The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1078 — April 1 - 15, 2019

Editorial:
We Are One Working Class

Apr 1, 2019

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are fleeing for their lives, trying to gain entry into the U.S. Most are from Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where there is some of the highest levels of violence in the world.

Most of these migrants believe that by taking the legal route, they will get a hearing. They cross the border. They wait for the Border Patrol to pick them up. They ask for asylum. This is their right, according to U.S. law.

But it makes no difference. The Border Patrol still treats them like criminals.

In El Paso, Texas, one of the busiest ports of entry, the Border Patrol crowds hundreds of migrant families at a time into an outdoor parking lot under a busy freeway bridge. For many days, they await processing. Rows of families, including small children and babies, lie directly on the concrete floor with nothing but thin blankets of insulated plastic to protect them from the wind and cold. They are surrounded by armed guards, barbed wire and razor wire.

These are the people President Trump regularly attacks. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, President Trump recently called migrants’ efforts to gain entry into the U.S. “a big fat con job.” Trump calls Central America a “shit hole.”

In reality, Central America is a hell hole for the great mass of workers and poor. That is what the U.S. government and the U.S. capitalist class have turned it into. Historically, big U.S. businesses, such as banks, growers, mining companies and manufacturers, gained great wealth by plundering and bleeding the people and the land. U.S.-sponsored dictators and private armies reigned supreme. When workers and peasants revolted, the U.S. military and CIA destroyed the land, massacred entire villages, made life intolerable.

Today, there are few jobs. Gangs, backed by the police and military, rule through terror and fear. “They should try to change it instead of running away,” some in this country say about the migrants. But anyone who opposes the gangs or police, anyone who criticizes or tries to change things, risks death, not just for themselves, but their family and loved ones.

So, they flee. They travel thousands of miles, often on foot. They brave the natural elements, the mountains, rivers and deserts, hunger and thirst. They brave human predators, including in the U.S.: the gangs and police, who rob, enslave, torture, rape, and murder migrants.

Workers in this country should welcome them as a part of our class. These migrants have courage and determination. These are qualities that strengthen our fights here in this country.

Today, Trump is doing what politicians have always done. He is using the crises created by the capitalist class, in order to divide workers against each other. Unemployment, low wages, crime, homelessness: those are caused by the capitalist drive for profit.

The main dividing line is not between workers from different countries or regions. The main dividing line is between the tiny minority of exploiters and the exploited. It is between those who enrich themselves off of the sweat and labor of the great mass of workers and those of us who do all the work.

Historically, the working class has been built out of great migrations of people, just like the ones of today. Those migrations enriched the working class. Workers learned from each other. They broadened workers’ experience and outlook. And they strengthened workers’ struggles.

It’s not up to Trump what happens. It’s up to us, including all the migrants. We are one class. The more we are united, the stronger we are in the face of the capitalist exploiters.

Pages 2-3

Insulin:
Patented for $1; Cost, $300!

Apr 1, 2019

Between 2007 and 2016, major brand insulin list prices have increased by 252%, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the University of Southern California. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot afford this drug in the U.S. and are dying from a lack of it.

Insulin is the only treatment available for people with Type 1 diabetes today. Before 1921, most people with Type 1 diabetes did not live more than a year or two. In early 1922, patients with Type 1 diabetes were first successfully treated.

Insulin was discovered by three University of Toronto scientists, Frederick G. Banting, Charles H. Best and J.J.R. Macleod in 1921. Another scientist, James B. Collip, subsequently purified insulin to be used in the treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes.

Finally, in 1923, Banting, Best, and Collip were awarded the U.S. patents for insulin which they sold to the University of Toronto for $1.00 each, hoping the low price would keep the essential treatment available to everyone who needed it.

Soon, corporations were able to mass-produce insulin to treat patients. In November 1923, insulin's price was two cents per unit. Average annual inflation over the period of 1923–2019 was close to 2.9%. This means that today’s price would be around $0.30 per unit.

But, today, in Canada, the same insulin from these brands can cost $38 per unit. But wait! If that seems high, look at retail prices in the U.S. – a staggering $300, plus or minus, per unit for all insulins from the three major brands!

Insulin has been around close to 100 years and is very cheap to produce. But, its price is kept stunningly high today by the three private producers, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, which together control the market and decide on prices.

For profits, a few individuals are allowed to rob many and reduce others to misery, even death.

And they say we are living in a democracy? Where the hell is the law against this?!

Study:
“Abuse and Neglect in Orange County Shelters”

Apr 1, 2019

Homeless people staying at emergency homeless shelters in Orange County, California are subjected to horrendous conditions, according to a year-long investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This investigation's findings are summarized in a report, “Abuse and Neglect in Orange County Shelters.”

The report documents many cases of physical and sexual abuse, mistreatment of the elderly, and neglect of residents with disabilities and mental illnesses. The ACLU found dangerously unclean conditions in each of the three shelters they investigated. Facilities got unbearably hot during summer days, and flooded during rainstorms. Staff threatened residents with eviction for minor infractions, or if they spoke out about conditions at the shelter. The living conditions in these shelters were so filthy and unbearable that one resident commented: “This place is slowly killing me.”

These conditions are so horrific that one homeless resident of these shelters, Roberta Filicko, wrote, “People who have been to jail have said jail is better than this shelter. We are so scared that we will be living on the streets, and the staff make sure to remind you of this every minute of every day. It's true we have no one to help us, so we go along with it.”

Counties in Southern California – Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego – have the highest homeless population in the U.S. This population is increasing every passing day. At the same time, these counties are among the richest regions not only in the U.S., but the whole world.

High housing prices and rents, and low wages and income are the main reasons for more than 50% of the homelessness in Los Angeles, according to a study reported by the Los Angeles Times. This social system is not only the root cause of the dire homelessness problem, but it punishes people who look for help, forcing them into barbaric living conditions.

Baltimore:
Business (Corruption) as Usual

Apr 1, 2019

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was recently exposed as a crook. She has sold 50,000 copies of a children’s book she wrote (“Healthy Holly”) to the UMMS (University of Maryland Medical System) over the last few years. The books were supposed to be distributed to children in Baltimore public schools and daycare centers to convince them to have healthy life styles. But the schools never requested these books, have no records about their use and apparently have used very few of them (almost nine thousand copies were found recently in a school warehouse).

How was the mayor able to do this? By using her position on the governing board of the UMMS to get the board to secretly give her book company five no-bid contracts totaling $500,000.

Apparently doing this was nothing out of the ordinary for this board. The board awards many contracts for goods and services for the 11-hospital UMMS chain, that has revenues of about 4½ billion dollars a year. The 30-member board officially includes the governor of Maryland, and the top leaders of both houses of the state legislature. Over many years it has awarded many very profitable no-bid contracts to companies owned by about one-third of the board members or their family or friends. The CEO of the board has received about 40 million dollars in salary alone over the last 10 years.

In addition, the governing board itself and various members of the board have given political contributions and loans to both Democratic Baltimore Mayor Pugh and Republican Maryland Governor Hogan and Lieutenant Governor Rutherford.

In short, so far 9 of the 30 members of the UMMS governing board have been exposed for helping to give contracts to themselves and the politicians who serve them. And in this society organized to serve the interests of businessmen and bankers, board members have clearly viewed this as simply business as usual.

Ironically, Mayor Pugh just recently managed to get her latest nominee for Baltimore police chief confirmed. He is the fifth chief in about 2½ years. What is one of his main goals supposed to be? Cleaning up corruption in the Baltimore Police Department.

Hmmm....

The Washington Never-Never Land

Apr 1, 2019

To say that the Mueller Report was highly anticipated is the understatement of the century—well, at least what feels like a century—26 months and counting. The Democrats, who said “wait for the Mueller Report” almost as many times as Trump said “No Collusion!” (is that possible?) awaited its delivery on bended knee - the press corps sang “hallelujah” in the background.

And then, and then ... it landed with a “tweet” and a “thud”, like a lead balloon giving off gas - or rather was whisked away to Never-Never Land by the White House’s apprentices to reappear in FOUR PAGES as “No Collusion!” Truly a miracle to behold! And Trump went merrily on his way to broadcast the great news throughout the Empire. The End.

Seriously, though. The four-page report given by Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s handpicked man for the job, is a microdot of what Trump wanted it to be. The real report of 300 plus pages is undisclosed while Barr promises its release by mid-April. Who knows how much of it we’ll ever actually see.

So what do we know? What everyone knew already. That Trump lied, stole, conned, cheated, stole, lied his way into office and every day since he has been there for his own aggrandizement and enrichment. We know that this circus that is day-to-day Washington Capitol Hill politics will go on and on. We are looking at 19 months more of what we have already endured.

Both Democrats and Republicans have reason to drag this process out until the 2020 elections. Trump’s future, for a whole host of reasons, hangs (or doesn’t) on being reelected. The Democrats can do little more than to mouth the “2020 return of the Democratic Presidency” mantra.

If the powers that be wanted Trump out, he’d be gone. If the working class and the general population want him out, it will take real organization and a real fight that would be wasted on a focus on this clown pretender, Trump.

If the capitalists and bankers can distract and entertain with Trump as villain, they can continue their business of the real theft of our lives and money – transferring even more wealth into their offshore accounts while we are following the jester.

We’d be wiser to save our energy for a fight to defend ourselves from their continuing attacks.

Pages 4-5

Britain’s Brexit ... or Not

Apr 1, 2019

The following article was translated from the editorial for the March 25 workplace newsletters distributed by the French revolutionary workers group, Lutte Ouvrière.

On March 23, about a million people demonstrated against Brexit in Britain, one of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. For months, the parliament has ripped itself apart trying to decide if it has to ratify the agreement negotiated with the European Union (EU) laying out the terms of Britain’s exit from the union. And no one knows if, or when, Brexit will happen, let alone the consequences.

It is already clear that, for the British workers, the results will not be what the demagogues promised. According to them, the country would regain its sovereignty. To hear them speak, the money Britain put toward the EU would instead be used to improve the health system and the population’s standard of living. Three years later, the brilliant future promised by these merchants of illusion has been transformed into a nightmare.

The economies of the different European countries are today completely enmeshed, and once you have an omelet, you cannot get back the individual eggs. The production of every manufactured good involves many different countries. For example, in the British auto industry, the majority of parts cross back and forth across the English Channel many times before they are finally assembled into cars that are ready to be sold ... on the European continent.

With Brexit, the multinationals will reorganize their production at the level of Europe as a whole, and tens of thousands of job losses are planned. More than 10,000 trucks cross the English Channel every day, so re-establishing customs barriers will have severe consequences. And Britain has stocks of medicines like insulin for use in three-quarters of the continent, the shipment of which cannot be delayed without dramatic problems.

The promoters of Brexit denounce European immigration. But as in France and other EU countries, many economic sectors cannot function without immigrants: construction, agriculture, hospitals, and restaurants to name a few. By setting the British against foreigners, by reinforcing racism and xenophobia, Brexit divides the working class and makes it weaker in front of the capitalists.

In Northern Ireland, which has long been ravaged by a civil war, the re-establishment of a border with the Republic of Ireland to its south threatens to reopen still raw wounds.

Just as many British people were deceived by the politicians who advocated for Brexit in 2016, workers in France hear the same ideas from politicians like Le Pen and other French nationalists, and even some on the left.

Of course, the European Union was not built for its people. Everything was done for capital and finance. The big Western European banks and multinationals now have access to a vast market of more than 500 million people. The richer countries assert their domination over the poorer ones.

The EU has not unified its people. It has not harmonized the rights of the workers. Today in Eastern Europe, the minimum wage remains below 500 euros a month (about 560 dollars). Greece, Spain, and Portugal have been ravaged by unemployment. And the construction of the EU has not improved the rights of women. Women in Ireland still had to fight for the right to abortion, which they just won, and which women in Malta and Poland still lack.

So the record of the EU is certainly far from glorious. But the records of the individual states that make it up are no better! The government of Salvini in Italy wants to force the unemployed to take any job, no matter how bad, just like Macron in France with his decrees against the unemployed.

In reality, the only opposition that counts is the one between the workers and big capital. Whatever their nationality, the workers of Europe, the workers of the world, have the same interests: defend their jobs, their wages, and their pensions; take control of the economy so that it functions for the good of all.

In the European elections, this will be the thrust of the campaign of the Lutte Ouvrière slate, headed by Nathalie Arthaud and Jean-Pierre Mercier.

Drinkable Water:
Take on the Problem at its Source

Apr 1, 2019

On March 22, the World Day of Water, the U.N. released a report on access to drinkable water around the world. It showed that 2,000,000,000 people lack drinkable water, or three in ten people.

Four billion people face a shortage of water at least one month in the year. More than four billion lack sanitation facilities. Every year, diseases caused by the lack of clean drinking water, like cholera or dysentery, kill 780,000 people – more than wars or natural disasters. Eighty percent of the water used by people is released back into nature without any treatment, polluting surface water and underground reservoirs. The lack of clean water threatens agriculture and puts entire villages at risk.

People living in the poor countries are the hardest hit. More than half the people without access to clean drinking water within thirty minutes of their homes live in Africa, in countries where the governments don’t provide either access to water or its purification.

But even in the less-poor countries, access to clean water is not guaranteed. Many inhabitants of Guadeloupe, a French department in the Caribbean, experience frequent water shut-offs because the pipes are not maintained. In the U.S., the 100,000 residents of Flint, Michigan know about water polluted with lead coming out of their taps. In some rural counties, especially in Kentucky, the population has no drinkable water.

Access to clean drinking water depends on investment in the necessary infrastructure. For thousands of years, civilizations like those in ancient Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire developed systems to manage and distribute water. Today, while the rich countries devote hundreds of billions of dollars to the production of the most sophisticated weapons, the necessary money is not invested to make sure the whole world’s population has access to clean drinking water. This is not some human destiny: it is the capitalist organization of society that keeps humanity from resolving this problem, given all the possibilities that exist if this were made a priority.

Diseases Like Measles Could Be Eliminated

Apr 1, 2019

Measles is making a comeback despite being declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There were 206 reported cases in January and February alone this year, according to the CDC.

Measles can be very serious and even deadly. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, an estimated four million people in the U.S. were infected each year, with 48,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths. Measles can even cause encephalitis, a brain disease, that doesn’t show up until years later.

Infectious diseases like measles can be completely eradicated. Smallpox, for example, has been effectively eradicated across the world. The main reason for the return of measles is the increase in the number of parents not having their children vaccinated.

This has led many to see the problem as simply the result of selfish choices by individual parents. The continued existence of infectious diseases, which science has provided the means to eliminate, however, is a social problem, not simply one of individual choices, and requires social solutions.

Distrust of Medicine

In part, the decline in the rate of childhood immunization reflects distrust in the population toward both the medical industry and government. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than other industrialized countries, yet has worse health outcomes, and this contributes to this mistrust.

Some of the black population carry a mistrust of the scientific establishment because of a past history of abuses, like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, in which black men who had syphilis were denied access to penicillin, though it was already known to treat the disease.

False Information

The problem is made worse by false information that has been put out about the safety of vaccines. In the late 1990s, The Lancet, a respected medical journal, published a paper linking the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism in a group of 12 children.

Other scientists have since debunked the study. It turns out Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who wrote the paper, falsified data and has since lost his medical license. Other scientists have since found no such link in larger studies. Nevertheless, opponents of vaccination continue to popularize the false findings of this study in addition to other false ideas about vaccines. Some, for example, have pointed out that measles deaths decreased dramatically before the vaccine was introduced due to improved sanitation such as improved sewage and water systems. This suggests that improved sanitation would be sufficient to eliminate the disease.

Certainly, sanitation played a role in decreasing rates of infectious diseases. Access to quality sewage systems was a demand that took serious social fights by public health advocates to force the wealthy class to provide to workers and the poor.

Measles Made Less Deadly

The argument that sanitation is enough hides the real truth. While deaths from measles did decline before the vaccine, the number of people contracting measles did not. So why did measles become less deadly before the vaccine’s discovery? The reason is that measles patients most often died from other communicable diseases, like pneumonia, for example. Measles caused their immune systems to be compromised, making them less able to fight off other diseases. Medical advances for fighting those other diseases, like antibiotics, were the reason fewer died. Antibiotics are only effective, though, against bacterial diseases, not on diseases caused by viruses, like measles.

While measles has become less deadly, it remains a danger to some, such as children whose immune systems aren’t yet developed or elderly people and others with compromised immune systems.

Vaccines are important to eliminating infectious diseases because they help to provide what’s called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity means that should one person contract the measles, any possible outbreak can be contained if they are surrounded by people who have been vaccinated. No vaccine is 100% effective. This means that people who do not get a vaccine and then contract the disease put some others who got the vaccine at risk. The higher the vaccination rate, the greater the immunity for everyone.

Requiring a Social Solution

This, though, requires people to view vaccines as a social obligation, which is made more difficult by mistrust of science and governments. Some of this mistrust is pushed by the religious right. It’s also made worse by the lack of access to scientific education caused by cuts to the public schools.

Immunization could be universally required by the government. Currently, all 50 states in the U.S. legally require children to be immunized, but 17 states allow parents to request exceptions. For such requirements to work, however, requires public trust.

They also require everyone to have access to immunizations. This is not always the case. In this society, some parents don’t have access to medical care and can’t afford to take their kids to a doctor. Some could qualify for Medicaid, but don’t know it. For some, lack of time due to long hours of work or lack of transportation add to the problem, especially when immunizations require multiple visits to the doctor.

Immunizations could be made widely available for free. They could be given in day care centers and pre-schools. Such campaigns were more common in the past than they are today.

The cost of medical care in the U.S. has caused some people to question whether pharmaceutical companies stand to profit from the production of vaccines. While this concern is understandable, in the case of vaccines, which are effective in preventing disease, the concern is misplaced. The pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry would stand to make greater profits from disease outbreaks, which often require hospitalizations and additional medical treatments.

Vaccines have contributed to higher life expectancies around the world. The inequalities and divisions inherent in capitalism interfere with the collective effort required to completely eradicate infectious diseases. As long as it exists, outbreaks like the current one of measles are likely to continue.

Pages 6-7

Who Can Clean Up the Unions?
No One but Us!

Apr 1, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters for the week of March 25, 2019.

A former United Auto Workers vice-president for Chrysler has been indicted in an ongoing federal probe into corruption in the union-company relationship.

Are there corrupt individuals among union officials? Undoubtedly. There are corrupt individuals in any organization, running from the White House, through the highest courts in the land, through Congress, state officials, city officials, county officials and so on. But the worst corruption is centered in the large corporations, which siphon off value created by the workers’ labor, handing it off to that small class of people who do nothing but take in money.

The feds also leaked a hint that they were looking into extortion by union officials.

Could there be “extortion”?

Sure. All of capitalist society is organized to extort money. Look at the current Boeing scandal. One of the planes that crashed didn’t have safety equipment installed – Boeing charges extra for safety equipment! What is that, but another version of “your money or your life”?

Even so, it’s understandable that many workers got mad when they heard that some union officials took money from their boss.

We should be mad.

BUT, don’t believe this crap that the federal government wants to clean up the unions to serve the workers. The government is not neutral. It comes down on the side of the companies, over and over again, including by attacking the unions and the workers.

Have we forgotten the 1997 Teamsters strike against UPS? The Teamsters, led by Ron Carey, forced UPS to back off on its drive to push part-time work. After 15 days of an active and combative strike, the company agreed to give part-time workers full-time jobs and increase their wages. That strike seemed to open the door to a wider fight against part-time and temporary work.

But the government quickly moved to attack those who led the strike. The government had been investigating gangster influence in the Teamsters union long before the strike started. Foolish people back then cheered the government on, believing it was going after corruption. But look how it all turned out. The Feds used their old investigation to remove Carey, the man who led the strike and who had opposed the gangsters in his union – while the gangsters were left alone. Part-time work remained.

It was a defeat for UPS workers. It was a defeat for the whole working class.

If we cheer when the government takes on the unions, we only help stab ourselves in the back.

The government is not neutral. The laws it passes and the actions it takes systematically favor the wealthy classes.

There is an idea pushed on us: supposedly, we will do well, if we help the companies do well. That belief disarms us.

No. When we go along, ONLY the companies do well. They increase the exploitation of those of us who do the work – by driving us to work harder, for longer hours, for less pay.

We will defend ourselves only when we fight against the companies and the wealthy class that owns them. And in making such fights, we will deal with whatever problems the unions have.

Today, the unions are deformed by having been in a long partnership with the bosses. But they are the only mass organizations the working class has. They include many activists who are real militants of the working class. They include many people who are convinced we will have to fight. Their retirees, who remain organized together, are a fund of experience.

All of those people understand that the working class needs to organize itself. They can be the base of the fights we will all have to make. Fight against those who are our real enemies: the big corporations and the government that serves them. In doing that, we can rebuild or build anew the organizations we need.

Michigan Car Costs Up

Apr 1, 2019

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Commission (MCCA) announced an increase of $28.00 per year (14.6 percent) to be tacked on to drivers’ insurance premiums.

People in Michigan already pay one of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. And according to a University of Michigan study, Detroit has the highest auto insurance rates in the country, with an average annual premium of $5,414. On average, that is 18 percent of Detroiters’ incomes! And in some zip codes, auto insurance costs are 36 percent of drivers’ incomes!

This announcement came on the tail of the announcement of the 45-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike, proposed by the governor, to fix the roads, on top of already rising gas prices. No wonder about a third of Detroiters don’t even own a car. No wonder people drive without insurance!

We are always hearing about how the politicians are going to fix the problem of high-cost car insurance in Detroit. “It’s time to do something about it,” they tell us. It has been time and the politicians haven’t addressed it. So what’s that old expression: “Actions speak louder than words.”

Michigan Water Problems

Apr 1, 2019

Michigan continues to struggle with being able to provide clean, safe drinking water to all residents. This is about more than just Flint. The lead-poisoned water in Flint was an extreme example of what happens in this greed-based society, but other areas of the state have problems, too.

After the Flint fiasco, a number of cities found problems with lead in quite a few schools. More areas of the state are also realizing their water is contaminated with PFAS, chemicals widely used in the production of everything from stain repellents to Teflon to firefighting foam. PFAS has been linked in animal studies to numerous health problems like liver damage, immune system damage, and birth defects.

Page 8

Midwest Flooding:
Natural Disaster Made Worse by the System

Apr 1, 2019

For the past three weeks, major flooding has swept through states in the Midwest. Then came this year’s “bomb cyclone” which dropped record amounts of snow in the area. Rapid melting of that snow combined with record rainfall to create the flooding. Nebraska and Iowa have been hardest hit, but the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and North and South Dakota have also experienced flooding. The entire area feeding into the Missouri and upper Mississippi Rivers has been hit, and the flooding is expected to get worse as the floodwater moves downstream along the Mississippi River.

Already, record-high river levels have been reported in at least 38 locations, and that number is only expected to grow. Levees have overflowed and been breached all up and down the Missouri and other rivers, more than 200 miles of barriers.

A Human Catastrophe

Since the rainfalls and flooding began in early March, at least three people have been killed, and at least three billion dollars in damage has been done. Thousands of homes, farms, and ranches have been lost to the floods. Thousands upon thousands of people have been displaced.

In Nebraska alone, this flooding has caused more than one billion dollars worth of damage; more than 2000 homes and 340 businesses have been destroyed. And that’s only in one of the states that have been hit.

And this is only the beginning. Officials warn that 200 million people – in 25 states, in other flood plains – could be affected by significant flood events by the end of May!

Development Clogs Flood Plains

The causes of this record flooding are complex. But one thing is for sure: it is NOT simply a “natural disaster.”

The development along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers over the past century has laid the foundation for this catastrophe. It is similar to development all over the country, and all over the world: levees have been built as close to rivers as possible, to free land up for farming – taking away the natural flood plains and forcing water downriver.

Rivers have been dredged, straightened and narrowed, both to make additional land available for farming and to allow shipping in otherwise too shallow rivers. Business and housing development followed, taking over the flood plains – and putting millions of people in harm’s way. But of course, this was all treated as real estate, to be bought and sold and exploited for profit – no matter what the impact might eventually be on the people who moved into these areas.

Climate Change Contributes

Flooding has certainly impacted people ever since there have been human settlements. But there are strong reasons to believe that recent climate change has made extreme weather events – like flooding – more extreme, and more frequent.

More carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere heat that atmosphere, making it possible to hold more moisture. More moisture in the atmosphere means heavier and more frequent rainfall is likely. This is exactly what we have seen in recent years.

In addition, the more frequent occurrence of the “polar vortex,” the cause of this winter’s cold snaps, can also paradoxically be attributed to climate change. The warming of the atmosphere causes the vortex to be dislodged from its normal circuit at the polar region, and to spill farther south than usual. So, climate change contributed both to the extended freezing in the Midwest and the extensive rainfall in the past several weeks. That rainfall fell onto frozen ground, where it could not be absorbed, and so it collected on the surface and ran into the rivers, contributing to even higher river levels than would otherwise have been expected.

A Massive Response Is Needed

Governments in this country, from the national level on down to the local levels, will not do what is necessary to address this catastrophe. They can’t – they are too invested in protecting the profit system that currently exists. They have created the conditions for ongoing crises caused by climate change.

It IS possible to respond to this crisis in a way that makes all of these millions of people whole, and prepares the way for addressing the causes of these catastrophes in the future.

All those who have lost their homes to the flooding could be relocated away from the flood plains, with no loss to themselves. And people located in potentially dangerous flood plains could be relocated, and the cost of the moving covered. The flood plains could then be allowed to serve the purpose that they have naturally served for millennia. The cost could be covered by all the businesses and corporations that have made profits for decades from putting people into harm’s way. Working people should not have to expend a single dime.

In the same way, climate change and its effects could be addressed – but it will take a massive reorganization of the society and economy to deal with the increase in greenhouse gases, and to reverse that process. It is the ONLY thing that can truly address this crisis.

No single working person needs to lose their income or job; but it would be necessary to take the profits of the major corporations that have benefited from this environmental destruction, and to use that wealth to benefit people, not to inflate corporate profits.

The wealth, and the resources, are there, banked away. We can’t expect the wealthy, and their government, to willingly use those resources to help working people as long as society remains organized around the interests of the wealthy.

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