If you go looking for information or updates on the crisis of lead poisoning the water of Flint, Michigan, you'll come across so many stories that make you despair for the treatment of the urban, industrial population in this greatest nation in the history of everything ever. If you're not up on this insane story about the criminal neglect and outright damnation of a poor city, especially its children, by cost-cutting Republicans, Rachel Maddow and her staff have been doing the kind of investigative reporting work that used to be a regular part of our media. If it's too much work to watch Maddow, you can read a quick summary to get up to speed.
The shortest version: budget-cutting, state-appointed emergency managers switched the water supply for Flint from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River through sheer ignorance and wanton fuckery. By the time anyone listened that the water was poisoned, the chemicals had fucked up the pipes, and they continue to leech lead into the water supply so no one can drink from the faucet. If the state was led by honorable people, they would have lined up and sliced open their own guts with daggers to apologize.
Which gets us to Freeman Elementary School, a pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade public school in Flint and its family fun day, which will be held tomorrow at the school. Of course, it's not going to be just family fun, as a headline from the local paper reveals:
Yes, as the article says, "Children will be able to get their blood tested for lead during a family fun night this week at Freeman Elementary School in Flint." And then, heartbreakingly, "Lead testing is planned for infants up to children six years old, along with water filter giveaways, dance fitness for children, face painting, balloon artist, a free healthy meal, refreshments and raffles."
Think about that. This was supposed to be an event with dancing kids with cat whiskers drawn on their faces, eating healthy food, and winning a damn raffle. Now, it's being used as a chance for parents in one of the poorest cities in the country to see if their state has permanently damaged their kids because that's better than spending a little extra money on water tests or, you know, water safety. And what are they raffling now? Aquafina twelve-packs?
Never has the phrase "family fun" seemed more pathetic.
Before the recent pressures on the state to do something about the water issue, a local resident had to start a GoFundMe page to raise money to get water for the kids of Michigan. In the photo up there, you see kids at Freeman Elementary helping after they unloaded bottled water from a truck at the school in October.
Freeman's water was tested back then and it showed a level of lead at seven times what's considered unsafe. And if that appalls you, here's the kick in the nuts: the lead level wasn't due to the pipes. No, the lead was in the faucets and fountain fixtures in the school itself.
The district that Freeman serves is middling dangerous compared to other areas of Flint, the most dangerous city in the country 2013, with many people there exercising their Second Amendment rights, even if that ends up killing kids from the school, like 9 year-old Treshawn Macklin a year and a half ago. It's very poor, even in a city with 40% of its citizens living below the poverty line, and the number of homes in foreclosure is very high. The test scores at Freeman, a pretty small school, one that has shrunk in the last few years, aren't good, but they are about the average for the district.
You can bet that there are teachers who are trying their damnedest. You can bet there are parents who want something better for their kids. And you can bet that the state of Michigan and the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder have made a nearly impossible situation for those kids, those families, those teachers, much, much worse. They didn't give a shit because who the fuck cares what happens to them anyways. Budgets must be balanced. Yet...
Want one more punch in the face before you get back to mourning David Bowie? Michigan has a $700 million surplus in its state budget. It would have cost perhaps $100 a day to put phosphates into the water when the supply was first switched to prevent the water from corroding the pipes. That's $36, 500 a year. Now, it could cost $1.5 billion to replace the pipes. Republicans should probably go back to elementary school to learn math.
But, hey, Powerball's gonna give away a billion bucks, so...USA?