January 26, 2016

There's never a bad time to blame public employees for a crisis that began and ended with management, is there? But that's what Governor Rick Snyder is doing, right alongside his pals at Fox News.

This is clearly the focus-group tested talking point, brought to you by Frank Luntz and Roger Ailes, since he's trying it everywhere he possibly can. It goes like this: Those stupid public employees didn't use any common sense and poisoned Flint's water. Oh yeah, the buck stops with me but it's not really my fault at all.

ALEC and Reason magazine appear to have come up with it on Snyder's behalf after his tearful State of the State speech last week. Only they even twisted it farther, blaming it on public employees' pensions.


See? Rick Snyder is just a victim of the leeches on the jugular vein of society: retired city workers. The fact that his administration has failed the city on nearly every level and at nearly every juncture is, according to these corporate titans and saviors of society, irrelevant.

Their article, by the way, is titled “The Government Poisoned Flint’s Water—So Stop Blaming Everyone Else” and has the subtitle “A failure of local government, brought on by public employee pensions.” It’s a catchy title because it says government is responsible, which it is. But the government they are talking about is the one that had no political power at the time the events leading to the poisoning of their drinking water were happening: local Flint officials.

Steve Benen noticed that the 2016 Republican candidates are picking up the theme as well.

The Republican made frequent references to “culture” during the interview, complaining about public agencies lacking a “culture of asking the common-sense questions,” adding there’s “a huge bureaucratic problem and it’s part of the problem with culture in government.”

The rhetoric was jarring in large part because it came from the governor himself. When Rick Snyder refers to problems with “government,” he’s specifically talking about Rick Snyder’s administration. The decisions that did so much damage in Flint were made by emergency managers appointed by the governor himself.

Even the state Department of Environmental Quality employees Snyder is now blaming are employees who answer to him.

At one point, he added, “Let’s look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating” – which is to say, the culture of how people have been operating in Snyder’s own administration.

Snyder’s rhetoric is starting to line up with some of what we’re hearing from Republican presidential candidates, who were stubbornly silent on the crisis for too long, but who are slowly addressing the disaster publicly.

So now we're in the blame cycle, where it's everyone else's fault, especially those nasty union workers who get pensions. This is the Republican way: Break government, then blame government so they can privatize it and really break things.

I'm pretty sure it won't work this time.

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