John Lindstrom, the publisher of Gongwer News Service, one of the top news outlets covering state government and state politics, published an essay this week that shows, despite the shiny, happy face that Gov. Snyder is putting on and despite his continuing calls for more privatization and the success of Emergency Management, they know full well it has been an utter failure and, in the words of one of them, “This is on us.”
Here are some of the highlights:
[C]onversations this reporter has had recently with Republicans, mostly, [are] so very interesting. We met in a variety of settings — at a funeral, at lunch, at the gym and other places – so they were all at ease, off the clock, during the conversations. Some are in government (and fairly high in government) some are business folks, some retired. All are well read, all thoughtful, all very up on the news. Some were in Lansing, some in Detroit. Some are old friends. Some this reporter has known professionally for years.
And all of them recognized Flint as a failure, a spectacular failure, of state government. They also worried that it was particularly a failure of their party, as they almost universally said: “Our guys.”
No matter the setting, or the day, or the circumstance of the conversations, or who was speaking (and not everyone speaking would have known each other), there was an almost stunning repetition to each conversation’s tone: They brought up the Flint situation, and they said, unprompted, it was a failure of state government and their party.
They acknowledged mistakes were made by Flint city officials and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but they said those errors were not as critical as the mistakes and the attitude state government showed while the crisis was brewing.
One, a retired business executive, said with all the complaints about the water that went on for a year before the discovery the water was tainted with lead “Were they paying any attention to people at all?”
Another, a government official, said, “We screwed it up. This is on us.”
However, the most stunning admission of failure is this:
“We keep saying we have to run government like a business. But government isn’t a business. You can’t run it like a business,” one said. Turning briefly to the presidential campaign, the person said, “We’re real good at being the party of ‘no,’ but we have to show we can govern.”
I’m ambivalent to read these words (and you should read the whole thing.) One part of me is glad that these Republicans are finally coming around to the same position just about everyone else has already taken; that the catastrophe in Flint is the direct result of the failure of Emergency Management and a patriarchal government approach that puts a single, unelected person in charge of an entire city because it has “misbehaved”.
On the other hand, it makes me really angry. Because, despite what they say among themselves and despite what they tell John Lindstrom, their public actions and their public policies continue to take us down this road with no sign of retreat. They continue to push for privatization and to take punitive actions against municipalities who have the audacity to set their own course. Cities in Michigan can’t even pass their own civil rights ordinances thanks to actions taken by these supposed anti-Big Government patriots.
So, for all their private blather, when push comes to shove, they don’t appear to allow their personal beliefs to shape their actions in government. And we all know why that is. It’s because if they don’t toe the corporatists’ line, they will see their funding dry up so fast it’ll make their heads spin. The DeVos family and other wealthy political benefactors have an agenda that involves crushing unions, lowering wages, destroying public schools, and privatizing everything from education to prison operations and from caring for veterans to repairing our roads. And local governments that get in the way of that must be dealt with by disinvesting in them to the point that they are in fiscal crisis and ripe for a Big State Government Takeover.
It is time these Republican men and women are made to pay the price for their failed policies and we can do that in November if enough people vote.