Friday, October 21, 2016

Drinking lead for the rich in New York

Above: WPA laborers on a waterworks project in Loudonville, New York, ca. 1935-1940. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Yesterday, we learned that schoolchildren have been drinking leaded water at public schools in Lackawanna, New York. Lead contamination frequently comes from aging water lines and fixtures. Like everywhere else in the United States, New York's drinking water infrastructure is old and deteriorating. In fact, as news was breaking about children drinking lead in Lackawanna public schools, an old water main broke in Hudson, New York, disrupting water service to residents there. One person said, "I’ve got soap on my face and I’m sick, so this isn’t helping." The water disruption also hurt at least one business. The owner of a breakfast-and-lunch diner said, "A couple hours is our whole day. We’re losing a day’s business." The Hudson Superintendent of Public Works noted: "The old stuff needs to be updated. About 20 of our mains are 4-inch mains, which means they’re probably 120 years old at least."

Americans have been warned, year after year after year, by engineering experts and public health experts, that their drinking water infrastructure needs to be updated. If we were smart, we would have done what President Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers did in the 1930s and 40s. For example, between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers installed over 1,200 miles of new water lines in New York. But we weren't smart, were we? Instead, millions of Americans scoffed at the pointy-headed experts (or were oblivious to them altogether), and elected wave after wave of conservatives into high political office. And those conservatives were far more interested in pampering the wealthy than they were with infrastructure. Result? America's children are drinking lead and damaging their brains, while the super-wealthy are smiling and enjoying record wealth.

Sadly, even after all this, tens of millions of Americans continue to hold their hands to the sky, in joyous rapture, and exclaim, "job creators... Job Creators... JOB CREATORS!!!" Meanwhile, the "job creators" are buying more politicians and pushing hard for the TPP, so they can outsource more American jobs to third world labor markets, and thus increase profits for executives & wealthy shareholders.

When will we ever learn?

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