Legislators Aren’t Good with Sequels


Exodus 1:8-9 — Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.” …

In 1890, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem, “The Last of the Light Brigade.” It’s not clear whether the poem describes a true event or not, but the basic idea is that 36 years after the Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Tennyson in his poem “When can their glory fade? / O the wild charge they made! / All the world wondered./ Honour the charge they made! / Honour the Light Brigade,/ Noble six hundred!” the last 20 survivors were starving and homeless and forgotten. Kipling’s poem says that the survivors appealed to Tennyson, who was able to secure money for their support, which is nice if true.

In 2015 Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show to shame the Senate into passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, to cover the costs of medical care for the first responders, police and firefighters, who became ill working in the rubble of the World Trade Center. The original bill was passed in 2010, but only with difficulty because Senate Republicans were concerned about the cost of the bill and the effects of creating a new entitlement. Mr. Stewart helped publicize the status of the bill which passed the Senate and was signed by President Obama in January 2011.

The original bill provided money for the care of the first responders for five years. When it came up for renewal, the Senate was again divided by party. It’s worth noting that on Aug. 8, 2003, the New York Times reported “An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general into official statements about air quality after the collapse of the World Trade Center has found that White House officials instructed the agency to be less alarming and more reassuring to the public in the first few days after the attack.”

The IG’s report also said ‘’Competing considerations, such as national security concerns and the desire to reopen Wall Street, also played a role in EPA’s air quality statements.’’ The 2010 renewal was approved, but the price was the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The 2015 renewal ran into opposition from Republicans, notably Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) who considered it a special interest bill that would set a precedent for other groups asking for compensation.

When Mr. Stewart first argued for the First Responders, he brought four first responders with him. When he returned, only one, was present. Two of the original four were too sick to appear, and one had died.

These two events, the Light Brigade and the First Responders should be a warning to the people of Flint Michigan where the state government provided the citizens with poisoned drinking water, without bothering to see if the water was poisoned. Gov. Snyder’s plan was to run the state like a business, and his business model never included the sort of ongoing quality control and chemical analysis that should be part of any proper operation. Even after the Federal Environmental Protection Agency warned Michigan about the water quality, Governor Snyder failed to get a chemical and bacteriological analysis.

Jeb Bush has said the disaster in Flint “is related to the fact that we’ve created this complex, no-responsibility regulatory system, where the federal government, the state government, a regional government, local and county governments are all pointing fingers at one another.”

That’s simply not true. At the Federal level, the EPA provided warnings to the state. At the the city level, city government was pushed aside by an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Snyder.

Gov. Snyder gave a nominal apology, and also tried to diffuse responsibility. The fault lies with Michigan state government’s belief in cost cutting without regard to the effects.

Lead poisoning is particularly harmful to children. According to the Merck Manual, “Chronic lead poisoning in children may cause intellectual disability, seizure disorders, aggressive behavior disorders, developmental regression, chronic abdominal pain, and anemia.” Magnetic resonance imaging has shown that people exposed to lead poisoning as children suffer from permanent, life long, brain damage. According to Dr. Kim Cecil of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “Lead exposure has been linked to diminished IQ, poor academic performance, inability to focus, and increased criminality.” The children of Flint will need care and support for the rest of their lives.

Right now Flint has public attention. There’s plenty of bottled water to drink and politicians are focused on Flint, but in five or ten years this disgrace will be forgotten, and the children of Flint will be a special interest group asking for a handout. The State of Michigan owes these children a guarantee of lifelong care and support, even for those years when the governor and assembly no longer remember why. Kipling wrote another poem, “Recessional” that has a couple of appropriate lines:

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@outlook.com.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2016


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