Flint is Still Broken, Six Years Later
Dedicated to the memory of Laura Carter 57, Mary Watson 43, and Jasmine McBride 29 who succumbed to poisonous Flint MI water in 2019.
Going on six years Flint residents are still sick. Still dying. Residents still lack affordable clean, safe, tap ready water. Criminal charges against some of the various state actors responsible for the debacle have been dropped. Some of them have not been charged at all. Lawsuits to compensate victims languish in court, while the people struggle to recover from the nightmare. Despite the fact that there has been massive service line replacement, the Genesee County Medical Society has cautioned that households with infants, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly should continue to use bottled water. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan discontinued the water bottle service in 2018 declaring the water was “safe enough” without it. Charitable donations of bottled water to pick up the slack will discontinue in May. Of course the corona virus is especially challenging in this regard.
From the Who to the What Poisoned Flint
“…with active government backing, corporations, hedge funds, and investment firms have begun to seize what used to belong to all of us … to appropriate every form of public property every public right and transport them into private corporate property.” (Steven Miller and Danny Alexander, “Water Wars, Coming Soon to Your Town,” 2010.)
Long before the water disaster began, Flint, like many other rustbelt cities, experienced a sea change in the quality of life of the people. Electronic production revolutionized the factory floor, wiping out thousands of manual labor jobs. This along with outsourcing of cheap labor overseas took its toll. At its peak in the 1970s, when Flint’s population was 190,000, GM employed 80,000 people. Now the city has around 110,000 people, more than 1/3 of them live in poverty, and 18 percent have incomes of less than 50 percent of the poverty level (among the highest in the nation). General Motors employment has sunk to around 8,000. Now the city that once boasted being the among the highest paid workers in the world is now a shell of its former self.
The Emergency Manager law of 2011 became the weapon of choice to implement what some regard is a corporate coup d’état of asset rich and income poor municipalities around the State. The drive to seize public assets of cities around Michigan was on. Those communities with majority minority residents, (while the African American population in Michigan is 13 percent, over 50 percent have lived under EM dictatorship), double digit poverty, and valuable public assets were the premier targets of the EM’s wrath.* Dismantle democracy, then steal the water, public schools, parks and more. However the asset of choice of course, the water (a trillion dollar market worldwide), was the most coveted.
The drive to build a new pipeline to service Flint and the out-county areas was well under way before the catastrophic man-made disaster of 2014. This pipeline (KWA, a bond market dream) did not become a reality until Flint’s Emergency Manager was firmly seated, with the blessing of the then Governor Rick Snyder and his Team, the State Treasurers Office, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, along with other State players. In their zeal to get the new pipeline built, Flint water was switched to the toxic Flint river, poisoning thousands. A toxic bond deal along with toxic water was foisted on the people. Today, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Steidel Securities hold the bonds.
Capitalism as we’ve known it is dying. The ability to use human labor as a source for maximum profit has been upended by electronic production, sweeping the country and the world. The capitalist class, and in particular the mega-banks and bondholder interests, are turning to the seizure of public assets to save themselves.
Where will it end? If the people don’t take or secure control of our water, we could be facing Lake Michigan LLC, Lake Superior Inc., Lake Huron Corp. and so on. This shift cannot be overstated. This motion is driving society into hedge fund schools, hedge fund housing, and most definitely hedge fund water. With water as a commodity, the market decides the price, which determines who will or will not have access to life sustaining water.
Resistance to Corporate Control of Water
Advocates for clean, safe, affordable water are taking action to resist the corporate control of water. Baltimore, Md. and Toledo, Ohio reflect a growing consciousness. Struggles based in the notion that water is a human right reflect the understanding that the privatization of water is diametrically opposed to this concept.
In 2018, Baltimore, Maryland declared that water was an inalienable public asset. Consequently they passed a charter amendment prohibiting the sale of its water and sewer system to private investors. This legislation was overwhelmingly passed by its residents. Furthermore, last year the city (joining Philadelphia) passed the Water Affordability and Equity Act, which provides income based rather than usage based charges for water.
Toledo, Ohio’s residents led by Toledoans for Safe Water passed a Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The Bill gives standing to the Lake (same as humans), so polluters may be sued in effort to protect residents health and well being of the Lake.
The Flint experience has opened up the eyes of the nation and the world. Michigan’s Emergency Manager was used to seize water and water rights. Flint’s disastrous poisoning is what this new corporate model looks like. Conversely, Baltimore mobilized community combatants and fought and won the right to guarantee that public water stay public. The first in the nation! This is what the public seizure of water looks like. These far reaching proposals must be taken up on a National level.
This capitalist system stands between us and safe, accessible water. We must do away with the growing commodification of water via privatization profiteers, and fight to ensure water becomes or remains a public asset, servicing the needs of all of society.
As for Flint, the fight continues to “Get the Lead Out, Get the Bacteria Out, and Get the Bondholders Out of Our Water!” RC
*See “What Happens In Michigan Won’t Stay In Michigan” Rally, Comrades! (September-October 2016, Vol 26. Ed 5).
May/June 2020. vol.30. Ed3
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
P.O. Box 477113 Chicago, IL 60647 email@example.com
Free to reproduce unless otherwise marked.
Please include this message with any reproduction.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011