As unsurprising as it is depressing, Republicans in Congress have only one thing to offer the suffering people of Flint over the entirely preventable tragedy that has poisoned up to 8,000 children – their thoughts and prayers. Despite the fact that the crisis is entirely man-made and is the fault of the states’ Republican governor, Rick Synder, Congressional Republicans unwilling to spend money on anything that isn’t tax cuts or defense contracts are balking at the thought of having to pay for relief for Flint, which it will have to do because Rick Snyder’s outrageous tax cuts has left the state without any money to deal with it themselves.
“I invite my Republican colleagues to come to the floor and explain to the country why this man-made disaster is not worth the attention of the Republican Party!” charged Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Democrats, frustrated at the unwillingness of Republicans to face the consequences of their small-government ideological platform or help an impoverished city deal with the effects of a mass poisoning by state neglect, have been forced to bundle a $600 million aid relief package with into a bipartisan energy bill.
“This is about trying to embarrass Republicans and trying to make us look bad. And to portray us for having no compassion for the poor people in Flint, which is exactly the opposite of true” whined Senate Majority Whip John Corbyn (R-TX), ignoring the fact that if he really did want to show compassion, he’d vote to send funds to Flint – or that his party pioneered the tactic of bundling amendments for partisan pet projects like that time they snuck anti-abortion legislation into a bill designed to stop human trafficking. Except this time, the money would actually be going to people in need instead of depriving them of Supreme Court-established rights.
“Given the fact that we have about $19 trillion in debt, I think it’s fair to ask: Do we want to have the federal government replacing all the infrastructure put in place by cities and states all across the country?” demanded Corbyn. Well, its clear that somebody is going to have to do it, and most likely, it will have to be President Obama who cleans up yet another Republican mess because years of Republican neglect to local infrastructure has set the stage for more crises like the one in Flint.
The money that the Democrats want to go to Flint would be used to “replace lead pipes that corroded because of a state-level decision to switch water sources; the rest would fund a center to monitor and treat the health of victims of lead poisoning” reports the Washington Post. If Republicans are okay with spending half a trillion dollars a year on defense spending, surely they can tolerate half a billion for providing one of the most basic necessities of life – access to clean and drinkable water – to the victims of their “small government” policies. While they can worry all they want about the “precedent” of this unfair earmark, it should be obvious to all that this is not an ordinary situation – and the people of Flint deserve relief.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.