4 July 2016
Today was mostly a travel day, moving from near Columbus, OH to Roscommon, MI. Unable to find a campground last night, I pulled exhausted into a Walmart parking lot late, where I noticed a number of other voyagers doing the same. That night I dreamed that I woke up in the morning and was served free muffins and coffee by Walmart staff. In my dream, I was thinking This is very humanitarian of Walmart. Maybe I have misjudged them. Alas, I had not. It was but a dream of a better world. Walmart doesn’t even pay the majority of their employees a living wage. They are certainly not going to be passing out coffee to the vagabonds that camp in their parking lots. Walmart does what psychopathic corporate entities always do – maximizing profits for shareholders and expanding to perpetually increase stock values at any human or environmental cost, with the US and global political systems enabling the pathology.
Not coincidentally, I passed through what is known as the “Rust Belt” today, an area once fat with adequate-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs, now left to rust as U.S. manufacturing has largely moved overseas to lands of cheap labor and legalized human rights violations. Perhaps no place demonstrates the consequences of this shift more than Flint, Michigan, hometown of Michael Moore and location of the recent infamous mass-poisoning of residents via contaminated drinking water.
Flint is also the manufacturing home of General Motors, a company that received a $12.5 billion bailout from the federal government, an investment, which the government now contends it lost approximately $11.2 billion on (paid for by human taxpayers).
These seeming random factoids about Flint, Michigan are actually related. Following FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. Government ushered in an era of unprecedented and virtually universal human well-being. These gains have all but evaporated, as a government that used to exist to enhance the welfare of humans, now seems to exist to benefit only corporations.
Read Michael Moore’s piece on how it all comes to a head in Flint here:
In a nutshell, a conservative Michigan government drastically reduced taxes on corporations. In order to pay for those reductions, the MI government reduced and/or eliminated public benefits, such as maintenance of infrastructure. One of the costs that was cut was Flint’s public water supply, which had previously been supplied by Lake Huron, via the City of Detroit. Now Flint’s water is supplied by the Flint River, a heavily polluted waterway. This move generated $15 million in savings, which Governor Rick Snyder was then able to apply to corporate tax breaks. Perhaps not ironically, as soon as the switch was made, General Motors started having problems at the plant. Apparently the Flint River water was corroding car parts. A corporation with a problem is no problem for the government. GM was given their own clean Lake Huron water supply, paid for by the tax payers at a cost of $440,000, while the citizens of Flint continued to be slowly poisoned.
A drive through Downtown Flint reveals a history of a once-thriving metropolis, now crumbling from neglect. The streets are in severe need of paving, shopfronts are boarded up, and legal services seem to be the main industry. The only buildings that appear to have escaped decline are churches. Despair is great business for religion.
It is estimated that it will cost $1.5 billion dollars to sort out the problems with Flint’s water supply. The human tax payers will foot the bill, while corporations will likely receive more subsidies and tax breaks. The permanent damages done to Flint’s children can never be undone. It doesn't have to be this way. Tax dollars invested in rebuilding infrastructure can generate jobs and rehabilitate communities. Carbon taxes and other forms of revenue can be used to retool defunct factories for the production of sustainable energy alternatives, providing even more jobs and literally empowering communities. The possibilities for positive change are endless when human lives and environmental integrity take priority over the interests of inanimate corporate entities. Happy Birthday America.
(Slow internet connection tonight. I will edit with photos when I get a better connection).