The city of Detroit has begun shutting off the water to city residents who haven’t been paying their monthly bills. So far, over 15,000 residential customers have had the water cut off, and thousands more will be joining them shortly.
From The Daily Beast:
Tangela Harris been doing her best to keep up, but when she was no longer able to work she had trouble stretching her monthly $780 in disability benefits to pay the water bill. So her water service was disconnected. Harris has since come up with $1,100 to have services restored but is having trouble keeping her $180 monthly payment to the water department. On top of that, her home has entered foreclosure because Detroit water bills are rolled into property taxes.
“They can say my house is condemned and take it,” said Harris, 38, a community organizer. “People think we’re not prioritizing, but it’s not that simple when you’re under the poverty level. It’s a different mindset.”
I’m confused. Is Tangela Harris disabled, unable to work, or is she working as a community organizer? Those two things seem to be mutually exclusive. If you’re disabled to the extent that you cannot work and earn a paycheck, but must receive money from the government just to get by, I’d think that you couldn’t be a community organizer.
If she’s obligated to pay $180 a month to the water department, it must mean she is in arrears. When was the last time she paid a water bill?
We pay our water bill each month. We do this because we realize that if we don’t, the city of Hagerstown will turn our water off. Having water is important. Not only do you need to it to drink, without water, you can’t flush the toilet or take a shower. You can’t wash your clothes or brush your teeth. If I had trouble paying my monthly bills, and couldn’t pay all of them, my water bill would be one of the things I would insist on paying. I’d go without satellite TV and Internet. I’d go without my iPhone.
I would never go without water.
I don’t know the nature of Tangela Harris’ disability, nor do I know what she did for a living before she became disabled. I also don’t know what bills she chose to pay each month instead of paying her water bill. I do know that life is a series of choices. Sometimes we make good choices, other times we make bad. Hopefully, when everything is said and done, the good choices outnumber the bad.
Choosing to not pay your monthly water bill? That’s a bad choice.
According to the protesters in the above photo, water is a human right. Actually, it’s not. Water is one of the many things in life that you both need and must pay for. Water isn’t free because it costs money to get and distribute. What if everyone decided that water was a human right, and because of this belief, refused to pay for it?
My guess is that there would be a lot of stinky, thirsty people, who can’t flush their toilets.
Update (August 10, 2014): The Planet Money podcast covered this situation. It, like all Planet Money podcast episodes, is well worth listening to.