Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: In Michigan, the state makes children drink lead and says they have no right to literacy

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "The Education Division of the WPA of LA [Louisiana]. [Its] drive against illiteracy... has taught 75,181 illiterates out of a total of 219,000 to read and write and reduced illiteracy in the state about 32%. A recent campaign to stamp out illiteracy in three LA parishes, Lafayette, Tensas and Terrebonne resulted in 3,918 negroes and 624 white persons attending classes in the parishes." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

After years of its children being exposed to lead-contaminated water, the residents of Michigan heard another bit of bad news from their Republican-controlled state government: Their children have no right to literacy ("State of Michigan says literacy is not a fundamental right," Detroit Free Press, November 21, 2016). And, as if that were not bad enough, many schools in Detroit are "rodent-infested... crumbling, damaged by water... pockmarked with black mold... [and have] unrepaired bullet holes, exposed wires, and boarded-up windows" ("Detroit public schools hit with lawsuit," CNN, January 28, 2016).

Lead-poisoned children? No right to literacy? Crumbling & dangerous schools? Yep, that's Republicanism 101 for you - starve the government of revenue, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy (who, in turn, funnel some of that money back into Republican political campaigns), and to hell with the people. But, amazingly, millions of Americans support these policies, as evidenced by their voting habits (or lack thereof). Americans are infamous for voting on social issues, to the complete detriment of their physical and financial health.

During the New Deal, massive investments were made in schools, children, and clean drinking water. Our parents and grandparents reaped the benefits of such investments. Today, however, more and more younger Americans are being victimized by Republican neglect. Republicans and their super-wealthy donors have created a net of misinformation & propaganda (think Fox News) and cast it over the middle-class & poor. And it's working extremely well. For example, tens of millions of people voted for Donald Trump, thinking he understood their problems. Yes, they thought that a multi-millionaire, born into great wealth, understood the problems of the working class. Wow. (Of course, since the Democratic Establishment rigged their primaries against Bernie Sanders, we were left with "Wall Street," i.e., "Hillary Clinton," as the alternative candidate - and that's a hard sell, especially after Wall Street tanked the economy through greed & fraud.) 

Above: A WPA exhibit from 1940, highlighting the New Deal's commitment to improving the quality of life for children. My, oh my, how things have changed since then. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

During his Second Bill of Rights speech, President Franklin Roosevelt said: "We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are... the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health... The right to a good education." It was a noble sentiment, but FDR was ultimately wrong. The poisoned children of Michigan, and the state's claim that there is no right to literacy (facts and sentiments that are prevalent throughout the nation) shows us that we have not accepted the right to good health, or the right to a good education, but have, instead, thoroughly rejected them. 

Shameful, and extremely harmful to children... but true.

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