The Art of Fablemaking: New York Times lionizes Michigan Governor Rick Snyder


They could have asked US…

The New York Times published a rather fawning review of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Saturday that suggests he’s a centrist leader who basically isn’t afraid to piss off and on anyone, no matter what their political persuasion. And, while it’s true that there are those on both the right and the left that are less than happy with the Tough Nerd, the NYT piece is noticeably free from some of the essential facts about his governorship.

My friend and fellow Michigander Marcy Wheeler from emptywheel has an elegant fisking of the article. It’s so good, rather than write one of my own, I will simply highlight some of the better parts of her essay, “The Gray Lady Falls Off the Balance Beam”, and point you to it to read the entire thing. Which you absolutely should do.

First, she discusses the NYT’s suggestion that Rick Snyder is magnanimous in his refusal to take credit for Michigan’s resurgence. As she points out, it’s not so much because he’s a gracious dude, it’s because HE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR IT! It was well-underway when he took office:

You’d think a newspaper might want to point out that MI’s unemployment actually turned around in August 2009–well before Snyder’s election in 2010 and not coincidentally the month after GM came out of bankruptcy. Unemployment dropped 3.3% before Snyder took over, dropped a further 2.6% after he did. But more significantly, unemployment in MI has started to creep up again–it’s up .7% since its recent low in April, to 9%.

Setting that record straight is critical to the rest of the article..

Marcy also takes reporter Monica Davey to task for glossing over the disenfranchisement of Michigan voters through the Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 4, which the Governor has so profoundly defended.

With that in mind, consider how NYT deals with November’s referenda, which it doesn’t get to until the 23rd paragraph.

“Labor leaders have pushed for a ballot question in November to seal collective bargaining rights in the State Constitution, threatening divisions over the very issue that Mr. Snyder had hoped to avoid. Another group is challenging efforts for a new bridge to Canada, a controversial proposal that Mr. Snyder advanced on his own after legislators did not. And another group wants to undo a law granting broad powers to shore up financially troubled cities, a measure that underpins a consent deal the Snyder administration reached for state oversight of struggling Detroit.”

Now, first of all, this is the only reference in the article to Snyder’s Emergency Manager law, one of the most radical things he has done in office. That’s particularly stunning given that the NYT celebrates Snyder’s veto of some of the Republican efforts at voter disenfrachisement. With the EM law effectively invalidating elections for Mayor, city council, and school board around the state, Snyder’s law has partially disenfranchised half of MI’s African Americans. And yet the NYT would spin Snyder as a hero of protecting voters’ rights?

In addition, the article dishonestly suggests that Snyder’s approach to all laws on the right to organize–whether it be a right to work law or constitutional protection for the right to organize–is inaction. That’s utterly false. Snyder’s administration invented all sorts of ridiculous excuses (such as you can’t explain right to organize in 100 words) why the right to organize referendum shouldn’t be on the ballot on November. Snyder has already done what he can to veto the right to organize, as if his EM law doesn’t already constitute such a veto!

As Marcy has pointed out to me, the New York Times has been silent on Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law for the past year and half. Now, suddenly, when it does get a mention, it gets a mere sentence. Meanwhile, back here at Ground Zero, the citizens of Michigan are dealing with a law that not only disenfranchises them, it arms an unelected dictator with only the tools of cutting and destruction to fix problems that require construction and building. It gives these dictators tools to put the costs of balancing the books on groups that were largely not responsible for them. While they break contracts, shift public monies to the private sector through privatization, and sell off public assets, the Governor and his accomplices in the legislature take away needed resources from the municipalities and schools that need them most and hands the tax money over to corporations.

Their philosophy is that this will raise the tide in Michigan and all of the boats with it. What they fail to acknowledge, and what the NYT piece makes no mention of, is that the Republicans in our state, with the cooperation of Governor Snyder, have used the tools of destruction given to Emergency Managers to smash holes in the boats of our most desperate cities and schools. As the tide rises, thanks more to the efforts of former Governor Jennifer Granholm and President Obama, these scuttled boats will be drowned. Why would any company wish to build in an area with failing schools, crumbling or nonexistent infrastructure and high crime rates?

Monica Davey has created a fictional image of our state and our Governor that doesn’t reflect the reality that we live with every day. Governor Snyder is creating a corporatocracy in Michigan. Through his efforts, our state has seen the biggest redistribution of wealth in my lifetime. However, instead of transferring wealth from the rich to the poor, it’s going the other way: a billion dollars from our schools, reduced profit-sharing and taxes to municipalities and increased taxes on the elderly, the poor and on students all to pay for more giveaways to businesses.

Shame on the NYT for this piece of revisionist history and fablemaking. I somehow thought that they were better than this.

Check out Marcy’s piece HERE.