Tuesday, January 19, 2016
The Reverse New Deal: Right-wing policymakers (and their super-wealthy backers) neglect infrastructure and poison children
Above: A young resident of Flint, Michigan, protests her poisoning. Photo copyright: Jake May, Flint Journal-MLive, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes only.
Above: WPA workers on an infrastructure project in Baltimore, Maryland, 1935. Unlike the girl in the photo above, these girls had the benefit of New Deal policymakers - policymakers who understood the value of sanitation and clean water. Across the country, WPA workers installed 16,000 miles of new water lines and 24,000 miles of new sewer lines. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and other groups, have repeatedly warned us about our deteriorating infrastructure. Right-wing politicians have repeatedly ignored these warnings, and they've also repeatedly blocked and mocked infrastructure improvement initiatives. Indeed, they're so obstinate, that even a top Republican in Congress has blamed right-wing politicians for blocking infrastructure improvements.
"Senate GOP blocks $60B Obama infrastructure plan," USA Today, November 3, 2011.
"$478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP," The Fiscal Times, March 25, 2015.
Residents of Flint, Michigan have recently been poisoned by lead, because of old pipes, a corrosive water supply, and a decision by policymakers to save money (austerity). The residents of Flint have also had E. Coli in their water, and possibly the bacteria that causes the deadly Legionnaires disease. And this is just part of a larger national problem of infrastructure neglect that is causing a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks each year. These breaks, 650 per day, shut down schools, shut down businesses, rupture roads, create sinkholes, flood residential basements, force Americans to boil their water before using it, and waste two trillion gallons of water annually.
And it's not just water mains. For example, right now, there is a huge methane gas leak in California. Also, passenger train safety is threatened by lack of funding. And in 2014, 300,000 West Virgnians couldn't drink their water because chemicals had spilled into the Elk River from a leaking storage container. With respect to roads, "The federal Department of Transportation estimates that obsolete road designs and poor road conditions are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year."
How have right-wing politicians responded to the highway deaths, the methane leak, the polluted Elk River, the poisoned children, and the general lack of funding? Well, they bogged down the Highway Bill by trying to attach unrelated Wall Street favors to it, they've tried to weaken regulations designed to keep our air & water clean (see link below), and, instead of increased revenue & funding, they want to give more tax breaks to the wealthy.
"House Republicans block billion dollar Amtrak budget increase hours after derailment," Daily Mail, May 13, 2015.
"[Republican] House Lawmakers Seek To Defund EPA Clean Water Rule," Law360, November 24, 2015.
To pour salt into the wound, after decades of right-wing tax breaks for the rich, the revenue burden for infrastructure has shifted downward to the state & local level in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates. Despite the fact that the middle-class and poor have faced stagnant or dropping wages for the past several decades (while the rich have gotten infinitely richer), and despite the fact that a recent report showed 63% of Americans are "$1,000 away from financial ruin," the rich and their right-wing marionettes in Congress and state governments are forcing them to pay more and more and more. In fact, right-wing politicians have even been trying to facilitate illegal tax evasion by the super-wealthy, which puts even more of a burden on the middle-class and poor.
During the New Deal, the rich were taxed more and infrastructure was repaired & modernized on a vast scale. But, until Americans learn this history, and until they stop voting for right-wing foolishness, more rivers will be polluted, more water mains will break, and more children will be poisoned. This is completely outrageous. But it's also, sadly, the reality of our new anti-New Deal, trickle-down America.
Above: Here's some money that could have been used to prevent the poisoning of the children in Flint, Michigan. Instead, it went to private jets, private compounds, private islands, and political campaign contributions - contributions designed to shield super-wealthy Americans from higher tax rates and law enforcement. Think of it as a giant kick-back scheme, where millionaires & billionaires tell right-wing politicians, "Look, you send me some tax breaks, and you send me some laws to keep the fuzz off my back, and I send you some campaign money. Got it?" Image courtesy of Demos.