How Best To Kill the Children

One of the unexpected results of the water supply disaster in Flint, MI, is a new awareness of dangerous pollutants in the water of old homes, not only because the water supply is tainted, but because acidic water allows lead and other poisons to be leached out of the long-outdated plumbing in old homes, where the poor live. That condition has poisoned virtually every young child in Flint. The consequences will be terrible.

But to replace these pipes everywhere they are needed would be expensive, and therefore Republicans are bound by ideology to be against it. The question of injury to children in these places does not come up. The health of children is not part of the formula for high profit, and children don’t vote. But when their brains are damaged by lead the chances are high that they will fail school and become social misfits and criminals. That’s only one cost of a half century of inadequate attention to physical infrastructure.

Along with the realization that many cities’ municipal water is leaded, comes the realization that removal of lead paint from old houses has not been completed, and that has also created high levels of lead in children’s blood. There is no level of lead in the blood of children that is safe. The danger is immense.

The actuality, however, is that every one of us is soaked in the poisons that chemical companies and manufacturing have released into the environment over decades, some 700 new ones every year. Chemicals that are rarely tested for safety. We continually find new dangers in toys, building products, foods, electronics, and nearly every element of modern life. A recent study found all kinds of trace poisons in our blood. It’s like Silent Spring, when DDT was found to be everywhere in the world, even in the Arctic, where it had never been used.

The reason all these poisons are everywhere is that Big Chem has battled for decades to soft-pedal or hide the dangers. Having to behave responsibly would cut into profits—as if the need for profit could be balanced against injury to every child in the country. They’re not going to tell us when one of their chemicals is dangerous; we have to tell them, and then battle them about it for years.

The isolating bubble of great conservative wealth allows captains of industry to rationalize everything about their products to themselves. Their thoughts are forever attuned to profit, and never veer off to consider whether they are safe for children. Chinese businesses shipped spiked baby formula that killed a number of American and Chinese infants, and poisonous Chinese drywall panels damaged the health of all who used them. American cigarette makers moved into China, where the weakly regulated market allows them to kill thousands daily without penalty. This is stark amorality. It’s not like they didn’t know. It’s how business is done.

Millions of dollars daily are devoted to promoting businesses to Congress, arguing against any restriction on their activities at all, on grounds that it would be “bad for business”. That it might be “bad for people” is not part of the equation.

The goal of conservative Republicans is kept secret, by design. They don’t want the poor to understand that their goal is actually to enrich the rich, and all else is unimportant. They tell the poor that all their troubles are caused by liberal policies and Big Government. They want to disband every protective agency in the country in order to pursue profit unimpeded by government rules designed to protect the same people they mislead. Those who don’t believe what I’m saying will change their minds after reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money.

Of course, they call it “prosperity” when they themselves get richer. They tell themselves that least government is best. They tell themselves that what’s good for their bottom line is good for the country. They tell themselves that it is very important to pay down the national debt, as long as it doesn’t come from their wallets. They tell themselves that austerity for the people is the best way to rise from the bottom of a business cycle. They tell themselves that funds for elections must be unlimited, and anonymous.

Every one of these beliefs is provably false. They believe them because such things will bring more unneeded wealth to them, at the expense of everyone else.

If you want to damage the health of children, there could be no better way than to ignore the needs of the poor. When the poor must live in old, substandard housing, the cost of improving it would be expensive. Business doesn’t want to spend tax money on something that doesn’t bring profit, even though having healthy children is profit enough for most of us.


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