Feb 1, 2016
Bits and pieces of information about the Flint “water crisis” keep trickling out. Not nearly the whole truth, but enough to expose the criminal responsibility of the two big parties. Republicans and Democrats alike both made choices that condemn the people of Flint to pay a terrible price in the health and maybe lives of their children, and the well-being of almost the whole population.
Those choices didn’t begin just two years ago, when Flint’s drinking water began to be tapped from the Flint River, when the poisoning of children began. More than a decade ago, Democrats in Flint and in the state government began to pursue the idea of building a new water line from Lake Huron.
Another line was already nearby, a relatively new line that was underutilized. People didn’t need another one. But companies in the area wanted water: GM, DTE, big agricultural corporations, and a mining consortium that wanted lots of water in order to begin “fracking” underground. The corporations wanted water, but they didn’t want to pay the price for it.
Politicians, ever ready to do the bidding of big corporations, agreed to run a second water pipeline and tunnel from Lake Huron. The people of Flint and nearby rural areas would pay for it in elevated water rates. Industrial users would benefit from rates lower than the ones they currently extort from Detroit’s water system.
Most of the people who began this project were Democrats. But the pipeline has been continued ever since under both Democrats and Republicans, including by “emergency financial managers” who finally made the poisonous decision to replace clean water with corrosive Flint River water.
Not a bit of this information about the disaster would have come out if it hadn’t been for the people of Flint who began to complain about the filthy taste of water coming out of their taps, skin problems in their families, intestinal complaints, problems with their immune systems and difficulties concentrating. They complained. No one heard them, so they kept accounts, made reports, did research, attracting the attention of scientific researchers and doctors, who reinforced what the people already knew. People went door to door, warning other people. They collected bottled water for others who needed it.
But information isn’t enough. Exposure of the criminals isn’t enough. Bottled water doesn’t begin to address the problem.
We shouldn’t expect the criminals who created the problems to correct them. The working people of Flint have to impose their own choices about what needs to be done.
Those choices are simple. Working people would take the billions of dollars given to big corporations and use it to repair the damage to children and adults that can be repaired, and to alleviate the problems that remain. Medical personnel have already engaged themselves to help out. Others would certainly be willing to join the effort.
Working people would repair the whole water infrastructure of the area. It’s been destroyed by insufficiently treated Flint River water, which has been corrosive to the whole system. The water system needs to be rebuilt, including every piece of pipe running up to and in people’s homes.
There are certainly plenty of people in Flint able to do that work – people who need jobs: plumbers, pipefitters, laborers, cement finishers, construction workers, big crane operators – and people who are more than ready to learn these trades while they help to rebuild Flint. Let all of them be hired to rebuild Flint’s water system.
These are the choices that working people would make in the face of the Flint disaster: humane choices, serving the needs of the whole population. If workers were organized politically, these are the choices they would fight to impose.