Politicization and Privatization: Rubio Excuses Flint


Good lord, you’d think if anyone knew the importance of an abundant supply of drinkable water, it’d be Marco Rubio.

The most interesting and enraging moment of last night’s debate- ok, except for the ridiculous juvenalia, which wasn’t so much a moment as a permanent state of affairs- was when the Fox moderators finally asked about the Flint water disaster. Only Rubio was brave enough to jump on it.  He defended Gov. Rick Snyder- whose complicity and cruel indifference become more clear by the day- praising him because “(h)e took responsibility.” Marco said, correctly, “I don’t think anyone woke up one morning and said, ‘let’s…poison someone.'”

However, the most telling contradiction was this (from the Free Press article):

“What happened in Flint was a terrible thing,” Rubio said. He called it a systemic failure at every level of government and said “the politicizing of it, I think, is really unfair.

This is smart for a couple of reasons. The main is is the accusation of “politicizing”. This is a great word that is used when you know your side is wrong. Politicians are often accused of  “politicizing” tragedies, which doesn’t make any sense. Yes, if Democrats were to blame Ronald Reagan for an earthquake, that would be politicization. But any human-caused tragedy is inherently political, and response to it needs to be. Accusations of politicizing events are a dodge, an intellectual grift, designed to keep whatever policies caused the tragedy in place. It’s better to just say “it’s a terrible thing”, as if there was some kind of free-floating miasmatic tragedy fog that just happened to land on a place- today, it was Flint.

Flint, which Rubio said, was a systemic failure of government: the second smart thing, implying of course that government can never work. What he for some reason failed to mention though is that this crime wasn’t perpetrated by some kind of big government, enveloped as they were in the de-politicized tragedy cloud, but a direct result of the exact kind of government Marco Rubio wants to run.

This is a direct outcome of the rush for deregulation and privatization. If it is true that such a rush is too often bipartisan, that’s an indictment of the system, and a betrayal by Democrats of progressive values.

It’s true that the EPA could have been more aggressive- though an aggressive EPA is not a typical Republican mandate. But blaming the EPA, in a vague “hope we don’t get called out for this” EPA-is-bad- sort of way is as far as the GOP will go in involving politics, of course.

A state of emergency could have been declared months earlier (at least!), but Governor Snyder categorically refused to care? Stop being political!

The water in the Flint River being so corrosive that GM wouldn’t use it for its parts, a fact reported as early as 2014? Stop being political!

That the decision leading up to this were initiated by Snyder-appointed “emergency managers”, a Republican ideal to replace elected government with officials who want to run cities like businesses? And that the switch to Flint was done over the protests of the now-toothless but elected city council? Stop being political!

That the whole decision to switch to this poisoned river running through poison pipes was done not to save Flint money- because it didn’t, neither in the short  nor long run- but in an attempt to privatize the old Detroit Water and Sewage Department? Stop being political!

This is the heart of it. A few years ago, Snyder and his emergency managers transferred authority from the DWSD to the Great Lakes Water Authority, a hand-picked corporation that was designed to pave the way for the eventual privatization of water rights. Flint used to buy its water from the DWSD, a good revenue stream for the city. The move to switch wasn’t to get Flint better water, but to cut off money to Detroit, so that the new GLWA would be “forced” to sell to private companies. The people, especially the children, of Flint, were just collateral damage in an attempt to parcel out water, to make the most vital natural resource a commodity, where it can be overpriced and underregulated, and turned into a profit. The central metaphor of the conservative economic plank, the one that Rubio believes in with all his heart, the one that is not an accidental tragedy, but a deliberate result of politics in its purest form, is the alchemy that turns water into an entry in some vast corporate profit sheet.

I swear to god, they would sell the Great Lakes to the rich for a nickel and blame the parched for playing politics.

7 thoughts on “Politicization and Privatization: Rubio Excuses Flint

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