Anyone who pays attention to their local news has seen the signs of a coming apocalypse in the United States, although they are probably not aware of it. While many equate a water crisis to the sucking up of resources by big business interests or an offhanded moment of pollution from the local industry, there is another type water crisis looming over America. It’s not just Coca-Cola and property rights, it’s the failure of municipalities, states, and the federal government to ensure that drinking water is actually drinkable.
There have been a number of notable incidents in the last few years that showcase the crumbling infrastructure of the United States and the lower living standards Americans are being forced to accept. Flint, Michigan is the most notable and recognizable instance of water pollution in recent memory. That crisis is still ongoing and, while the U.S. has plenty of money for Israel, foreign aid, and foreign wars, it simply can’t find anything in its already tightened spending belt to help the people of Flint have access to clean water. At this point, the U.S. federal government is doing more to help Africans than it is to help African-Americans. Unfortunately for Flint, State and local governments are the reason for the crisis in the first place.
For two years, industrial chemicals and lead poisoned Flint’s water supply and no one did anything until one woman blew the whistle. Had it not been for her, Flint would still be drinking lead and other pollutants unknowingly. Now, despite the outcry, they know what they are drinking but, unfortunately, not much else has changed.
As bad as it has been for the people of Flint, most Americans take consolation that the tainted water is not in their locale but instead in a notoriously troubled one located in a notoriously troubled state. But that is far from the truth. The fact is that water is polluted with various contaminates all over the country and, in some places, even worse than Flint. In fact, Reuters released a report demonstrating that around 3,000 locations had lead levels higher that Flint.
As Reuters reported,
The poisoned places on this map stretch from Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River where 36 percent of children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning. In some pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent.
Like Flint, many of these localities are plagued by legacy lead: crumbling paint, plumbing, or industrial waste left behind. Unlike Flint, many have received little attention or funding to combat poisoning.
To identify these locations, Reuters examined neighborhood-level blood testing results, most of which have not been previously disclosed. The data, obtained from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracks poisoning rates among children tested in each location.
Contaminated drinking water has caused nearly 2.5 percent of children in the U.S. to be poisoned by lead.
And that’s just lead. It doesn’t count the other toxic chemicals (industrial or otherwise) that have seeped into water systems from industry, dangerous disposal, poor treatment facilities and practices, or agriculture. Then there are the more obscure causes of tainted water supplies. For instance, Colorado Springs was recently discovered to have contaminated water due to flame retardants used by the military on the local base.
It’s also not taking into account dangerous bacteria found in water supplies as a result of pollution and improper treatment. Toledo, Ohio recently experienced a massive water crisis as a result of bacteria-infused water that cost the city dearly and had many residents desperately searching for bottled water to drink.
Here in the rural south, cities and small towns are constantly issuing “boil water advisories” for residents due to various contaminations.
Fracking has also turned many home water supplies into fireworks displays.
Without listing the litany of places experiencing or who have experienced water crises and the plethora of reasons for that pollution, the point is that, all over America, cities, towns, and even states are experiencing a growing emergency regarding the availability of safe, clean drinking water. This is the type of problem Westerners associate with “third world” countries and failed states.
Obviously, there are a number of questions that come as a result of the state of the American water supply. First, “Why don’t more Americans know this?” The second, “why is this happening?” The third, “what can be done about it?”
Why Aren’t Most Americans Concerned?
Because of the nature of water crises, most Americans are only exposed to this type of crisis if it takes place in their backyard. With the exception of situations like Flint where national attention is focused, albeit fleetingly, the presentation by media outlets is such to suggest that water crises are rare and that the overall water infrastructure of the country is the best in the world. Of course, that is far from the case and the belief that it is stands as a testament to Edward Bernays’ and the wealthy middle management of the Western world’s work in convincing Americans and other Westerners that their system is the best regardless of the shape it is in. Nevertheless, water crises tend to be localized and a water crisis in California is not likely to draw attention in Michigan or South Carolina and vice versa, particularly if the area in crisis is rural. Unless the issue is so massive that it effects numerous locales at once, specifically highly populated ones, most Americans simply are unaware until the water in their own community is threatened.
What Is The Cause?
Media reports would have their audience believe that water crises are rare occurrences across the most developed nation in the world and that the water systems in the United States are unparalleled. But, while that may have been true at one time, that is no longer the case. In fact, water crises are now rather common. The causes range from industrial pollution and subsequent lack of concern or collusion to covert it up like in Flint, Michigan, or it could be the result of a radioactive leak. It could be because of intense factory farming, lead cables, poor treatment practices, busted pipes, or generalized contamination. But the ultimate cause of the massive increase in water crises in the United States is one of crumbling infrastructure.
Accidents happen. They always have and always will. However, Flint did not become poisoned by one accident and the communities receiving water from the Great Lakes did not become polluted by one spill either. Communities all across America are experiencing water crises that have been decades in the making. From lack of updating treatment facilities, ensuring that reservoirs are clean, and regulating industry that would love to use drinking water supplies and underground water as their own personal toilets, America has slowly created for itself a perfect storm that combines heavy industry, lack of legitimate regulation, and austerity. In many communities, something as simple as proper upkeep of piping and even proper replacement of damaged pipes has caused major portions of cities to have to boil their water, children to miss school, and hospitals in danger of shutting down.
Another part of the problem is the age-old scam of water privatization, not just in terms of reservoirs or industry but in terms of cities, towns, and communities. Once considered a rightful duty of the City, town, or community government, water treatment, maintenance, and delivery in the United States was indeed something to be envied the world over. However, a brilliant con was eventually introduced where, after years of hard-earned taxpayer money being used to build and maintain water systems, those same taxpayers are assaulted with propaganda that “government is too slow and incompetent” to do the job and that the private sector is “more effective and more efficient.”
Taxpayers are promised better services at lower prices. Once the citizens are propagandized enough, they are offered referenda or simply informed of the changes that the system owned by the local governments will be turned over to the private industry. Businesses, of course, are interested in one thing only and, after raising the prices of the services over time, the private sector fails miserably at keeping up the infrastructure they contracted to maintain because maintenance costs money and eats into the profits of the company. After years of failing to adequately maintain the water systems, either citizens become angry enough to demand the local government take back control over the systems or the private sector realizes a major upgrade is necessary and declines to renew its contract. The local government then takes the system back over and undertakes all the necessary repairs after a decade of abuse and lack of maintenance. Of course, taxes have to be raised in order to do so and the con begins again.
The entire United States is facing a slow and quietly emerging water crisis. Right now, it is lurking below the surface. Eventually, however, it is going to reveal itself and, when it does, the American population is going to be unprepared. Governments, of course, are going to grandstand and do nothing since they don’t have the money and private sector water holders are going to tell the American people to stick it. Have a problem? Go to talk to the mayor.
Of course, the mayor will have little to give. He will be sorry and he will apologize but unfortunately there is nothing he can do. The private company controls the water and, even if the mayor did want to take matters into his own hands, the city doesn’t have the money.
Americans may soon wake up to find that the greatest water system in the world is now forcing them to boil everything they consume and, for some, even boiling won’t be enough.
The United States has been letting its infrastructure fall to pieces for decades, ever since the 1970’s in fact. From water systems to roads and other critical infrastructure, the U.S. is a shell of its former self. Although it always seems to have plenty of dollars for foreign wars, foreign aid, bailouts, and Israel, the U.S. never seems to have enough to trickle down to the important areas of domestic life that effect every American personally.
This, along with the laissez-faire policy of allowing corporations to do as they will, is going to be the death of the American water supply if something is not done to reign in Big industry, environmental pollution, and the quickening degradation of water infrastructure.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers who recently released its 2013 Report Card For America’s Infrastructure, estimates suggest that the United States would need to invest $3.6 Trillion dollars in its infrastructure by 2020 simply to achieve the overall ranking of “good” which is represented as a B on the ASCE report card.
In addition, the innovation and leadership in regards to scientific progress in which America once dominated is a feature that no longer appears to exist domestically. In infrastructure, education, science, medicine, and real economic activity (productivity), the United States is nothing more than a shell of its former self. Yet this does not have to be the case nor does it have to be the future for America. A nationalized Federal Reserve, particularly together with a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax to eliminate Federal, State, and local budget deficits as well as fully finance the social safety net, education, and a true program of universal healthcare, would be a tremendous step forward in creating an environment of virtually full employment and major industry while producing in an environmentally friendly way.
For this reason, Credit Stimulus can and should be used to jumpstart a recovery first by means of repairing existing infrastructure and building new infrastructural systems as will fit the needs of modern America. This should be accomplished by a nationalized Federal Reserve acting as a truly state-owned National bank buying up the bonds of states, regional projects, and local governments for the specific purposes of rebuilding subway systems, highway systems, water treatment facilities, railway systems (freight and passenger), bridges, electricity and power production facilities, canals, ports, sewage systems, telecommunications, libraries, hospitals, schools, public and government buildings, as well as other relevant aspects of infrastructure.
The terms of these bond purchases should be simple. First, they should be predicated upon real improvement and creation of legitimate infrastructure such as the projects mentioned above. No pork or pet projects. Second, the interest rate of these bonds should be set at 0% so as to preclude any usury between governments and to eliminate usurious forms of government and public debt. Third, these bonds should be issued with a maturity date of 100 years, a type of bond commonly referred to as century bonds. This will allow for reasonable “repayment” on a reasonable time scale with adjustments made for the need of the government receiving the credit as the economic crisis may demand. There should be no foreclosure or bankruptcy resulting from this extension of credit.
A newly nationalized Federal Reserve should immediately issue a tranche of $3.6 trillion of such credit to Federal, State, and local governments as well as regional projects in order to upgrade current infrastructure to a satisfactory level with subsequent tranches of $1 trillion to be issued as needed after the first tranche of $3.6 trillion is expended. The goal in this endeavor is not only to upgrade and improve the national infrastructure as it exists but to bring all of it up to the highest standards. The U.S. highway system should be upgraded the levels of the Autobahn in Germany and beyond. Likewise for all the other forms of infrastructure. The jobs provided by this credit stimulus should be high wage and union pay scale.
Improving infrastructure to adequate levels, however, is not the only potential use for the purchase of Federal, State, and local bonds as the goal should obviously be to create new and more efficient, environmentally friendly, and highly developed forms of infrastructure – in this case, water treatment, water delivery, and improved methods of making use of salt water for drinking purposes.
Although the specific manner in which the Federal Reserve is nationalized should not be the main focus of the action and demand to do so, there are two possible ways that such an undertaking could be accomplished. The first, and most desirable, is the passage of a law by Congress which nationalizes the Federal Reserve under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This method is the best case scenario as it demonstrates Congressional will, common agreement, and process legitimization.
However, in the absence of Congressional will, there exists the forceful act of the Executive. Essentially, it is entirely possible for the Federal Reserve to be de facto nationalized by a simple Presidential phone call to the Chairman of the Fed demanding specific lines of credit for specific purposes with clear repercussions if these demands are not met. In other words, the President could direct the chairman of the Federal Reserve to order a line of credit for a specific purpose and, if the chairman refuses, the chairman is free to submit his resignation by 5pm. Although a full law would be the ideal circumstance for the reconquering of American monetary policy by those to whom it rightfully belongs, any and all means available can and should be used.
The American water supply is quietly but quickly descending into a national emergency that may very well show itself at once in the form of a major crisis that affects the entire country or it may simply continue to grow quietly in different locations until Americans wake up in a country where boiling water for safety has become the norm. If we are to avoid the coming crisis, it is paramount that we begin reigning in the rampant pollution of the water supply by industry and begin updating, improving, and making new innovations to the water supply, treatment, and delivery systems before it is too late.