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Carrying Hillary Clinton's Water - the Media and the Flint Water Crisis


People may wonder what the Flint Water Crisis has to do with 2008 Financial Crisis.  When I introduced my analysis of the Flint Crisis I discussed one similarity with the financial crisis.  In particular, both crises reveal how the political elite will "fashion any problem to suit their ends.

For example, before the financial crisis had even bottomed out, Rahm Emanuel - later President Obama's chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago - stated, "you never want to let a serious crisis go to waste."  What Emanuel - a political hack almost completely devoid of any searching intellect - meant was not to spend any time seeking an understanding of how the crisis came about.  Instead, it is much better to take advantage of the crisis environment and pursue otherwise unobtainable political objectives. 

For Emanuel, ignoring causes and focusing on the political ends that could be achieved produced a considerable personal benefit; it obscured the enormous amount of money Emanuel "earned" as an investment banker.  After leaving the Clinton White House in the late 1990s, Emanuel - despite virtually no academic background or practical experience in banking - made over $18-million in just 30-months of work as an investment banker.  (1)  Of course, the investment banking industry played a major role in the genesis of the financial crisis.  By directing attention to the political aspects of the financial crisis and away from the causes of the crisis, Emanuel was never forced to defend the enormous amounts of money he made in the industry that was laboring day and night to bring the country to its knees.  

Perhaps not long ago, it would have been likely that the media would step in and redirect the discussion to causal factors of a crisis and away from political gamesmanship and the political spin-masters like Rahm Emanuel who play them.  However, those days - if they ever existed - have surely passed.  In crisis after crisis the media now appears to do little more than parrot false narratives as part of an overarching agenda of more and bigger government.  This was clearly the case in the financial crisis and it was the case in the Flint Water Crisis.  In fact, in the aftermath of the Flint Water Crisis, the media did more than just advance the agenda of more and bigger government; they served as little more than Hillary Clinton's water carriers on this issue. 

Instead of immediately recognizing Clinton's politicization of the Flint water crisis for what it clearly was - the desperate gambit of a power-mad politician, hell-bent on getting elected president and willing to inflame racial animus to do so - the media lionized Clinton for the courage of raising the Flint crisis as a national issue.  (While I understand the 10th Amendment isn't taught at Ivy League law schools anymore, isn't drinking water more of an issue for a mayor, and not a president?)  In lionizing Clinton and her conclusion that the prime mover of the Flint crisis was racism, the media missed out on the following easily observable facts.  (Dates refer to the timeline on the Flint Crisis page and where more information on these various topics can be found.)

  • The brazen nature of Detroit political corruption as memorialized by Monica Conyers, the Democratic president of the Detroit City Council.  Conyers instructed one of her minions on his way to a shakedown of a local business owner, "You'd better get my loot that is all I know." (March 2007)
  • Conyers wasn't just another in a long line of corrupt Detroit politicians.  She was married to John Conyers, the long-time congressman from the Detroit area and a power broker in the Democratic party nationally. 
  • The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) had to cancel a $1.1 billion sludge hauling contract because it was tainted by the influence of Conyers and other corrupt Detroit politicians.  (January 29, 2009)
  • The FBI raided the headquarters of Wayne County - long a Democrat stronghold.  Wayne County was also where Jennifer Granholm - later Michigan governor and one of Hilary Clinton's chief surrogates - served as corporate counsel.  (October 19, 2011)
  • Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, along with the entire "Kilpatrick enterprise" are found guilty in a $73-million bid-rigging and extortion scandal.  Kilpatrick was the son of local Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and local power broker Bernard Kilpatrick.  Bernard Kilpatrick was a former co-worker of Jennifer Granholm in Wayne County.  (March 11, 2013)
  • To put some perspective on the $73-million Kilpatrick fraud on the ensuing Flint Water Crisis, Flint paid approximately $13-million per year for water from Detroit.  Absent the Kilpatrick fraud - and all the other fraud that surely existed in the DWSD - Flint would have never been forced to look for an alternate source of water!  (January 11, 2012)
  • Just two weeks after the Kilpatrick verdict, the Flint City Council - tired of the constant increase in cost of DWSD water - decided to obtain water from the Karegnondi Water Authority.  The vote is 7-1 and the lone "no" vote wanted to source water directly from the Flint River. (March 25, 2013)
  • It is true that in March-April 2015 Flint's Emergency Manager did not allow Flint to return to DWSD water when the city council voted to.  However, at the time, lead was not an issue.  The issue was the time it would take to implement some recommendations made by an engineering firm on March 12, 2015.  (March-April 2015)
  • Some idea of the impact of Detroit corruption on the cost of Flint water is provided by DWSD's own Gary Brown.  In June 2017, Brown admitted that DWSD's record of increasing the cost of water and sewerage services to Flint and elsewhere was an "unacceptable" 400% in just 20-years.  That is an 8.4% increase every year for 20-years!  Detroit sits immediately adjacent to the largest source of fresh water in the world - the Great Lakes! (June 2017)

I recognize that the timeline on the Flint Crisis is a very large document and it is a major undertaking to read all of it.  Hopefully, the introduction to the timeline here provides a better understanding of the type of information available in the timeline.  Even a cursory review of the timeline and the information it contains will clearly show what a miserable job the media did in covering this issue.  Not coincidentally, the miserable job the media performed in covering the Flint crisis had the benefit of advancing Hillary Clinton's campaign for president.  Similarly, the equally miserable job the media performed in covering the financial crisis ignored the considerable roles played by the Federal Reserve, the GSEs (Fannie and Freddie) and the Clinton White House, while highlighting the almost non-existent role played by "de-regulation."


Peter Schmidt
December 02, 2018

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(1) Michael Luo, "In Banking, Emanuel Made Money and Connections," New York Times, December 03, 2008