In April 2014, the Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley to try to balance the budget in the city of Flint. With his knowledge, they attempted to cut costs in the city of Flint by switching the water supply from the Detroit water system to that of the Flint River, which was deeply polluted and had a very high salt content.
That high salt content corroded the old pipes, which then leaked lead into the water supply. Internal emails showed that Snyder and his officials were aware of the problem, and could have rectified it for as little as $100 a day, but they took no action. Indeed, this scandal only came to light after a pediatrician noted that the levels of lead in the children she was treating “had doubled or even tripled since the city switched its water supply.”
With their inaction, Snyder and his cronies poisoned tens of thousands of children. Whistle-blower Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha sadly observed that “in five years, these kids are going to have problems with special education. They’re going to have cognition problems. Seven to 10 years, they’re going to have behavioral problems.”
Internal emails have revealed that the Snyder administration was aware of the crisis the entire time. They switched back to Detroit water in October, but the damage was already done. Snyder waited until this week to declare a state of emergency, but the federal government and the people aren’t having it. The Department of Justice has announced they are beginning an investigation in order to find out how this could have come to pass. A mass movement calling for Snyder’s arrest is underway, spearheaded by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, who is originally from Flint:
To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.
But you did. Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and “cutting costs” to “balance the budget” was more important than the people’s health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders). So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of “water” where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to “clean” it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint’s aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people’s taps.
This is what Republican leadership will do to a state. Rick Snyder has given away billions of dollars in tax credits to major corporations and blown a huge hole in his budget, all while squeezing more from the average citizen – some $900 million more, while corporations paid $1.7 billion less in 2014. The laughably absurd Tea Party notion of a “flat tax” (which is endorsed by not one but two Republican presidential candidates) is in full effect in Michigan, placing a heavy burden on low-income families while corporations pay an absurdly low tax rate of 6%. The job growth that he promised never materialized:
There has been no talk, for instance, of tying the new tax breaks for businesses to job creation, or of tax penalties for companies that eliminate jobs in Michigan or move them elsewhere. Nor has Snyder discussed ideas such as a progressive individual income tax, which would require a constitutional change. Under many models, that would lower rates for the vast majority of low- and middle-income taxpayers, while raising rates for top earners to those similar in other states.
Since he dug himself into a $454.4 million deficit (according to the Michigan House Fiscal Agency), like almost every other trickle-down tax-slashing Republican governor out there, he had to fill the gap somehow. By doing so, he then knowingly poisoned a city of one hundred thousand souls with lead-tainted water.
It just goes to show how deeply Republican officials disregard the well-being of their citizens. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Flint is one of the poorest cities in the nation, and is 56% black. This is a travesty of historic proportions, and justice must be served against Snyder and his callous administration.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.