Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Detroit Water Wars

The people, and unions, in Detroit voted in favor of the “grand bargain” in resolving the city’s bankruptcy, resulting in reduced pensions and retiree healthcare benefits. I don’t have any real opinion on that because the published arguments have not included any actual numbers, but I have been following the Detroit “water wars” with some interest.

Seems people in Detroit have not been paying their water bills, which the UN regards as “exorbitant,” and so the city is shutting off water to nonpayers, which the UN says is a “human rights violation” because access to water is a "basic human right." Weird.

My water bill for the past two months was $154.68 in San Diego. The same bill would have been $114.29 in Detroit. There are some very good reasons why water is more costly in San Diego, but I would hardly say that Detroit water rates are “exorbitant.” And, while I can’t argue with the UN that access to water is a basic human right, I don’t think that access to purified water delivered under pressure directly to your home is a basic human right. I think there is a certain amount of hyperbole being engaged in here.

Liberals have mastered the art of inconsistency, and this issue compared to the liberal position on healthcare is a case in point.

For one thing, liberals seem to have missed the point that what is being paid for is not the water, but the services of purifying and delivering the water under pressure to the private homes. Even the UN does not claim that there is any “basic human right” to those services.

Part of the argument for “health care reform” was that the cost of health care was being driven up, causing those who paid for health care to pay higher prices, because of people who did not pay for health care because they did not carry insurance. Liberals subscribed to this argument as much as conservatives did, but in the case of Detroit’s water crisis they do not want to argue that the cost of water delivery is being driven up for people who do pay for it by people who receive water delivery and don't pay for it.

Liberals did not argue that people who could not pay for health care should have their health care paid for by those who could pay for health care, but they are now arguing that Detroit citizens who cannot pay for water delivery should continue to receive it for free, with the service being paid for by higher rates on people who can pay for the service. Hardly what anyone would call consistent.

Further, liberals have had no problem with the solution to the problems caused by people not carrying health insurance being a law that requires them to carry health insurance, albeit with the government picking up part, but not all, of the cost. They do not, however, welcome the solution to Detroit’s water crisis being to require people who are not paying for water delivery to actually pay for water delivery.

This despite the fact that even if the city stops delivering it, those people can still have all the water they want. They just have to go down to the river and get it for themselves, and then boil it before they drink it. Which people did for centuries before Detroit began the delivery service.

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