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When it comes to government policies nowadays, the key point of influence is the economic consequences. This is the reason why governance is highly intertwined with economic policies and why politicians have to sell their manifestoes on how they hope to deal with different economic issues to the public. This is a case why people are denied basic needs in the name of government economic policies that seems to be out touch with the people’s needs. Flint water crisis presents a need to ensure that neoliberal economic reforms are accompanied by responsible and accountable leadership.
One of the alarming aspects of the crisis at hand is the slow nature of action shown by the state government. It is evident that the water from Flint River was contaminated with the lead despite the contrary assertion by the Governor’s team. The public complained immediately about the smell and taste of the water from the river, but these claims were highly ignored by the state government. It is thanks to the whistleblowers like Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha that the situation was given the interest and attention it deserves (Gupta, Tinker, and Hume). From various captions from pieces of news, the Flint residents have been exposed to lead contamination right at the moment they were connected to the water from River Flint.
Aspects to Appreciate about Flint Water Crisis
A huge number of children amounting to 8,657, based on Census data from 2014, have been exposed to lead contamination (Durando). Despite the clear demand for clean water, the state government did little to fix the situation and the impactful help was felt only after the federal government came in the face of President Obama declaring a state of emergency that saw the federal government bring in $5 million (Southall). There are those who feel that Flint water crisis is a clear demonstration of environmental racism because the city is populated by African Americans and other poor groups. This can be one of the reasons of the leadership’s (white and prosperous) slowness to respond (Eligon). Over and above, the Flint water crisis presents a good reference case that provides insights on how economic ideologies shape government policies in addition to the relevance of government role in ensuring that a balance exists between public and private goods.
Economic Ideologies Shaping the Government Policy
Flint case of the water crisis is a clear demonstration of how Adam Smith’s argument for an open economy can bring forth government policies that are sometimes irrelevant and lead to devastation. In an open economy, there is a lot of competition that is argued to bring balance with little national government’s intervention (Wolff and Resnick 22). Self-sustenance is a common phenomenon in an open market (neoliberal economic) where different players are expected to meet their financial expectations. In Flint city, the water crisis was made worse by the governor’s action of cutting budget allocation despite the city being bankrupt. The city requires 24 million dollars to have access to clean water but with the new liberal economic reforms, the governor can only provide the half the amount (Lederman). The case at hand is a clear demonstration of how economic ideology (open/liberal economy) can shape the government policy of self-sustenance.
Another clear indication of economic ideologies shaping government policies in Flint is demonstrated in the source of the water crisis. The problem came when the residents started getting their water supply from Flint River. The initiative of the governor’s team was aimed at cutting down the expenditure of the city. The corresponding relevant policy was to disconnect Flint from Detroit treated water and connect it to that from Flint River. Cost saving is another ideology championed by liberalist economists, a phenomenon that can be seen to be at the heart of all policies being implemented by Governor Snyder as he tries to use fiscal austerity programs to improve and restructure cities.
Government’s Role in Balancing Public and Private Goods
The main role that the government plays in ensuring that there is a balance between private and public goods is through legislation leading to regulations. On the one hand, public goods attract little gains and thus are mostly supplied by the government or by a private sector subsidized by the government. On the other hand, private goods bring a lot of profits thus there is a string competition when it comes to their supply (Wolff and Resnick 40). It is therefore expected of the government to ensure that the interest of the public is upheld by ensuring that there exists a balance between public and private goods. In the case of Flint, the situation is different with the state government where the local managers appointed by the Governor are keen on upholding policies aimed at attracting the private industries’ interests over the public interests (Lederman). A good example is the continued use of fiscal austerity programs in meeting the goals of city restructuring that the governing team aimed to attain with total disregards of the demands of the public in Flint.
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Daniel Hertz argues that the role of the government is to ensure that there is a due diligent manner of distributing of taxes and that there is a fair manner of charging for the use of public utilities like clean water (Wolff and Resnick 76-83). The case in Flint goes contrary to Hertz’s call since the city residents are facing budget cuts with the estimation indicating that the Michigan state withheld almost $6 billion dollars from its cities (Lederman). Moreover, in Flint, the unelected leaders appointed by the governor continue to cut the budget that has left the Flint residents viewing basic public services as private goods. This is a clear indication of the failure by the state government to create a balance between the private and public goods. The federal government needs to ensure that there is a clear policy about how each state ought to achieve this crucial balance.
The Flint water crisis presents a case scenario where citizens are being punished due to increased autonomy given to the leadership of the state, namely Michigan. In the case of Flint, it is clear that some of the actions taken by the Governor and his team cannot be challenged despite the eminent harm they posed to the citizens. A root cause lies in the budget cuts due to which the Flint residents cannot get a clean water supply despite the fact that they need it. Besides, it is also clear that economic ideologies do not necessarily lead to good government policies. The 'cost saving' economic approach has led to the city being connected to Flint River, an action that was aimed at saving the city $2 million annually (Lederman). However, the results have been far from the expected initial gains; the action has exposed the people of Flint to dangerous lead poisoning. Therefore, there is an important need to ensure that economic ideologies adopted are socially verified and that they take care of the welfare of the people based on their prevailing demands. Over and above, it is clear that economic ideologies highly influence various government policies; therefore, if the government is to ensure that there exists a balance between public and private goods, inclusivity should be upheld to guarantee that the interests of the whole society are looked after. If the Governor Rick Snyder was careful to uphold this principle, then the Flint water crisis could have been avoided.
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