Thursday, December 29, 2016

Old pipes are bursting in San Francisco. A New Deal could stop that (but the billionaires won't allow it).


Above: In this video, from CBS San Francisco, we see the aftermath of a water main break at Howard and Fourth streets, on December 9, 2016. The water main was installed in the 1800s, so it's no wonder that it broke. The burst pipe caused traffic congestion, flooding problems, and expensive road damage. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwrL8HPmRq4

San Francisco has been experiencing quite a few water main breaks over the past several years, due to aging infrastructure. One of the latest occurred at the intersection of Evans Avenue and Rankin Street, on December 23rd, when a pipe installed in 1935 broke, "causing major flooding and street closures" ("12-inch water main breaks, floods San Francisco streets," SFGate, December 23, 2016).

During the 1930s and 40s, New Deal work-relief programs built and repaired waterworks all across California. The WPA, for example, installed 1,200 miles of new water lines (perhaps including the one that broke in San Francisco on the 23rd).

Californians are still using many of these New Deal projects today, well past their intended lifespan. I don't think New Deal policymakers expected us to be lazy, and not update our infrastructure from time to time. But we have been lazy, and so we're experiencing about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks across the country, every single year. And, as we've seen in various part of the U.S., our children sometimes drink lead from these crumbling water lines (as well as old plumbing) - causing bone, brain, and organ damage.

Above: These formerly jobless workers--now employed in the New Deal's Civil Works Administration--are working on a San Francisco aqueduct project, ca. 1933-1934. New Deal policymakers thought it was extremely important for Americans to have a steady supply of clean water. Today's policymakers? Neh, not so much. For example, policymakers in Michigan switched the city of Flint to a foul water supply, to save a buck, and our Republican-led Congress has been reluctant to help. Photo from the book, "American Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration," 1934, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

So, as our water mains are breaking and our children are drinking neurotoxins (and also, as one-third of the nation has no retirement savings - thanks to decades of stagnant wages and job exportation), the world's richest 500 people, many of them Americans, just added $237 billion to their already-bloated wealth.

So, I guess we can tax these super-wealthy Americans more, and then use that money to help repair our dilapidated infrastructure, right? Well, unfortunately, no. You see, the super-wealthy don't like the idea of being taxed more. They feel that their "right" to buy private islands and gold bathtubs is far more important than providing clean drinking water to children. And since they've bought the politicians, and deluded the masses with their "job creator" propaganda (through the think tanks they've set up and the media outlets they control), the status quo of sick children and crumbling infrastructure will continue for the foreseeable future.

So, the residents of San Francisco (as well as the residents of the rest of the United States) will have to continue dealing with their epidemic of broken water mains, and continue wondering if their children are being poisoned by lead (or chromium 6, or Legionella bacteria, or diesel, or benzene, or 4-methylcyclohexane methanol) - while their right-wing & libertarian fellow citizens yell at them, "We can't tax the job creators! Taxes are theft!!"

We're living in strange times.

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