Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is still desperately clinging to his job, but there are signs that his fingers are slipping.
For weeks, the country has been learning with growing horror the depths to which Snyder’s administration sank to save a few bucks. A startling picture has finally come into focus: Rather than listen to scientists and residents, Michigan’s state government decided to simply ignore all signs that the water system in the city of Flint was beginning to corrode away. As a result, dangerous chemicals including lead had begun pouring into the drinking water. The fix to prevent a mass poisoning of residents from their tap water would have cost barely anything, but they gambled it all – and Flint lost.
As early as October 2014, there were problematic signs. A local General Motors engine plant stopped using water from the Flint river because parts were becoming rusted, but officials nevertheless continued to reassure residents the water was safe to drink – a decision deemed “unconscionable” by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this week.
Tests also revealed elevated levels of chemical compounds in the water supply that can lead to liver or kidney issues. Nonetheless, officials downplayed residents’ concerns, saying – confidently – that the water was safe to drink.
How bad was the lead poisoning in Flint’s water? Ten people have died from drinking it. Doctors now warn that every child in Flint under the age of six – over 8,000 of them – must now be treated for lead poisoning. The long-term effects to their health and mental development won’t be known for some time.
It’s gotten so bad that President Obama was forced to declare a federal emergency in Flint. National Guard troops have begun pouring into the state to help get water to people who can’t trust their faucets not to kill them. Celebrities such as Cher and Michael Moore have flown in tens of thousands of bottles of water.
Through it all, Michigan’s Republican governor has spent almost all of his energy trying to spin this epic disaster as not his fault. Absolutely nobody is buying it.
In a bold move, Hillary Clinton even used her time during the Democratic debate to put a spotlight on Flint and the failures of Snyder’s administration.
“I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what’s happening in Flint, Michigan, and I think every single American should be outraged. We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care.”
Snyder responded to this forceful condemnation of his pathetic actions by giving a more pathetic response.
Political statements and finger pointing from political candidates only distract from solving the Flint water crisis.
— Governor Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd) January 18, 2016
How convenient that the man that every finger is pointing to now believes finger pointing isn’t important.
Another person not buying Snyder’s buck passing? President Obama. Snyder recently demanded the federal government give him $96 million in “natural disaster” aid money to help him pay for the fall out of his negligence. Obama, who has already pooled resources to help Flint residents out, said “No way.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate, in a letter to Snyder, said his request for a major disaster declaration was denied because the water contamination “does not meet the legal definition of a ‘major disaster’” under federal law.
“The incident was not the result of a natural catastrophe, nor was it created by a fire, flood or explosion,” Fugate said.
This wasn’t a hurricane or a tornado or a wildfire, this was a Republican Party that was so interested in turning a profit that they gambled with the lives of their constituents. Calling this a natural disaster would be one of the biggest political lies ever told.
It should also be noted that while Snyder would like nearly 100 million dollars from the federal government – hypocritical coming from a small government conservative, no? – his state just posted a $575 million surplus. Flint’s lawmakers have asked that some of that money be used to help out the city. So far Snyder hasn’t offered it.
As we’ve seen time and again, a Republican governor wants nothing to do with the government until he needs its help to clean up one of his screw ups. President Obama and federal agencies routinely serve as punching bags for Republican politicians who pretend that government equals tyranny. Now, with a man-made disaster unfolding on his hands, Snyder is mad that this very same “tyrannical” government won’t do more to help save him from himself.
If Snyder wants help he should take responsibility and confess that it was his actions that brought on this water crisis. He can clarify that this wasn’t a “natural disaster” in his resignation letter.
Featured image via Michigan Municipal League/Flickr