Saturday, October 1, 2016
Second graders drinking lead for the rich in Pennsylvania
Above: WPA workers on a water infrastructure project, 1935. New Deal policymakers cared about the health of America's children; so they installed thousands of miles of new water lines & sewer lines, all across the country. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.
Two days ago, it was discovered that 14 water fountains in Pittsburgh public schools were contaminated with lead. At one elementary school, children have been drinking water with lead levels 11 times higher than what the EPA says is safe (and the EPA's suggested limit is much higher than what the CDC says is safe - go figure). A parent with a second and third grader at the school said, "That's scary. I gotta call into the doctors first thing in the morning, and I'm going to get them checked."
Even scarier: This is happening all across the country, to millions of children (see my blog post here).
After decades of handing out gargantuan tax breaks to the wealthy, the federal government is now less willing & able to invest in infrastructure. Making the problem even worse: decades of military adventures costing trillions of dollars. And though the middle-class & poor are now being forced to pay higher taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates, at the state & local level (to make up for the revenue gap caused by Republican and neoliberal trickle-down economics) they just don't have the financial means to replace a substantial part of America's decrepit infrastructure.
During the New Deal, WPA workers installed nearly 600 miles of new water lines in Pennsylvania, and 16,000 miles of new water lines all across the nation. We connected the dots back then, mitigating unemployment while simultaneously modernizing our infrastructure. WPA workers also built new reservoirs, made hundreds of thousands of consumer water connections, improved water utility plants, and much more.
We could create a new WPA of course. But we won't. Tens of millions of people (through their voting habits... or lack thereof) are demanding that we give even more tax breaks to the wealthy, thereby making it even more difficult to replace poisonous water lines & fixtures. So, unfortunately, second graders will continue to drink lead for the rich.