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Michigan Voters Who Want to Avoid Taxes as Culpable as Governor Snyder

January 30, 2016

The more I read about and think about the crisis of drinking water in Flint Michigan, the more convinced I am that it should serve as a wake-up call for voters across the country. Today’s NYTimes has an article by Amy Goodnough on the long term impact of the short-term “savings” realized by the emergency manager appointed by MI Governor Rick Snyder. In the article Goodnough flagged both the health costs and the costs to schools, which were described in these paragraphs:

About 57 percent of Flint’s 99,000 residents are black, and 40 percent live in poverty, one of the highest rates in the nation for a city its size. Bilal Tawwab, the superintendent of the city school system, said that one school nurse serves the 5,400 students in the district, but that he hoped some of the money flowing into Flint might help open health centers in every school.

He also hoped to make prekindergarten available to every 4-year-old — spaces are limited — and to hire more experienced teachers for special education.

“That’s the piece that keeps me up at night,” he said. “It costs almost double to educate a student with special needs. And our wages, our salaries, are so low.”

Why does Flint have only one nurse for the entire district? Why doesn’t Flint have enough classroom space for a prekindergarten programming every school? Why can’t Flint hire “more experienced teachers for special education“? And why are Flint’s wages and salaries so low? The answer is that Flint is starved for revenues. It’s local property tax base crashed when the auto industry crashed and the State decided the imposition of “emergency managers” was a cheaper and faster way to get the city and State budgets in line.

And when you look deeply into the root causes of this tragedy it becomes evident that Flint’s water problem is the result of the short-sighted thinking that dominates corporations in our country. The anti-democratic laws that enabled the creation of “emergency managers” came from the ALEC playbook and reflect the mentality that ANY government regulation is bad. And what have emergency managers done to the financially troubled cities and school districts in MI? They have imposed austerity measures on citizens and employees in order to make certain bondholders receive their payments on time and that the taxes of their fellow-citizens in the suburbs have low taxes. Rick Snyder appointed the emergency manager who made bad decisions in order to keep the costs low but the MI voters who want to keep their taxes low need to think twice before putting him behind bars… as do those voters who seek low taxes at the expense of those living in poverty.

The corroded pipes, the dilapidated and underfunded schools, and the lack of health care are not limited to Flint MI.  As citizens in this nation we should be willing to pay more in taxes to ensure that our neighbors’ children in cities like Flint MI and destitute small rural communities have the same opportunities as children in the most affluent communities in the state.

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