Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is a horrible person who belongs in prison.
Rick Snyder is a special animal, a human-shaped skin sack of anti-social nightmare fuel that makes even the worst of his compatriots in Republican governance look like complete amateurs. Snyder’s start was auspicious, but seemed to only be based on a deeply flawed set of priorities. The work he’s done recently, on the other hand, is truly without peer.
Heading up a state where potentially thousands of kids were poisoned by an unholy marriage of untreated tap water and antiquated infrastructure is bad, sure, but there are things that are worse. Like, I don’t know, say, covering the problem up for more than a year, or maybe shipping safe water into government buildings while still refusing to confirm the hazard to the general population. And if you really wanted to get ugly, you could spend more state funds on PR consultants and independent council to protect yourself and your cronies than on fixing the problem for your citizens. Mr. Snyder has, of course, managed all of these things and more over the last couple of years.
The latest in this horrific cavalcade of civil neglect is a move not by Snyder himself, but by one of his high-level appointees. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently announced charges against 3 people involved in oversight of the water system, all of them low-level civil servants, and at least one of whom is on record having concerns about water safety, and voicing those concerns to non-receptive supervisors shortly before the switch. These are the sorts of people that a competent prosecutor would lever for information on more important suspects, not throw under the proverbial bus with minimal decorum. And that’s not to say they did nothing wrong, but they also clearly weren’t in positions of power to ultimately either approve or prevent the change.
I’ll admit it’s possible, given the natural difficulty of proving guilt with environmental charges, that the AG needs successful prosecutions of these individuals to achieve the necessary leverage for further investigation, but I’ll believe that is his intent when I see it in action. For the time being, this looks like a classic scapegoat operation, and the Governor’s own comments on the matter only serve to reinforce that perception:
“…We had a handful of career civil servants, been there 20 or 30 years, not apply common sense. They were way too technical…”
Or from his congressional testimony on the subject:
“Career bureaucrats… made these terrible decisions that showed a clear lack of common sense…”
These quotes, moreso than anything else I’ve seen, have me convinced that Snyder feels zero responsibility for the disaster in Flint, and has absolutely no intention of letting it change the unhinged governing philosophy that created it. It isn’t a coincidence that he’s chosen to portray this as a failure of “career bureaucrats,” that is a pro-grade focus-tested deflection if ever I’ve seen one, carefully designed to prey on natural prejudices and longstanding public misconceptions. The three local officials have been offered up as sacrifices on the alter of public relations, with Snyder’s little incantations meant to totally and finally defer all blame.
Flint is not an inevitable result of government bureaucracy. It is what you get when you run the government like a business, because the government isn’t a business, and no amount of ideological denial is going to change that. Governments have very different, and often much more important, responsibilities than a business. The two organizations serve different goals, and necessarily require different tools and styles of operation. The idea that you could just run one exactly like the other without disastrous consequences is childish in its simplicity, and makes me wonder if Snyder didn’t experience some significant lead exposure at some point in his own childhood.
The only thing that failed here was Snyder’s concept of reality, and that failure was so jarring that he would rather force children into a lifetime of mental illness and learning disability than deal with it like a responsible adult, let alone a competent leader. There is more than enough evidence to warrant a much more rigorous investigation of what Snyder’s office knew and when, but the Republican in charge of making that call is unlikely to do anything more than follow orders and play his particular role in permanently abdicating responsibility for the Governor and his loyal Emergency Managers.
And just one final note, apparently Mr. Snyder has taken to drinking filtered Flint water for the time being, in a bid to further polish his public image.
A couple of things to notice about this: While some has come from Flint-area homes, Snyder has also been getting water from a Flint restaurant that, much like the homes selected for EPA reporting, doesn’t have the old lead-contaminated pipes or solder that have caused so much trouble for many of the city’s poorest residents. On top of that, the restaurant in question uses a high-end reverse osmosis filtration system, rather than the much cheaper filters provided by the state to residents in the aftermath of the poisoning. Finally, even if Snyder were drinking lead-contaminated water, the effects would be unlikely to manifest in a meaningful way on a man his age. Not to say it would be good for him, but the risk is far less than for a lot of the (again, mostly poorer) children of Flint who were exposed. Just saying, if the guy really wants to prove a point, he’ll start feeding the shit to his grandkids. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.