Thursday, December 8, 2016

Drinking lead for the rich in Washington

Above: WPA workers installing a water main in Maryland during the New Deal. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

It was recently discovered that children attending Captain Gray Elementary School, in Pasco, Washington, have been drinking lead-contaminated water - joining millions of other children across America who have been ingesting the neurotoxin from our crumbling drinking water infrastructure.

A concerned parent said, "They have been drinking this water and I don't know if it’s clean." A health official warned, "[Lead] hampers the development of the human brain..." And, of course, the CDC has told us that no amount of lead is safe for children to consume.

Here's an idea: Let's create a new WPA to remove all lead-contaminated water mains, connection lines, and plumbing fixtures. During the New Deal, the WPA installed 777 miles of new water lines in Washington state, and 16,000 miles of new water lines across the nation. We could do the same today, and more. Even conservatives should like this idea, since Ronald Reagan praised the WPA and since Donald Trump said he wanted to do infrastructure on the same scale as the New Deal (see here).

Unfortunately, there's one group of people who don't like this idea too much: The billionaire class. Holed-up in their private communities, private compounds, and private islands, they're too busy investing in military adventures, lobbying to keep their tax rates low, hiding money in offshore accounts, and buying politicians, to be concerned with the common good. And since we live in a plutocracy, where the billionaire class has the most influence on public policy, it looks as though children will have to continue to drink lead to sate the greed of the super-wealthy.

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