Houston’s public housing residents are the worst hit by toxic flooding

Levels of E. coli tested in one development are 135 times above the amount considered safe

Floodwaters in two Houston-area neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Harvey have been contaminated with bacteria and toxins — and the highest levels of contamination were found in a low-income neighborhood built next to a slow-moving river that is known to have been polluted for decades.

A New York Times investigation discovered E. coli levels at four times the amount considered safe in “water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor.”

“There’s pretty clearly sewage contamination, and it’s more concentrated inside the home than outside the home,” Lauren Stadler, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who participated in the Times’ research said. “It suggests to me that conditions inside the home are more ideal for bacteria to grow and concentrate. It’s warmer and the water has stagnated for days and days. I know some kids were playing in the floodwater outside those places. That’s concerning to me.”

Though the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have risen concerns about contaminated floodwaters, none of the results of samples they have taken have been made public so far, the Times reported.

The Times elaborated on medical warnings:

Dr. Beau Briese, an emergency room physician at Houston Methodist Hospital, said he had seen a doubling in the number of cases of cellulitis — reddened skin infections — since the storm. He said it was a more modest increase than he had expected, and that the infections had been successfully treated with antibiotics.

Dr. David Persse, the chief medical officer of Houston, said residents caring for children, the elderly and those with immune disorders should try to keep them out of homes until they have been cleaned.

In the Clayton Homes public housing development, which is alongside the Buffalo Bayou, levels of E. coli were measured at a shocking 135 times higher than what’s considered safe, the Times reported. The water also included elevated levels of “lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in sediment from the floodwaters in the kitchen.”

The Buffalo Bayou has been polluted for years, and it’s been reported that minority residents have suffered the most from the consequences.

“Here it’s normal to see industrial flares from front porches, and to wake up to paint particles from the nearby scrap metal shredding facility floating into homes,” Houston Public Media reported regarding neighborhoods along the bayou.

“I wanted you to come through here because you’re going to see one of the shredding facilities that shreds cars into tiny tiny little pieces of metal. It comes into this community here, and they don’t like it,” said Juan Parras, a community activist who led TEJAS, or Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, in 2011.

Parras said the facility should have never been built. The Ashby high rise was heavily protested in the more affluent parts of town, Houston Public Media reported.

“And there was a lot of complaints, you know, the citizens obviously didn’t want it. And at the same time they were building this,” Parras said. “And sometimes it gets real real high, you know, just a pile of cars here. And so we call it our Ashby high rise. But even though we protested, you know, we got it anyway.

In 2012, environmentalists called for strengthening the Clean Water Act, which helps regulate pollution control, the same law that President Donald Trump’s administration has already proposed rolling back.

 

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay
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Hurricanes Irma and Harvey: Natural disaster and political breakdown

9 September 2017

The catastrophic impact of Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas and the unfolding disaster of Hurricane Irma in south Florida are ruthlessly objective tests of the ability of America’s ruling elite to manage the affairs of society. By any reasonable standard, the capitalist class has failed, and failed miserably.

Two weeks after the Texas Gulf Coast was devastated by Harvey, millions of people are seeking to rebuild their lives with minimal social assistance. Hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, one million cars rendered inoperable, countless schools and other public facilities flooded and likely ruined beyond repair. At least twenty-two people are missing, most now presumed dead, on top of the more than 70 deaths officially acknowledged.

To address the costliest natural disaster in American history—at least until the toll of Hurricane Irma is tallied—with damage estimates approaching $200 billion, the Trump administration and Congress have approved a derisory $15 billion in federal assistance, ratified by the House of Representatives Friday.

The bulk of this money goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which doles out funds limited to $30,000 per family, through a nearly impenetrable bureaucratic process in which the victims of the storm will be treated like criminals or con-men. Other funding is routed through the Small Business Administration, in the form of loans that those driven from their homes by the hurricane will be hard-pressed to repay.

Hurricane Irma is even more powerful than Harvey. The storm has already laid waste to several of the Lesser Antilles and to the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as battering Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Irma began passing the Bahamas on Friday and is scheduled to make landfall somewhere in south Florida on Sunday afternoon.

Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded on this planet, with the most “accumulated cyclone energy,” one measure of overall intensity. It has sustained maximum wind speeds of at least 180 miles per hour for 37 hours, longer than any previous storm. Its size is vast: twice the extent of Hurricane Andrew, which devastated south Florida in 1992. The storm is so large that it is wider than the Florida peninsula itself, raising the possibility of simultaneous storm surges on both the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast, an unheard-of phenomenon.

A lethal threat faces one of the most densely populated areas in the United States. But the response of local, state and federal officials has been to tell the potential victims of Irma: “You’re on your own.” This was the theme of several press conferences and briefings on Friday, as government officials told some six million people in south Florida to leave the region if possible, or else go to hurricane shelters.

These shelters are entirely inadequate—some sizeable cities, like Ft. Myers on the Gulf coast, have none. They are unavailable to many poor and working-class residents. The Coalition for Racial Justice complained that Miami-Dade’s shelters are open only in wealthy areas, a more than 30-minute drive from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the Florida Keys, for Miami Beach and much of Miami-Dade, the state’s largest metropolitan area, as well as portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties and much of the southwestern corner of the state as well. Combined, they are the largest mandatory evacuation in US history, leaving all highways north completely jammed with traffic. Most gas stations have run out of supplies, leaving many residents stranded in their cars as the hurricane approaches.

The most basic measures to ensure that people can leave have not been taken, such as a mass coordination of free rail, bus and airplane transportation. Many of those leaving have no idea where they will stay, as hundreds of thousands attempt to find accommodations on the route north. Many are stuck at the airport, with no open flights and all shelters filled.

The Trump administration “prepared” for the one-two punch of Harvey and Irma by proposing to slash spending on FEMA and other relief and disaster management agencies, to say nothing of its war against climate science, waged on behalf of the oil, gas and coal producers and other big industrial polluters.

Even the succession of hurricanes—with Jose and Katia lined up to follow Harvey and Irma, four giant storms in only three weeks, fueled by ocean waters now at an unprecedented temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit—has not produced any rethinking by the know-nothings of the Trump administration. The unending stream of disasters proves the reality of climate change—to which one must add the fires raging on the US West Coast and the floods that have devastated South Asia—demonstrating the inability of the ruling classes of all countries to take any serious measures to address the growing threat.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a notorious global warming denier, denounced any discussion of climate change as “very, very insensitive” to the people of Florida. “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm, versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” he argued.

By the same logic, any discussion of plate tectonics or seismic faults should be banned during an earthquake, nor should there be any analysis of El Nino wind effects during wildfire season. Nuclear physics would be off-limits during a reactor meltdown. And, we might add, there could be no discussion of the economic laws of capitalism during a meltdown of the financial markets.

There is a distinct class content to this rejection of science, or, indeed, any serious thought. The US ruling elite, at every level, refused to plan seriously for natural disasters which were both predictable and inevitable. Once the disasters unfolded, the representatives of big business could barely conceal their indifference and annoyance at the plight of what one of Trump’s real estate colleagues, Leona Helmsley, sneered at as “the little people.”

Natural disasters have a way of exposing social and political reality. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of the Portuguese city, was a significant event in the development of Enlightenment thought in Europe, in the decades that preceded the French Revolution. It was proof, Voltaire noted in his Candide, of the absurdity of the claim of the philosopher Leibniz that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Who could follow Leibniz in making such an argument today? American and world capitalism is rotten to the core. The ruling class presides over unprecedented social inequality and unending war, in which resources are dedicated to greed and plunder, but the most basic requirements of modern society go unmet and ignored.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/09/09/pers-s09.html

Trump Hides Behind the Storm

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As Hurricane Harvey raged, the president tried to use the disaster as cover. It may have worked.

Texas National Guard soldiers conduct rescue operations in flooded areas around Houston, Texas 27 August, 2017

Texas National Guard soldiers conduct rescue operations in flooded areas around Houston, Texas 27 August, 2017. (Photos: 1Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD)

On 9/11, as the World Trade Center collapsed and the Pentagon was in flames, Jo Moore, an adviser to one of British prime minister Tony Blair’s Cabinet members, sent a short email to her boss’ press office: “It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors expenses?”

This stunningly crass and cynical move — she was suggesting the use of a global tragedy to divert media attention from a minor story about pensions for local officials — ultimately forced Moore’s resignation.

But it comes from a long tradition of politicians and public officials trying to hide news behind other events or releasing it at inconvenient times when you hope few people will notice.

(In the days before he became president, John F. Kennedy, aware that many would object to the naming of his brother as attorney general, joked, “I think I’ll open the door of the Georgetown house some morning about 2 a.m., look up and down the street, and if there’s no one there, I’ll whisper, ‘It’s Bobby.’”)

Friday nights at the start of the weekend have become Washington’s golden hour for dumping bad news. Donald Trump’s White House already was using this timeless trick barely days after the Bible on which he was sworn in had a chance to cool off.

You’ll recall that he tried to rush his immigration ban executive order over the goal line on Friday, Jan. 27, hoping the crowd and the refs would have their collective backs turned away from the line of scrimmage. No such luck — on Saturday night, angry demonstrators thronged the airports and a federal judge quickly blocked Trump’s decree.

Even though the constant bombardment of the 24/7 news cycle may have diminished its effectiveness, the ploy has been hauled out several times since, including the Friday night they released the financial disclosure forms of some 180 presidential staffers, which revealed that in combination they were worth billions. So much for The People’s President.

But the latest news dump was the most brazen, a triple whammy, for not only did it fall on a Friday night, it happened in the face of a Category 4 hurricane that was just about to hit the Texas coast with a still-to-be-determined, massive loss of property and life. And we got not just one but two stories released as the storm’s destruction loomed — the signing of a ban on the transgendered serving in the military and the pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the scourge of Arizona law enforcement.

(There also was the resignation of failed Bond-villain-wannabe Sebastian Gorka, but he released the news, not the president. Then the White House said he was fired. Hilarity ensued.)

“No matter what he says about why he did what he did, in the face of a major natural disaster and lost lives, it’s a statement of monumental, breathtaking insensitivity.”

In any case, full points for callous opportunism, Mr. Trump.

Arpaio, whose conviction for contempt of court is the least of his multitude of sins (which include racial profiling, prisoner abuse, bogus prosecutions, failure to investigate sex crimes, misuse of funds, promoting “birtherism” and believe it or not, a fake assassination plot), had not even been sentenced yet. But Trump loves his buddy “Sheriff Joe” and will do anything, even trample the rule of law, to help a pal and slake the bloodthirst of the Trump base.

In the face of criticism, on Monday afternoon, at a White House press session with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, Trump once again pulled his patented, childlike “I meant to do that” routine and declared that he made the Arpaio pardon while the public was focused on Hurricane Harvey not to hide it but because, “Actually, in the middle of the hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”

Ratings? No matter what he says about why he did what he did, in the face of a major natural disaster and lost lives, it’s a statement of monumental, breathtaking insensitivity.

Trump then proceeded to rattle off from a prepared page a list of pardons made by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama that he deemed more reprehensible, justifying his own bad pardon by citing the arguably bad pardons of predecessors, and Democrats at that. Historian and former GOP presidential adviser Bruce Bartlett described it as “The Trump doctrine — if any other president has done something wrong, he is permitted to do it too.” Yet somehow Trump failed to mention the pardons granted by Republicans Reagan, Bushes 41 and 43 and, most notoriously, Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon.

What’s awful is that Trump actually may have pulled it off — this storm is so overwhelming and terrifying that it’s hard to think of anything else and maybe his moves against the transgendered and in support of Arpaio will fade into that brand-new Oval Office wallpaper.

The storm also may succeed in taking the bite out of other news Trump may not have been expecting — the latest developments around his suspicious relationship with Russia. The Washington PostThe New York Times and Bloomberg News all have just reported on aspects of a business negotiation that took place while Trump’s presidential campaign was in full swing — a proposed deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (Keep in mind that Trump has often said that he has no holdings or interests in Russia — but apparently not for lack of trying.)

Emails show Felix Sater, Trump’s shady Russian-American business associate, boasting to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen about the Trump Tower plan: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

As delusional as Sater sounds (among other things, he hoped to be named ambassador to the Bahamas), Trump signed a nonbinding letter of intent for the project and Cohen says he and Trump spoke about the deal on three occasions. Eventually it fell through. “Nevertheless,” The Post reports:

[T]he details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president — and in a position to determine US-Russia relations.

The emails “also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, more than a quarter of the members of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council resigned, citing the president’s behavior around the fatal violence in Charlottesville and his withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, but also noting, “You have given insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cybersecurity of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend, including those impacting the systems supporting our democratic election process.”

The president’s attempts to obfuscate and to divert from the truth are why the Mueller and congressional probes of Trump and Russian interference with the 2016 election remain so important (and why an independent nonpartisan commission investigating Russia is still a good idea). Like the old Post Office motto, neither the hurricane’s winds nor rains will stay the investigators from their appointed rounds.

There’s no doubt that Trump is still scheming how he will stop them. The Arpaio pardon may foreshadow what he intends to do, providing get-out-of-jail-free cards to all involved.

I wonder: What unknown, upcoming news event will he try to hide behind to snuff out the work of his accusers?

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers’ Journal and is senior writer of BillMoyers.com.

Your Race and Zip Code Will Determine How Much Devastation You’ll Face After Hurricane Harvey

NEWS & POLITICS
Stranded communities are “literally getting gassed by these chemicals.”

Flood Rescue: Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27, 2017.
Photo Credit: National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West

Concern continues to grow over the environmental impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston area, home to more than a dozen oil refineries. The group Air Alliance Houston is warning the shutdown of the petrochemical plants will send more than 1 million pounds of harmful pollution into the air. Residents of Houston’s industrial communities have reported unbearable chemical-like smells coming from the many plants nearby. Stranded communities are “literally getting gassed by these chemicals,” according to Bryan Parras, an activist at the environmental justice group t.e.j.a.s. Those closest to these sites in Houston are disproportionately low-income and minority communities. We speak with Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the “father of environmental justice.” He is currently a distinguished professor at Texas Southern University. Dr. Bullard speaks to us from his home in Houston, which he needs to evacuate later this morning due to the rising Brazos River.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Bullard, I want to talk about this issue of justice. You live in the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston. The most diverse city in the country, Houston. And it is the “petro metro.” That’s right, the Houston area home to more than a dozen oil refineries. The group Air Alliance Houston warning the shutdown of the petrochemical plants will send more than a million pounds of harmful pollution into the air. Residents of Houston’s industrial communities already reporting unbearable chemical-like smells coming from the many plants nearby.

Yesterday, we interviewed Bryan Parras with the group t.e.j.a.s., the environmental justice group, who said, “Fenceline communities can’t leave or evacuate, so they are literally getting gassed by these chemicals.” This is an issue you have dealt with for a long time, from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Houston, Professor Bullard. The communities closest to these petrochemical sites in Houston, disproportionately low income and minority.

You have Saturday, as we reported in the lead, a massive fuel storage at Kinder Morgan’s Pasadena terminal, spilling after being toppled in the storm. The tank held 6.3 million gallons of gasoline, but unclear how much gas leaked. Can you talk about the significance of where people live and the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color and poorer communities?

DR. ROBERT BULLARD: Well, the best predictor of health and well-being in our society, and including Houston, is ZIP Code. You tell me your ZIP Code, I can tell you how healthy you are. And one of the best predictors of environmental vulnerability is ZIP Code and race. And all communities are not created equal. Houston’s people of color communities historically have borne the burden for environmental pollution, and also the impact of flooding and other kinds of natural and man-made disasters.

When we talk about the impact of sea level rise and we talk about the impacts of climate change, you’re talking about a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on poor people, on people who don’t have health insurance, communities that don’t have access to food and grocery stores. So you talk about mapping vulnerability and mapping this disaster and the impact, not just the loss of housing and loss of jobs, but also the impact of having pollution and these spills, and the oil and chemicals going into the water, and who is living closest to these hazards?

Historically, even before Harvey, before this storm, before this flood, people of color in Houston bore a disproportionate burden of having to live next to, surrounded by, these very dangerous chemicals. And so you talk about these chemical hotspots, these sacrifice zones. Those are the communities that are people of color.

Houston is the fourth-largest city, but it’s the only city that does not have zoning. And what it has is—communities of color and poor communities have been unofficially zoned as compatible with pollution. And we say that is—we have a name for it. We call that environmental injustice and environmental racism. It is that plain and it’s just that simple.

And so this flood in Houston is exacerbating existing disparities, so that is why I say we have to talk about—when we talk about moving past the flooding part, and moving to cleanup and recovery and rebuilding, we have to build in environmental and economic justice into that formula. Otherwise, we will be rebuilding on inequity. We say that’s unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Bullock, we only have 30 seconds. But your own situation now, you are being forced to move?

DR. ROBERT BULLARD: I am being forced to move because of the rising Brazos River. It is supposed to crest at 59 feet. And so I live in an area where we have been told we have to evacuate. And so I am packing up right now and getting ready to leave out of here. And so, it doesn’t—there is nobody in this town that this flood has not touched. And so, that is the nature of and the horrific—how this has touched so many people. And we have to do the right thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Robert Bullard, we want to thank you for being with us. Father of environmental justice movement, as he talks about environmental racism. Currently Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University. This is Democracy Now!. When we come back, how is this affecting undocumented immigrants? As President Trump heads to Texas today, it is also said he is threatening to end DACAimminently. 85,000 residents in Houston are under DACA, meaning they can live and work legally in Houston. What does this mean for them right now?
Stay with us.

 

https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/8/29/hurricane_harvey_zip_code_race_determine

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times best-seller.

 http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/zip-code-race-determine-who-will-bear-burden-climate-change?akid=16028.265072.FxN8Os&rd=1&src=newsletter1081784&t=10

Everyone’s a Socialist After a Natural Disaster

Ted Cruz’s hypocrisy won’t stop government from helping in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but Texas will be needing help for a long time.

The Houston flood disaster: A social crime of the American oligarchy

29 August 2017

The world is looking on in shock as Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States, is engulfed by flood waters. At least nine people are dead, a figure that will no doubt rise in the coming days. Thousands remain stranded, awaiting rescue. Tens of thousands have been forced to take shelter in emergency accommodations. Some of the worst rain is yet to come.

The catastrophic flooding engulfing Houston and southeast Texas is spreading to cities as far away as Dallas and Austin and threatening to once again overwhelm New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurried evacuations are being organized in cities throughout the region, as well as previously unaffected neighborhoods in Houston, where residents are being forced to abandon their homes as officials release water from overwhelmed and endangered reservoirs.

Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, an even larger and more populous metropolitan area is being turned into a scene of indescribable suffering. The countless examples of human solidarity among the victims, overwhelmingly working class and of all races, contrast starkly with the indifference and incompetence of the government and political establishment.

Like Katrina, Hurricane Harvey has lifted the lid on the ugly reality of American society, exposing colossal levels of social inequality, pervasive poverty and ruling class criminality. Behind the mindless media commentary, generally favorable to the White House and the right-wing Republican governor of Texas, and the pro-forma statements of politicians, one senses nervousness and fear that this latest demonstration of the failure of American capitalism will trigger an eruption of social indignation.

But the authorities cannot conceal their complacency and indifference. In a disgusting performance, President Donald Trump gave a press conference Monday in which he combined lavish praise for the official response to the flood disaster, calling it “incredible to watch” and a display of “cooperation and love,” with bathos about “one American family” that “hurts together and endures together.”

Reciting his scripted remarks as though he were reading the phonebook, Trump offered no proposals to relieve the suffering of the victims or provide them with money to rebuild their lives. He evaded a question about his proposal to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including steep cuts to the Federal Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long on Monday gave himself and the government a blanket amnesty for their dereliction, declaring, “You could not forecast this up. You could not dream this forecast up.”

The Wall Street Journal sounded the same theme in an editorial posted Monday. “Immunity from nature’s fury,” the newspaper wrote, “is an illusion that humans cultivate until we are forced to confront that fury again. We forget the damage that storms and earthquakes can do.”

This renunciation of any responsibility for the unfolding disaster in Houston was combined with praise for the massive accumulation of wealth among the uppermost layers of society, declaring that “Complex societies can better cope with the damage if they have a reservoir of accumulated wealth” among “private sources.” Thus, according to the leading mouthpiece of Wall Street, the answer to the unfolding tragedy in Texas is the further enrichment of the financial oligarchy!

Such claims that catastrophic events like the Texas flood are inevitable “natural disasters,” and nothing can be done either to forestall, contain or manage them, are self-serving lies.

Houston is the most frequently flooded urban area in the country. Officials at the federal, state and local level were repeatedly warned by scientists and weather experts that the license given to real estate developers and speculators to pave over wetlands, as well as the government’s refusal to build proper flood defenses, was setting the city up for an unprecedented flood disaster. These warnings were ignored.

This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages, and the United States is the richest country in the world. Four hundred years ago, the Dutch figured out how to build cities situated below sea level. The US is, moreover, home to some of the most advanced research and engineering institutes in the world. Yet supposedly no one could have anticipated or planned for the flooding of a major city on the Gulf of Mexico?

What has been done in the 12 years since Katrina to prevent more hurricane disasters? Nothing! Or, more accurately, less than nothing, because Katrina was seized on as an opportunity to treat New Orleans as virgin territory for the privatization of public assets and establishment of a free market paradise for big business, to be replicated across the country. The most overt example of this plundering operation was the dismantling of the public school system in favor of private, for-profit charter schools.

Catastrophes such as the Texas flood are social crimes, committed by a financial aristocracy that has spent the past half-century plundering the country and neglecting its social infrastructure, while accumulating unimaginable sums of personal wealth. According to the corporate-controlled media and the entire political establishment—Democrats no less than Republicans—there is no money to build up flood defenses or rebuild crumbling bridges, roads and water systems, modernize and expand public transport or provide decent schools and housing for the population.

But there are trillions of dollars stashed away in the bank accounts and stock portfolios of the rich and the super-rich. Hundreds of billions are squandered every year on the instruments of war.

The country staggers from one preventable disaster to another: Katrina in 2005, the BP oil spill in 2010, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and now Harvey. In between are countless floods, tornadoes, fires and other events that wreak havoc on working class and poor families, who are left to fend for themselves by a ruling elite drowning in its own excess.

Just as in the feudal era, when the development of society required the expropriation of the landed aristocracy, so today society must seize control of its own resources from the modern aristocracy of finance and corporate wealth. The barbarians of today, who hoard society’s wealth and say nothing can be done to address poverty, disease, war or repression, must go the way of all ruling classes that stand in the way of social progress.

It is not that society cannot afford the type of social investment needed to prevent or minimize the impact of events such as Hurricane Harvey. What society cannot afford is the rich.

It is to the working class—united across all racial, national and ethnic lines, both in the US and internationally—that the task falls of removing this monstrous obstacle to progress from the historical scene. The capitalist parasites must be expropriated, their wealth used to meet social needs, and their stranglehold over the means of production shattered to allow the rational, planned and humane development of economic and social life on the basis of socialist ownership and democratic control of industry, finance and the planet’s natural resources.

Barry Grey

WSWS