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Pipes Not Bombs

Five years ago, Rick Snyder, the Republican Governor of Michigan, decided that the city of Flint couldn’t handle democracy any more. So, he declared that the people of Flint would no longer elect their own government. Snyder imposed a local dictator, an Emergency Manager that he appointed himself, to rule over the people of Flint.

Two years ago, in the name of fiscal conservatism, Snyder’s Emergency Manager decreed that the people of Flint would start drinking water out of the polluted Flint River. The Emergency Manager was warned that the river water would corrode lead pipes throughout the city of Flint, leading to the release of unsafe amounts of lead into the city’s drinking water. The Emergency Manager didn’t want to listen to those warnings, and as the state-appointed dictator, nobody in Flint had the power to stop the decision.

The people of Flint have had to drink water so thick with lead that many of them will be disabled for life. The Emergency Manager, and the office of Governor Rick Snyder, tried to keep the pollution secret, rather than admitting that they had made a mistake.

Governor Snyder has refused to take serious action to deal with the crisis. He won’t approve the replacement of the lead water pipes under Flint. He says it would cost too much money.

Drinking toxic water seems to be a fundamental conservative principle for Rick Snyder. He isn’t alone.

Yesterday, in response to the Flint water pollution crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act. The bill requires officials to notify local residents when there are unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water, and improves information sharing procedures about lead contamination.

Two Republicans, Representatives Todd Rokita and Thomas Massie, joined Rick Snyder’s opposition to clean water. They actually voted against the clean water legislation. They voted in favor of keeping Americans in the dark when toxins are released into their drinking water.

Later in the day, Congressman John Garamendi joined other concerned members of the U.S. House of Representatives to talk about what can be done about the problem of dangerous pollution coming from outdated pipes such as those in Flint. He proposed a nationwide program to replace old water pipes, saying:

“City after city, ancient systems, more than 100 years old, lead pipes which were put in the ground a century ago, leaching lead into the food supply. That is America.

What would it cost? About $348 billion just for the water systems. How can we pay for it? Well, there is a way.

America, are you aware that we are into a new nuclear arms race? We are. In the next 25 years, a trillion dollars of your tax money is
going to be spent on a total rearmament of our nuclear weapons systems: intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, submarines,
stealth aircraft. A trillion dollars.

City after city in America limps along, poisoning its children with 100-year-old water systems. We have got some choices to make here. What
are we going to spend your tax money on? New nuclear bombs or new water pipes?”

Republican politicians like Rick Snyder say that there isn’t enough money to replace old water pipes that are releasing toxic substances damaging Americans’ health. They want Americans to pay the price, in their physical suffering and in their medical bills.

Congressman Garamendi points out that the government has the money we need to replace America’s dangerous old water pipes. We’re spending that money on weapons of war that we hope to never use – nuclear weapons that, if unleashed, would kill hundreds of millions of civilians.

Garamendi is right. We don’t need a new generation of nuclear weapons. We need a new generation of safe water pipes.

This year, in federal elections for the White House and Congress, you can judge the worth of a candidate by the way that they’re talking about this issue. Are they willing to shift government spending away from wasteful military programs and into basic infrastructure to protect Americans’ health, or have they learned to love the bomb?

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