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Lead Poisoning in Crumbling Cities

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Time for a Massive Jobs Program

The horrific conditions in Flint, Michigan have brought to national attention a much deeper crisis of capitalism: the crisis of deteriorating infrastructure. In 2014, one-fifth of all children tested in Detroit showed positive for lead poisoning.

The problems facing poor families in Flint are not exclusive to that city. They are experienced by poor and working people across the country. Nearly 24 million homes in the United States have crumbling lead paint on their walls. And now, 17,000 children in Newark, New Jersey will be tested for lead poisoning after elevated lead levels were found in the drinking water at close to half of the schools in the city.

Lead poisoning directly contributes to severe brain damage, in some cases leading to behavioral problems, low IQs, poor performance in school, and difficulty learning. Due to the ferocity with which the lead industry has fought regulation, it was not until 2008 that lead in paint was reduced to a tolerable level. The lead industry, with the help of their purchased politicians, has carried out the collective poisoning of hundreds of thousands of American children. The crisis in Flint, and now in New Jersey, indicates that lead is no longer restricted to crumbling paint and dust, but it has made its way into our water supply, largely as a result of deteriorating pipes and collapsing infrastructure.

Rebuild Infrastructure and Create Millions of Jobs

A section of the collapsed I-35W Mississippi River bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota By Eric from Minneapolis - collapse, CC BY-SA 2.0,
A section of the collapsed I-35W Mississippi River bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This should serve as a massive cry for infrastructural investment. Many American roads, waterways, bridges, and grids are in a state of decay. We saw this demonstrated in 2007 with the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 and injured 145. From methane leaks in our gas distribution pipelines to lead poisoning in our waterways, we need a massive overhaul of American infrastructure – which would lead to the creation of millions of jobs. Bernie Sanders has called for $1 trillion to be spent over five years on infrastructural investment, which would create 13 million good-paying jobs. This would be a great start.

American infrastructural investment has failed to keep pace with either the needs of the American people or the rapid technological advancements of the past two decades. When profit stands between the needs of people and our capacity to meet those needs, we wind up with crises like the ones we are seeing in Flint and Newark. In order to live in a world that meets the needs and capacities of all people, we need an economy that is democratically planned by those who actually make the economy run: the workers, not a handful of billionaires.

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