Friday, March 04, 2016

No Politics Here. Move On.

At Friday night's presidential debate, Fox News, anxious to dispense with the elephant in the room, asked of Marco Rubio a question nearly unavoidable at an event taking place in Detroit, Michigan. However, Baier asked it in the most comfortable, GOP-friendly way he could.  "Without getting into the political blame game here," Baier remarked, "where are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like this? If you talk to people in this state, they are really concerned about Flint on both sides of the aisle. So why haven’t GOP candidates done more or talked more about this?"

Rubio in part responded

And by the way, the politicizing of it I think is unfair, because I don’t think that someone woke up one morning and said, “Let’s figure out how to poison the water system to hurt someone"...

But accountability is important. I will say, I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened. And he’s talked about people being held accountable...

... and the need for change, with Governor Snyder. But here’s the point. This should not be a partisan issue. The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue, that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided, “Oh, it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead.” It’s absurd. It’s outrageous. It isn’t true.

That was a good use of the straw man tactic, inferring that critics of the governor had claimed he wanted to poison children.  Snyder, of course, did not set out to destroy the bodies and minds of people, especially children. It was, however,  merely collateral damage.

Five weeks ago, Flint native Michael Moore wrote "10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy- But I Will."

It is an unfortunate title, referring to the decisions made as a mere "tragedy," not unlike a tornado, blizzard, or drought.  But it was only a semantic oversight, for Moore more than redeemed himself by inviting readers to sign a petition demanding Attorney General Lynch prosecute the Governor.

Among the ten things Moore described:

A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

The reference to General Motors bears significance given that, in response to a reporter's request in February 2015 to a request for comment about possibly returning Flint's water supply to Lake Huron, state treasury spokesman Terry Stanton had replied

“The city’s [emergency managers] have been unequivocal that doing so would cost at least $1m per month … per the [Detroit water system’s] ‘offer’ … and the city simply can’t afford that.”

Nearly an hour later, (then-Snyder chief of staff Dennis) Muchmore wrote that switching Flint back to Detroit would “probably be a good use of money as opposed to people refusing to use city water”.

“After all, if [General Motors] refuses to use the water in their plant and our own agencies are warning people not to drink it … we look pretty stupid hiding behind some financial statement,” he wrote.

But state officials did decide to hide some financial statement because

Flint would not return to Detroit’s system until October 2015, when Snyder conceded publicly that the water crisis was far worse than he initially realized, and several studies revealed the city’s lead levels had increased.

But even in the weeks leading up to Snyder’s announcement, high-ranking state officials appeared to be opposed to the $12m plan to switch Flint back to Lake Huron water.

In a 3 September 2015 email, the state deputy treasurer, Thomas Saxton, sent an outline of the cost to return Flint to Detroit’s water system in an email to Muchmore and two other state officials.

“I assume/hope no one is still seriously considering that option,” he wrote, “but if you need anything more give us a call.”

Thomas Saxton still is the state deputy treasurer, six months after his warning about that returning water to be filtered and treated at the Detroit Water Plant, which would have cost approximately $1 milion a month. Now the state has appropriated approximately $70 million to begin to correct the problem it welcomed.

Aside from the extraordinary human cost, the fiscal decision was disastrous, although a lesson in modern Republican economics.  Moore explained

When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs. So, many things – schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water – were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities. Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.

Marco Rubio, however, declares "give the governor credit."   And "this should not be a partisan issue," maintains the man (or boy, as it were) who implies that Hillary Clinton, rather than Islamic terrorists, is responsible for the killing of four Americans at a diplomatic compound in Libya.   Say not much for Donald Trump, but say this much: because of him, after Marco Rubio's Senate term expires in January, he (assuming he's not elected President) can go anywhere he wants to talk (video from The Young Turks) freely, gleefully every day about the size of men's genitals.

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