC area, you see that the housing supply is largely fixed. New buildings are hard to get through zoning. Construction costs in big cities are very high. Income taxes are rising rapidly.

Erdmann makes the point that housing in big cities doesn’t move up with increased demand:

So, it doesn’t matter if Brooklyn apartments rent for $500, or $1,000, or $2,000, or $4,000. There isn’t one for you. Fixing this by fixing affordability isn’t going to change the supply curve. It’s simply substituting non-monetary rationing mechanisms for the monetary one.

Trump’s message that US firms need to consider domestic jobs as much as their bottom line, also resonated with middle and upper-middle class households. OTOH, it’s not like Trump took on the Coal Industry on behalf of workers. He blamed federal environmental policy, but that isn’t what caused the loss of coal industry jobs.

Trump doesn’t really have any answers, but he pretends to care while pretending to have answers. Pretending to care and pretending to have answers gave him the switched counties on the electoral map above. People want work. They want secure jobs.

Trump might be running a “jobs” scam, but if it fails, what is the Democrats’ alternative?

We have four years until the next election, two if you are looking at Congress. What policies will work? Will we just trade Trump’s scam for another one peddled by the establishment?

Business as usual hasn’t delivered. The idea that economic growth creates jobs is a pipe dream for many: For the past 40 years, economic growth did not improve wages.

Trump’s promise swung the election. If he fails, what will be the Democrats’ response?

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – November 28, 2016

Someone once said that if the Republican Party was a refrigerator, it would say its job was to let ice melt.

Apparently Ben Carson was offered the job as head of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is a cabinet-level appointment. Carson had initially turned down a cabinet appointment at Health & Human Services (HHS) because, (according to his staff) he was unqualified. But he’s changed his mind: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Ben Carson has demonstrated the ability to do two things at a world-class level: perform surgical operations, and run [several] lucrative scams. By his own admission, he is patently unqualified to run a federal agency. Nonetheless, he is apparently on the verge of accepting a job as secretary of Housing and Urban Development…

History tells us that HUD has had just one use in Republican administrations. The agency’s program structure lends itself to profiteering. HUD works closely with private developers to build affordable housing. Without careful oversight, the agency can easily become a slush fund to distribute sweetheart contracts to the administration’s buddies.

Samuel Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD secretary, did just that. Reagan’s HUD regularly handed out loans and grants on the basis of political contacts. Ultimately, some Reagan-era HUD officials were convicted, including three assistant secretaries, for such crimes as accepting illegal loans, obstructing justice, and illegal gratuities.

George W. Bush’s housing secretary, Alphonso Jackson, resigned in 2008 after a series of scandals, including sweetheart deals and inflated salaries for his friends. He instructed his staff to steer contracts to Bush supporters. Jackson was investigated by HUD’s inspector general, the Department of Justice and the FBI, none of which resulted in a conviction.

Since Trump says that he will continue running his real estate empire in office, a loyalist like Carson, someone with no experience in government, but who has relevant experience in bilking, will oversee an agency whose mission lends itself to corruption.

One of the reasons to appoint Carson is because HUD will likely cease its anti-segregation and anti-discrimination activities as soon as the Trumpets assume control. He is on record supporting ending that mission. This from the WSJ:

Under the Obama administration, the department has beefed up enforcement of fair-housing regulations to combat zoning policies that result in segregation, threatening the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding to municipalities that don’t comply. Mr. Carson sharply criticized those policies as “mandated social-engineering schemes” that repeated a pattern of “failed socialist experiments in this country,” in a 2015 op-ed published in The Washington Times.

If there is a bright side to Ben Carson running HUD, it is that he’s not running HHS with the second largest share of the federal budget. Imagine him saying: “I’m a physician. Med school taught me everything there is to know about health care.”

Remember, HUD spelled backward is DUH…

It’s time to wake up America! The writing is on the wall, Trump’s cabinet hires are terrible, and we have to pressure him to do better than Ben Carson.

You can go to social media and complain directly to your Orange Overlord at: #therealDonaldTrump.

To help you wake up, listen to the Crystals from 1962 singing “Uptown”. Phil Spector originally recorded the song with Little Eva, the 19 year-old babysitter to Carole King and Gerry Goffin. The end result didn’t meet Spector’s standards, so he produced it a second time with the Crystals. Here is “Uptown”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample Lyrics:

He gets up each morning
And he goes downtown
Where everyone’s his boss
And he’s lost in an angry land
He’s a little man

But then he comes uptown
Each evenin’ to my tenement
Uptown where folks don’t have
To pay much rent
And when he’s there with me
He can see that he’s everything
Then he’s tall, he don’t crawl
He’s a king

Downtown he’s just one of a million guys
He don’t get no breaks
And he takes all they got to give
‘Cause he’s got to live

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 25, 2016

So many stories competing for our attention this week. The bomber, the “driving while black” shootings, the upcoming debate.

Let’s start with Tulsa and Charlotte:

cow-aaa-b4-cops

And how many news reports do we hear about a stranded white motorist being shot, or a social worker lying on the ground with his hands in the air getting shot? The smart phone camera is the only disinfectant that may end this.

The Presidential candidates’ response to NYC and NJ bomber taught us quite a bit:

 

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

This shows the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans view the world. Democrats are trying to figure out why people are getting radicalized, who they are, and how to stop them. Republicans want to carpet bomb the place until the sands glow and let (their) god sort them out.

The Wells Fargo hearings gave us a rare moment of bi-partisan solidarity:

cow-shoot-wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrongo does not endorse killing anyone at Wells Fargo or any other bank or Wall Street firm. But is putting a few behind bars too much to ask?

The debate is tomorrow, but what on earth will they talk about?

cow-debate-topics

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 21, 2016

Although the Wrongologist cannot get newspapers, and only has occasional wifi, the news does not seem to have changed much in the past week. So, here are a few cartoons curated from the wilderness:

Aetna pulled out of Obamacare. Why are you surprised?

COW Aetna

Trump accused Democrats of exploiting Blacks at Minnesota Rally:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Trump told CBS News:

I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police and I think we’re going to have to look into that…When you see something like that taking place – that’s really a threat, if you think about it. And when you see something like that taking place, we are going to have to perhaps talk with the Attorney General about it or do something.

He also painted the entire African American community as living in poverty with no jobs. Doesn’t that show he’s completely out of touch?

The Clinton Foundation’s practices continue to puzzle Clinton supporters:

COW Zip Line

Ryan Lochte and teammates entered the wrong event:

COW Lochte

Bonus cartoonage from Australia. They cover Trumpology:

Trumpology

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – June 6, 2016

We know that D-Day was June 6, 1944, but what does the “D” in D-Day, stand for?

Apparently, this is a frequently asked question by visitors to The National WWII Museum. But the answer isn’t simple. Disagreements between military historians and etymologists about the meaning of D-Day abound. Here are two explanations:

In Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Ambrose writes:

Time Magazine reported on June 12 1944 that ‘as far as the U.S. Army can determine, the first use of D for Day, H for Hour was in Field Order No. 8, of the First Army, A.E.F., issued on Sept. 20, 1918, which read, ‘The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.’ (p. 491)

In other words, Ambrose reports the D in D-Day stands for “Day.” But In Paul Dickson’s War Slang, he quotes General Eisenhower:

When someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 asking for an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz answered: ‘General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.’ (p.146)

It’s an enigma wrapped inside of a mystery. A continuing enigma is the lack of accountability by both our elected officials and our state and national bureaucrats. Today’s travesty was reported in the UK’s Guardian:

Despite warnings of regulators and experts, water departments in at least 33 cities used testing methods over the past decade that could underestimate lead found in drinking water.

These tests are taken annually and sent to the EPA in Washington. The 33 offending cities were in 17 different states. Of the cities, 21 used the same failed water testing methods that were used in Flint MI. Additional findings:

  • Michigan and New Hampshire advised water departments to give themselves extra time to complete tests so that if lead contamination exceeded federal limits, officials could re-sample and remove results with high lead levels.
  • Some cities denied knowledge of the locations of lead pipes, failed to sample the required number of homes with lead plumbing or refused to release lead pipe maps, claiming that would be a security risk.

Since the Flint water crisis erupted last year, school districts from coast to coast have stepped up testing of fountains and sinks. From Newark to Boston to Detroit, city after city has reported elevated levels of lead in the water of some educational buildings. The Portland OR schools have the problem and the school district has been aware of it for years. But the federal government doesn’t actually require most schools to test, so few do.

Apparently, the federal EPA has known since 2001 that its testing guidelines were weak. They are working on “long-term revisions” to its lead and copper rule, which are expected in 2017. Or sometime.

From Ian Welsh:

No regulator worth its salt, who is doing their job, could have missed entire States and large cities cheating, because any regulator worth its salt does its own audits and testing.

Republicans do not see this as a problem. Yes, there have been apologies, but no federal funding to remediate the problem. In fact, Fitch Rating Service estimates that capital costs to replace the nation’s lead water service lines could exceed $275 billion.

Republicans expect Mr. Market to take care of issues like this, once we privatize our water supply.

After all, aren’t invisible hands already cleaning the lead from the brains of America’s children?

It’s the miracle of market self-regulation.

Time for a wake-up call for all who think that business as usual is acceptable for our aging infrastructure, and in the case of our water supply, our poisonous infrastructure. Let’s look back to a time when America could do great things, even if it cost real dough. In 1977, we sent the Voyager I and II interstellar satellites off into space with a record of the things we thought made Earth unique. The music we sent was picked by Carl Sagan. This link lists all of the music we sent into the cosmos. One of his picks was by Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was the Night”, which has no lyrics, but creates a mood of loneliness. Here is “Dark Was the Night”:

This song will likely last longer than the human race. It’s doubtful that Blind Willie ever thought THAT was gonna happen.

What isn’t gonna happen is that our politicians decide on their own to be accountable to the rest of us.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Obama Is Visiting Hiroshima on May 27th

When the US president travels, he is accompanied by the “Nuclear Football”, a briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. Here is a photo of the Football:

Football

The Football allows him to order nuclear war despite being away from the White House or away from a US military installation. It is beyond ironic that Mr. Obama will be visiting Hiroshima Japan as part of the G-7 Summit meeting, and will bring along the Nuclear Football to his May 27th tour of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Obama will also bring a political to Hiroshima. No sitting American president has visited the site of the only nuclear weapon dropped in anger. The question is should he apologize for America dropping the bomb? What should he say to survivors and victim’s relatives?

And back home, what would he say to the veterans and their families who gave and lost so much?

Conservatives are revving up the “Apology Tour” meme. It gives them a free shot at Hillary, while allowing Trump to tout his truculence, by telling us once again that he “never apologizes.”

The Asahi Shimbun English (on line version) is making it clear that Obama will not apologize while in Japan. In fact, although he will be accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, there will be no major speech, and no meeting with the Japanese A-bomb survivors. According to White House Press Spokesman Josh Earnest, there will a wreath-laying and remarks underlining a “look back” at the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, the political football will be how Obama tip-toes between the natural human reaction to so much innocent death, and his role as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, the one that caused all that death 70 years ago.

Obama makes this an issue by going to Hiroshima. There would seem to be no point to the visit unless he intended to use it to make a gesture, such as indicating some level of regret or expressing sympathy for the victims (he should express sentiments short of an apology) and/or to speak about the need foster peace going forward.

Without a clear political or diplomatic objective, his visit merely reopens a long-festering wound in Japan. Although the Japanese have plenty of blood and atrocities on their hands, our use of nuclear weapons is an order of magnitude worse than anything the Japanese did.

The nuclear airburst was a deliberate targeting of civilians with the most powerful weapon ever created, for the sole purpose of fostering civilian terror. Obama could restate that no country should ever consider using nuclear weapons against civilians again, even if he cannot provide an apology.

We set a terrible precedent with the first use of nuclear weapons. Those attacks have enshrined our place in history as the first, and only nation ever to use these weapons in war. It’s a miracle that we have survived the false alarms and crises that could have easily led to nuclear exchanges between the US, its allies and the USSR. We still live under a cloud of potential devastation that could result from nuclear exchanges between India and Pakistan. And yet, we are now busy modernizing and upgrading our nuclear weapons (long after they’ve been recognized as having no essential military value).

Nobody can say for certain that the decision to bomb Hiroshima did or did not bring about a faster end to the war. But we can say that the Americans firebombing Tokyo or the Brits firebombing Cologne or Dresden, all of which caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, are not morally equivalent to dropping nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama will speak at Hiroshima. He will probably offer thoughts as a father, acknowledging the horror that occurred at an earlier time in the history of conflict between the two countries. It is important, as is the acknowledgement that the countries have been allies for what is now a very long time. They now have a common competitor in China, and their joint future is more important than their history in WWII.

Obama will attempt to square the circle, saying that use of nuclear weapons is a terrible, immoral thing, but he can’t forswear their future use without damning Hillary to second place. He can’t apologize for the US dropping nukes without turning the US military against the Democrats.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Can You Trust Your Local Government?

Citizens are supposed to be able to trust their elected governments, local, state and national. But, surveys show that Americans have very little trust in government. In fact, an October 2015 Pew Study shows that only 19% trust the federal government “all or most” of the time.

This brings us to Flint Michigan. Flint’s citizens have been drinking, cooking and bathing in poisonous water.

The decision to expose Flint residents to known risks of lead poisoning were made by an unaccountable “emergency manager” who was installed by the governor, Republican Rick Snyder, in order to solve the fiscal problems created by the city’s declining tax base.

In April 2014, Flint’s emergency manager, in order to save money, directed the water company to begin drawing water from the Flint River rather than from Detroit’s water system, which was deemed too costly ($1.5 million/month). But the river’s water was high in salt, which helped corrode Flint’s aging lead water pipes, leaching lead into the water supply.

Problems were apparent almost immediately: The water started to smell like rotten eggs. Engineers responded to that problem by increasing the chlorine level. GM discovered that city water was corroding engines at their Flint factory and switched sources.

Then children and others started getting rashes and falling sick. Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech environmental-engineering professor, found that the water had nearly 900 times the recommend EPA limit for lead particles. Yet as late as February 2015, even after tests showed dangerous lead levels, officials were telling residents there was no threat.

But in September 2015, two independent studies found that the lead levels in Flint’s water were absurdly high, and in October, 2015, Flint once again began buying water from Detroit.

On January 5th, 2016, Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency due to lead in the water supply. The same day, the US Department of Justice announced that it is investigating what went wrong in the city. Several top officials have resigned, and Snyder apologized. But that’s cold comfort for Flint residents, particularly children, who are being poisoned by lead, which can cause irreversible brain damage and affect physical health.

And it could cost $1.5 billion to fix the problem, a staggering sum for a city struggling financially like Flint. Worse, six months ago, Rick Snyder’s Chief of Staff knew about it and expressed concern:

These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).

So, the Flint story is hands down one of the worst abuses of government power in a long time. Money took precedence over people’s health. An unaccountable emergency manager who in a possibly well-intended effort to save the city $1.5 million a month in water fees, changes the source to the Flint River. In December 2014, a city employee tested the water of a woman whose son had gotten a rash after swimming in a pool.

He found that the lead level in her water was 104 parts per billion, about seven times greater than the lead level the EPA deems “actionable.”

BTW, Michigan voters repealed the Emergency Manager Law in 2012, but the Republican-controlled state legislature then passed a more far-reaching, emergency-manager law, one that could not be repealed.

So, what conclusions can we draw? Could the failure in Flint be used by conservatives to say?

See? You can’t even trust government to provide you with clean water anymore. We need to privatize the water company right now!

Or, the really damning take away is the emergency manager tried to save some money in a way that actually requires more money be spent, but did it anyway, apparently after being told about the problem, which poisoned people!.

OTOH, the fine citizens of Michigan re-elected Mr. Snyder, who took away the democratically elected team in Flint, and granted power to his appointed Publican. But the voters are not to blame. It is one thing to accept some right-wing economic BS, or to be too lazy to vote.

The penalty for either of those shouldn’t be that your government poisons you and your children.

St. Ronnie told us government was the problem, not the solution. And Rick Snyder’s cost-cutting steps seem to prove Ronnie was right (at least if government is run by the GOP).

It is hard to care about “Islamic terrorism” when your government knowingly poisons your city’s water supply in order to save money (in the short term).

And what is the criminal penalty for 10,000 cases of child endangerment?

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 21, 2015

We know that when faced with a tragedy, some people exploit it for narrow ends. But we got to see just how low Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) could go. Appearing on The View, Senator Graham at first said a couple of things that seemed mainstream:

It’s not who we are, it’s not who our country is, it’s about this guy…and this guy’s got tons of problems and to kill people in a church after sitting with them for an hour shows you how whacked out this kid is.

Fine. He’s going with the lone wacko meme instead of the domestic terrorist meme.

Then he goes further. Despite the fact that the Justice Department had labeled the attack a “hate crime,” Graham wouldn’t go there: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out…But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians [in order] to kill them.

Excuse us Mr. Graham, there hasn’t been anything so far to indicate that this was a hate crime against Christians for being Christian. And when you suggest that it is about that, two bad things happen:

• It denies the legitimacy of the trauma this caused black people in and outside South Carolina, irrespective of their religious beliefs
• It feeds the paranoia of white Christians, many of whom already have a borderline persecution complex

He ignores that the killer’s roommate said he was “big into segregation” and wanted to start a race war, and that he had Confederate Flag vanity plates. The eyewitness survivors of the attack said that he complained about black people raping white people.

Under the circumstances, it is safe to say that this was a hate crime, and also that it was a hate crime directed against black people for being black. This guy turned his anger on black people. The next guy might target secularists because politicians like Mr. Graham use this tragedy to say that people are out to get Christians.

A primary job of our leaders is to tamp down paranoia when it appears. But, Sen. Graham isn’t interested in calming people’s fears, he is a merchant of the politics of fear. He wants you to be afraid all the time, which is how he builds support for his domestic policies and his foreign adventures.

That he is consistently re-elected speaks volumes about South Carolina. Only 672,941 people of South Carolina’s roughly 3.8 million voters voted for him in 2014. Since he is now a GOP presidential candidate, he wants to win the SC GOP primary. So he is only speaking to those 672,941 SC voters.

That implies that he has no moral compass.

On to cartoons. South Carolina was the dominant story, but we heard from Pope Frank, Obama’s trade deal passed the House, and there is a new $10 bill on the way.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves about root causes:

COW Root Cause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The usual suspects offered the usual denials:

COW More Denial

The Pope’s faith-based climate teaching met resistance:

COW Pope Climate 2

Pope Francis has difficulty reading right-wing signals:

COW Pope Climate

Obama rides Republicans towards a trade deal:

COW Trade Deal 1

There should be no debate on who will be on new $10 bill:

COW $10 Bill

 

 

Facebooklinkedinrss