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The Problem With the Bipartisan Push to Bail Out Flint

Anyone who agrees that the federal government has gotten too big and that Washington lawmakers are addicted to spending money we don’t have should applaud Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for his efforts to block the funneling of more federal dollars to Flint’s water clean-up project.

First of all, the state of Michigan has the resources to address the crisis in Flint. The state has an almost $600 million surplus from its 2015 budget and over $380 million in an emergency “rainy day” fund. On top of that, President Barack Obama committed $80 million in federal emergency assistance to the state earlier this year.

But never “letting a crisis go to waste” or missing an opportunity to “look like we’re doing something,” lawmakers in Washington are calling for more money in the form of federal legislation totaling $220 million. That money’s not just for Flint: It would also subsidize communities around the country dealing with lead contamination and water projects.

As usual, those supporting the measure say “it’s paid for,” but only in Washington is something “paid for” by promising to take money from another budget four years from now.

All that madness aside, how about the fact that the Flint crisis is a local and state issue? Is the federal government supposed to bail out every town, city, county, and state that mismanages its affairs—whether it be public utilities, infrastructure, pensions, or budgets?

If so, there will be a long line of government bureaucrats and elected officials at the local and state level ready, happy, and willing to pass off their corruption and fiscal irresponsibility to the American taxpayers.

What about Crystal City, Texas, where city officials neglected to drain the water tank for over two decades? That resulted in black and unsafe water filled with sediment pouring out of residents’ faucets when the tank was finally flushed out earlier this year. Incidentally, the backdrop to this public water crisis is a political crisis: The city’s mayor and several other city officials and council members have been indicted for bribery and related charges.

And what about the states around the country where lawmakers and citizens refuse to deal with financial reality? Are residents of other states now supposed to pick up the tab?

If so, get ready to bail out Illinois, whose state pension program is facing over $110 billion in underfunded liabilities and where some state officials are suggesting that a “federal rescue” may be necessary. And expect California, where the bill for unfunded liabilities related to public employee and teacher pensions now tops $140 billion, to soon be at the public trough, too.

The list of mismanagement, corruption, and kicking the financial can down the road could go on and on.

Those pushing the federal legislation related to Flint point to the fact that it has large “bipartisan” support. Indeed, it does—and that’s further proof that both political parties are guilty of believing that Washington can and should solve all problems and that it can do so by spending more and more money.

Such thinking is why we have a $19 trillion debt.

Thank you, Sen. Lee, for thinking differently.