Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Unspeakable Crime Has Been Committed In Flint-- But It Should Not Be Unpunishable



The outrage has been building in me since I first started reading and hearing about how Michigan Governor Rick Snyder abrogated democracy in Flint and set about poisoning their water system. People are dead; people are sick; people will suffer for their entire lives; and Michigan taxpayers-- probably U.S. taxpayers as well-- are on the hook for untold tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. One man-- one, repulsive, greed-driven, ideological slob: Rick Snyder. If we were primitive his battered carcass would be hanging from a lamp post and being eaten by vultures. But has a Grand Jury even been empaneled yet?

The first time we discussed it here at DWT, exactly a month ago, I asked what would have bene the reaction if Snyder had done this not to an economically stressed, predominantly African-American city but to a wealthy white enclave like Novi, Rochester, West Bloomfield or Grosse Pointe Shores.

Saturday Bernie Sanders called on Synder to resign. "There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign. Because of the conduct by Gov. Snyder’s administration and his refusal to take responsibility, families will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives. Children in Flint will be plagued with brain damage and other health problems. The people of Flint deserve more than an apology."

Resigning is a good first step. But unless Snyder is held fully accountable and severely punished for what he's done, other Republicans will do the same thing and worse going forward. This disgusting incident will either be permission for conservatives to behave this way towards American citizens or it will serve as a warning that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Snyder should never see the outside of a prison cell for the rest of his life. The artist DarkBlack did much better than a thousand words in his depiction of the governor:

Janell Ross touched on the underlying horror in a report for the Washington Post this week: "Government has, for some Americans, been a purely villainous force since at least the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan declared government to be the actual problem." Something tells me Flint is coming around to that point of view, although not in the way Reagan meant it.
[T]he situation in Flint highlights the very-real limits of reducing both the size and cost of government at every turn, of making savings the organizing principle of government. Money truly is not everything, even in a poor city in one of the richest countries in the world. When it is, the crisis in Flint is one possible result.

Flint is one of those economically hard-hit Midwestern cities, left in a constant state of crisis or quandary. From a distance, those fights can seem philosophically engaging: the stuff of good dinner party conversation and debate for people in the know, who also happen to live elsewhere. But on the ground in Flint, this has required sad and even terrible choices, all types of cutbacks and then a state declaration that none of this was enough.

Snyder used a state law to appoint an emergency manager, a process that began in 2011. And along with the emergency manager came a board to whom the manager could appeal to override decisions made by Flint's non-partisan, elected city council. In short, Flint has spent years under emergency manager control, a person whose primary charge appears to have been cutting costs.
If you missed Michael Moore's petition and his reasoning for why Snyder needs to go to prison, I suggest you give it a read. There is virtually no other outcome to conservative doctrine than catastrophes like Flint. This IS the Republican Party, 2016. If Snyder isn't in prison before the GOP presidential convention, he should be on their national ticket.

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At 11:18 AM, Blogger Joey Perillo said...

You kidding? This is a conservative hero - he saved money at the expense (and lives) of the poor and powerless - can you say Role Model?

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Franklin Roosevelt's answer to the problems of democracy was more democracy. Today's Republicans' answer is less democracy - reduced voting rolls, voter ID to combat non-existent fraud - and non-elected dictators to override mere city councils. And you missed a trick, Joey - this crime was committed against poor, powerless - and black - people. That's an important and desirable feature in their eyes.

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Petition signed by a disgusted reader. Go get him, Michael!

At 1:08 PM, Blogger DocP said...

What goes unreported about this crime is that the voters of Michigan repealed the Emergency Manager Law (PA 4)in November, 2012. They recognized how profoundly undemocratic the usurpation of elected officials acting on behalf of citizens was. (No elected official in Flint would ever choose to poison himself and the residents of his community). Within 37 days of the voters' rejection of PA 4, Snyder and his legislative cronies passed new Emergency Manager Law, this time with an appropriation attached, making it immune from a new voter referendum.

This history makes it clear that Snyder bears personal responsibility (along with his legislative cronies)for the tragic human consequences of his crime against democracy, but, more importantly against humanity. I would like to see him (and his complicit legislators) spending the rest of their lives not in prison, but in spending their personal fortunes and all of their time helping the residents of Flint whom they have harmed.

We hear a lot of preaching about “personal responsibility” from politicians like Snyder and their ilk. Let's see them use this as a teachable moment.


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