The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

29 June 2009

Rush Limbaugh Becomes Scapegoat For Michigan City's Decline

FLINT'S FIT

Can Talk Radio Take The Blame For Michigan's Problems?







Can a city shift the blame for its long term decline to a radio talk show host? In Flint, Michigan, that appears to be the goal of an entrenched political and media establishment.

While turning outsiders into scapegoats for civic decline wasn't invented in Flint, its leaders deserve credit for both their creativity in exaggeration and sheer determination to make the charges stick.

With their campaign to blame Rush Limbaugh for the economically-depressed city's negative press coverage underway for two full weeks, there's still no end in sight. In a region with few remaining Republican leaders to blame for its downfall, El Rushbo provides a suitable substitute for desperate Democratic Party rulers.


On June 15, the flap began with this brief mention by El Rushbo of a Telegraph story published three days earlier. The report, which shocked Limbaugh, indicated Democratic leaders were consulting with Obama on a plan to eliminate large sections of the city:


RUSH: They're gonna bulldoze 40% of Flint, Michigan. The era of Obama has settled in. Forty percent of Flint, Michigan, is boarded-up homes. They're now using gravel to make roads in Michigan rather than concrete and asphalt. They don't have any money. Forty percent! They're going to have to bulldoze 40% of Flint, Michigan, to reduce the size because it no longer works the way it is. This is unthinkable in the United States of America. Unthinkable.

It's the era of Obama. I'm seeing things happen in this country that I thought I would never, ever see. These are the kind of things that happen in totalitarian regimes.


The next day, this exchange with a caller shifted the debate:


CALLER: Well, I don't think they're going to move back. I think there are nice suburbs of Flint where people are much happier and they can be there with their families. Probably some of the schools are better than what's in the city of Flint.

RUSH: Look, if you're going to bulldoze 40% of Flint and bulldozing 40% of Flint will not cause people to return and have it grow, why bulldoze it all? If everybody prefers to live in cities close to it?

CALLER: Well, there's people that probably enjoy living in the city. They've been there for years and I'm sure they would want to see the city improve. They probably wouldn't be against this plan. I mean, no one wants to see a bunch of people be forced out of their homes because of this, you know. But if it can eventually improve things to where people want to move there then by all means. You know?

RUSH: Now, wait. This is a new twist because the story I read said that 40% of the town needs to be bulldozed because 40% of the homes and other structures are unoccupied. Now you're talking about bulldozing homes that are occupied as well.


CALLER: Well, the areas that you're speaking of... Okay, now, I mentioned the northern part of the city, okay? There's areas where I grew up in when I was a child that now are much worse. Like I took my children into an area where I grew up when I was a baby just a couple months ago, and I want to tell you what, Rush. I was scared. I drove down that street...

RUSH: Okay, fine. Now, we can say, "Okay, it needs to be bulldozed," but nobody is going to go back there precisely because no changes will be made that led to the fact that 40% of the town is a ghost town or what have you. What bothers me about this is that this is a country that has always prided itself on growth, economic growth and economic opportunity. Now, I understand. We hear of hurricanes wiping out towns. There was a Kansas town wiped out by a tornado, and they rebuilt it. It's amazing to listen to Democrats say, "We don't have any interest in rebuilding Flint. We want to bulldoze it," and then the guy come up with the idea. Obama says, "Hey, apply your theory to 50 of our cities."


BREAK TRANSCRIPT


RUSH:
All right, folks, I have thought about it, I've given this considerable thought. I've given this more thought in the last ten minutes than most people think about anything in their life. And I am ready to change my mind on bulldozing Flint. I say go for it. Let's just bulldoze it. Well, what made me think of this was my answer to the guy's question on bankruptcy. By the way, the first purpose of the TARP bailout was to buy up all the toxic assets, and then it was to get credit going. We haven't done either with the money. But now I'm sort of looking at bulldozing these cities as bankruptcy. They should have been let go long ago. They were down the tubes long ago. We tried propping them up with urban renewal and it didn't work. We were hoodwinked into being called names if we just let these cities go. So we kept pumping money in there, we kept pumping welfare, food stamps, all these things 'cause we loved 'em and we cared for them, but the proof that a government can't revive anything is Flint, Michigan.

What really sent Flint south was when GM shut down there and moved or left. Well, I better check. I better check if there's still GM operations in Flint. If there are, they've really been downsized. But whatever, if GM's not involved in it, whatever is the problem in Flint, Michigan, what have we done to try to save it? Every government program under the sun, and what's happened? We got boarded-up houses that now the leaders of the town say need to be bulldozed, forty percent of the town. Now, this is probably what needs to happen to a lot of California, folks, and other places where we're going in debt propping up failure. It is what it is. We can't keep pumping all this federal and state money in because we have proven that pumping federal and state money doesn't spur growth in cities or anything else. GM, I mean, if $50 billion in bailout or 20 can't save 'em, let it go. And then if Flint rises out of its own ashes, fine and dandy. There's another added benefit. Every damn one of these cities is a blue city, I'll guaran-damn-tee you, meaning mostly Democrats, so you bulldoze it and you disburse a bunch of Obama voters, it has great political future ramifications for the Republicans. Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee.


From that point, politicians and media outlets seized upon Rush's position change, immediately rewriting history to make it appear Limbaugh had proposed razing Flint, rather than the Obama-supporting Democrats who've proposed it.

On June 17, for example, the Flint Journal pounced, transferring ownership of the idea from local leaders to Limbaugh himself:


Limbaugh, discussing the potential for shrinking Flint to better concentrate city services, said Tuesday he would rather wipe out parts of the city than force taxpayers to continue maintaining it.

"All right, folks, I have thought about it, I've given this considerable thought. I've given this more thought in the last ten minutes than most people think about anything in their life. And I am ready to change my mind on bulldozing Flint. I say go for it. Let's just bulldoze it," Limbaugh said in a transcript on his Web site.

Limbaugh also said cities like Flint were "down the tubes long ago."

"We tried propping them up with urban renewal and it didn't work. We were hoodwinked into being called names if we just let these cities go," he said. "So we kept pumping money in there, we kept pumping welfare, food stamps, all these things 'cause we loved 'em and we cared for them, but the proof that a government can't revive anything is Flint, Michigan."

Genesee County Treasurer Daniel Kildee said today that Limbaugh relied on bad information in making his comments about the idea of shrinking the city.

"I shouldn't be surprised but I'm disappointed with the cavalier treatment he is giving it," Kildee said. "To me, that shows he doesn't take any issue seriously."


But what makes this still noteworthy as we head into July is how the outrage machine is still set to maximum. At the Flint Journal, for instance, the editorial board was still railing against Limbaugh's words as recently as yesterday:


In Flint, temporary Mayor Michael Brown, Genesee County Treasurer and County Land Bank Chief Dan Kildee and others believe that "shrinking" the city may be a solution.

"Bulldoze" the city is how Limbaugh put it. He blasted Kildee for talking with the Barack Obama administration about how the concept might play in other distressed American cities.

As we understand it, the bulldozers might move in, but they'd target derelict structures.

Here's how the city would "shrink" under the plan:

Flint has some of the nation's most vacant neighborhoods. It's largely the result of people moving out of the city, even out of the area, after more than 70,000 General Motors jobs evaporated over the years.

Some of the property was abandoned, reverted to the local or state governments for nonpayment of property taxes and ended up in the hands of the Land Bank.

With some blocks of town almost devoid of inhabitants, it might be cheaper to offer the few people left some Land Bank property in a more populated part of the city. Then, the city would be free to declare the cleared area a green zone of sorts, cut sewer service and stop maintaining the streets.

That's the "shrinking:" The city's populated footprint, the area that street crews, utility crews and police officers and firefighters must service, would shrink. Flint would save money, and the land would be open and ready for whatever development the future would bring.

Bulldozers? Yes, in a few places.

Bulldoze the city and walk away from Flint as a lost cause?

Not on your life.



And the paper also printed a nasty letter in today's edition.


While the paper's editorial board does admit it wasn't Limbaugh's idea, attempting to justify the crusade against him because he used words like "bulldoze" is weak at best. Facing overwhelmingly difficult choices ahead, Flint should focus on upgrading local leadership rather than attacking talk show hosts who dare to comment on its problems.


FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.



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2 Comments:

  • This is a media scandal of the 1st rank. When this first started, I noted to Limbaugh, to the reporter, and to the paper, that Limbaugh wasn't first to repeat the story. In fact, I had blogged on it the day before Limbaugh got to it.

    The paper went into immediate CYA mode, even outright lying to justify their reporters and false editorials.

    By Blogger PCD, at 30 June, 2009 09:02  

  • Mr. Senator AL FRANKEN .... YES

    congratulations, sir

    By Blogger WHT, at 01 July, 2009 00:04  

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