Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: Subjecting our children to brain damage, for the sake of billionaires

Above: An information panel showing some of the ways the WPA improved the quality of life for America's children during the 1930s. This panel was displayed in 1940 at an exhibit in Washington, DC, where, today, our political "leaders" are ignoring the health needs of our children. Image courtesy of the National Archives.

In the last few days, high levels of lead have been found in the drinking water systems of Tallahassee, Florida; Quincy, Massachusetts; Bend-La Pine, Oregon; Lackawanna, New York; Albany, New York; Geneva, New YorkChicago, Illinois; York County, Pennsylvania; DeKalb County, Georgia; Fulton County, Georgia; Benton, Maine; and other cities and towns across America. Many of these high levels of lead were found in schools, including elementary schools.

Dr. Jennifer Lowry of the American Academy of Pediatrics has said, "We now know that there is no safe level of blood lead concentration for children, and the best ‘treatment’ for lead poisoning is to prevent any exposure before it happens. Most existing lead standards fail to protect children. They provide only an illusion of safety." The CDC has warned us, "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected." And yesterday, Dr. Olga Naidenko of the non-profit Environmental Working Group noted, "Scientists, pediatricians and public health officials from the U.S. and around the globe agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Even the smallest amounts can cause irreversible changes, including diminished IQ and behavioral problems in children."

Despite the multiple warnings, our conservative Congress shows no desire to create a large-scale national infrastructure program to replace the water mains, water pipes, and water fixtures that are causing lead poisoning in children. Instead, they are, as usual, focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy, protecting illegal tax evasion, and obstructing all laws that would hold Wall Street accountable for financial fraud and environmental pollution. And their decades-long efforts are paying off. For example, we recently learned that the richest 400 Americans have achieved their highest personal wealth ever ($2.4 trillion). And many of these super-rich Americans will, of course, funnel some of their record wealth back to the politicians who are working as their financial bodyguards. It's a protection racket so simple in design that even Al Capone would be impressed: "Give me some tax breaks, and I give you some campaign money. Capiche?"

During the 1930s and 40s, thousands of waterworks projects were carried out by the various New Deal work programs, to provide clean drinking water for Americans. President Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers thought that the health of children--and the health of the nation as a whole--should be a top priority. Today, by contrast, we are plagued with the "Greed is Good" mentality, i.e., that if we all just act in a completely selfish way, the best possible good will result. But the failure of this foolish ideology can be measured by the millions of children that have drank lead through infrastructure neglect. We have let personal profit crush the common good and, in the process, subjected our children to brain damage.

During his first inaugural address, after the American economy had collapsed due to financial industry greed, financial industry fraud, and financial industry incompetence, President Roosevelt spoke of restoring the nation: "The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit." The New Dealers stood true to those words, and engaged in an infrastructure program that this country has never seen before or since. New Deal roads helped people to get to hospitals and health clinics; New Deal electric lines brought power to rural areas; New Deal school lunch programs brought food to malnourished children; New Deal forestry work employed millions and restored our forests; New Deal water mains brought clean water to children; and the list goes on and on.

Why aren't we doing the same today, especially in light of the fact that so many millions of children have been poisoned by lead?

"We so easily forget. Once the cry of so-called prosperity is heard in the land, we all become so stampeded by the spirit of the god Mammon, that we cannot serve the dictates of social conscience."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, quoting Rabbi Edward L. Israel, 1932 (link)

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