Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
WE NEED YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER!

We don’t ask often, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep our website afloat, and our growing audience, well over two million unique viewers a month (you read that right), eats up a lot of bandwidth–and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support. Please, drop us a few dollars if you have the means.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Flint’s Water Crisis and the GOP’s Class War

by

shutterstock_366508430

Why did Flint suffer a water catastrophe that now requires that children be treated as if they had been poisoned?

It wasn’t because the people were negligent. From the moment Flint began taking its water from the polluted Flint River, residents warned about water that came out of the faucet brown, tasted foul and smelled worse. They began packing public meetings with jugs filled with water that looked like brown stain.

It wasn’t because the democracy failed, because in Flint democracy had been suspended. The city, devastated by the closing of its auto plants and industrial base, has been in constant fiscal crisis. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, one of the crop of proud conservative governors promising to cut taxes for the rich and get government out of the way, appointed an emergency manager to run the city. Elected officials had no say.

It wasn’t because the city manager and the state environmental agency and the governor weren’t warned. Warnings were issued from the beginning. General Motors even suspended using the water because it was too corrosive for the auto parts it was making. Nevertheless, city and state officials assured the worried residents of Flint that it was still safe to drink.

The result is that Flint’s children — particularly those in the older, poorer, disproportionately black neighborhoods — have been exposed to elevated levels of lead.

Lead poisoning isn’t like contracting a cold or getting the flu. Lead is an immediate and unrelenting threat to health. It causes miscarriages and births of low-weight babies. Children exposed to lead can have disabilities that afflict them for their entire lives. Lead stays in your bones. Yet even after a federal EPA official warned that the tests were being skewed to underreport levels of lead, even after heroes like LeeAnne Walters reported that her children’s hair was falling out and that they were developing rashes and constantly sick, even after the heroic pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, an Iraqi-American, reported elevated levels of lead in children’s blood, their concerns were dismissed, their alarms scorned, they were attacked for sowing hysteria and the poor residents of Flint were told the water was safe to drink.

Why were the people and the obvious signs and the experts ignored?

They would not have been ignored if these were wealthy suburban neighborhoods and the water suddenly turned brown. They would not have been ignored if the children of an all-white community were at risk.

State officials dismissed the complaints as exaggerated. The brown water was just rust. Officials thought people ought to be grateful for what they had. The laws, they wrote, ensure the water is “safe to drink.” It doesn’t regulate how it looks, its “aesthetic values.” The water looks bad because it’s from the “Flint River.” Flint is old and poor. The pipes are old and poor. The people are black and poor.

They just have to learn to put up with it. And if the lead seems to be at dangerous levels, flushing the system before the tests, skewing the sample to the most recently built systems can jigger the results to get by. Some might get hurt, but no one worth caring about.

This is the ugly reality of the right-wing assault on America’s working people and particularly on people of color. They want to get “government out of the way” — out of the way of their greed. The successful have earned special treatment — in taxes, in contracts, in interest rates, in public investment. The unsuccessful need to learn self-reliance. They need to accept what they get and be grateful for it.

Flint is not a bug in their perspective; it is a feature. They fought against African-Americans getting the right to vote. Now they use “emergency” to set up dictators — emergency managers — to occupy predominantly African-American communities. They worry that the poor get too much “free stuff” — food stamps (once a Republican program), health care through Medicaid (so they refuse to expand it), unemployment insurance when they lose their jobs (so they limit its coverage), minimum wages (which they fight against) and “costly regulations” that require safe water and clean air and safer workplaces.

The “establishment” Republican candidate Jeb Bush has called for a “regulatory spring cleaning” to strip away regulations that protect health and safety. The Republican Congress annually seeks to cut backs EPA’s budgets and authority. The Republican governors gleefully gut the budgets of their own state agencies. They don’t worry. The children of the rich will be protected. It is the poor — of all races but disproportionately people of color — who will be left at greater risk.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder should have the common decency to resign. The state and the federal government should step in and rebuild Flint’s water system immediately. A federal investigation should issue indictments where justified. But this isn’t simply about water and Flint. This is about an ideology that believes in this rich country, the privileges of the few must be protected, even if the necessities of the many are sacrificed. “Of course there is class warfare,” billionaire Warren Buffett once acknowledged, “and my class is winning.”

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

October 16, 2017
Vijay Prashad
A Tale of Two Islands
Ben Dangl
Profiting from America’s Longest War: Trump Seeks to Exploit Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan
Jan Oberg
Trump is Moving Toward War With Iran
Thomas S. Harrington
The Baseless Myth of the Poor, Propagandized Catalans
Steve Brown
When a Radio Host Interviews a War Criminal, Is It Churlish to Ask About His War Crimes?
Howard Lisnoff
Capturing the Flag
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS is Facing Near Total Defeat, But It Has Been Beaten and Come Back Before
Julian Vigo
The Fall of Harvey Weinstein and the Sexual Blindspot of Misogyny
James Munson
The Rich Can’t Achieve Plurality, But the Poor Can
Amitai Ben-Abba
The NIMPE Critique of Antifa
Robert Fisk
We Will Soon See What the Word “Unity” Means for the Palestinian People
Alice Donovan
Civil War in Venezuela: a US Joint Operation with Colombia?
Jimmy Centeno
The De-Mexicanization of Duranguito Barrio, El Paso, Texas
Martin Billheimer
The Phantom of Justice in Indian Country
Uri Avnery
The Terrible Problem
Binoy Kampmark
Dirty Ties: the University of New Haven and Saudi Arabia
Ted Rall
Imagine a Brand-New USA
Weekend Edition
October 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
The Political Economy of Obama/Trump
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Man in the Soundproof Booth
Becky Grant
My History With Alexander Cockburn and the Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
Orange Thing: Should It Stay or Should It Go?
Ellen Brown
How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico’s Debt Without Hurting Bondholders
Andrew Levine
Loyalty to the Don
Patrick Cockburn
Underground in Raqqa
Linda Pentz Gunter
Could Trump be About to Kill U.S. Solar Industry Jobs?
Conn Hallinan
Of Leprechauns, Nazis, and Truncheons
Mike Whitney
Cowboy’s Boss Draws a Line in Sand: “Stand for Anthem or Else”
Geoff Dutton
Harvard, the CIA, and All That
Walter Clemens
Kakistocracy?
Judith Deutsch
Normality and Pathology in a Time of Extreme Crisis
Robert Hunziker
Trillion-Ton Icebergs and Record Stock Prices
George Wuerthner
Why California is Burning
John Grant
Mandalay Bay: Top O’ the World, Ma!
Brian Cloughley
The India-China Face Off
Pete Dolack
Pharmaceuticals Can be a License to Print Money
Oren Ben-Dor
A Second Brexit Referendum? The Argument of Autonomy
Gary Leupp
Is the President a Head Case?
Edwin Krales
Honoring Repulsive Behavior: Abominable Medical Experimenters    
Ron Jacobs
Riding the Dog
Jose Martinez
Unmasking Jerry’s Kids (er, Cowboys)
Jonathan Schmitt
Guns, Hate, and Freedom of Speech
Ramzy Baroud
What Is Behind the Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation?
Jonathan Latham
Have Monsanto and the Biotech Industry Turned Natural Bt Pesticides Into GMO “Super Toxins”?
Angelica Ortiz
My Fight for Land and Life in Colombia
Mark Weisbrot
The IMF’s World Economic Outlook in Theory and Practice
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail