Saturday, March 5, 2016

It All Comes Back to Politics

On Thursday, Charleston County Democratic Women hosted three young women who spoke about their greatest concerns.  The talks were informative and inspiring.  And most interesting was that they in fact, intertwined.

Savannah Frierson, Ali Titus, Monica Tanouye
Savannah Frierson spoke to issues of racism, and how they are reinforced in our politics and our lives.  She brought up the drinking water in Flint, and in fact, problems with drinking water on our own Wadmalaw Island.  Environmental problems hit the poor and rural areas first.  Monica Tanouye spoke about the environment, not as a "tree hugger," but as someone who sees our environment as a resource that we need to maintain, in order to maintain our lives on earth and in our communities.  Finally, Ali Titus spoke passionately about obesity and the blame-the-victim mentality that is so prevalent in our society.  She pointed out that the same big corporations that made fortunes selling foods that lead to obesity also share in huge profits from the health problems and dieting regimens caused by obesity.

As the women spoke, and for these days afterwards, I have been thinking about how all these issues relate to one:  capitalism as political power, and political power run amok.

With all the Tea Party talk about reducing the deficit, big agra continues to profit from huge government subsidies:  subsidies to grow sugar and corn, the latter used not as a healthy vegetable but as corn syrup.  Meanwhile, our local farmers struggle against the extreme weather conditions of global climate change with little aid that only comes when those extremes cannot be ignored, as with our October floods.  This means healthy produce grown locally is far more expensive than McDonald's or a bag of cookies.  Note that here in South Carolina food stamps cannot be used at many farms or farmers markets.

With all the light shone on Flint's water crisis, it has become more than apparent that decisions were made to cut corners in a town where the poverty rate is the second highest in the country.  It was easy to do this because Michigan has an "emergency manager" law that allows the governor to appoint someone to run the city, bypassing voters' choices.  And as we all know, the main function of government these days is to cut costs, and it is especially easy to do so when the people are too poor to fight back.

It's all politics, and politics has gotten so convoluted that the good guys have to run the same cons as the bad guys.

Take Wadmalaw Island, where I live.  As Savannah spoke Thursday night, someone near me mumbled that that wasn't true that Wadmalaw had bad water.  In fact, it is not true for me, because I live in a development that is only about 25 years old.  A couple of years ago, based on my low income, I even qualified for a new well, which was dug last week.  I know that there were also people who qualified that had bad wells that were fifty years old.

But suppose you don't qualify?  Suppose you work hard enough to fall just above the federal poverty line?  The assumption is that you can pay that $6,000 for the new well.  And whatever other problems there are that need to be corrected for the water to be potable.  Impossible for so many.

And yet, I am fortunate that I qualified for that federal grant.  I imagine I can thank Democrats like US Representative Jim Clyburn, the late Senator Clementa Pinckney and Representative Robert L. Brown.  I imagine County Councilwoman Anna Johnson pulled some strings as well.  There has to be a reason, in fact, that while South Carolina skinflints in the Statehouse refuse to raise the gas tax to repair bad roads, the two main roads on Wadmalaw have been repaved twice in the seventeen years I have lived here.

But for republican strongholds, politics is all about money and influence.  And for wealthy donors, politicians will spend whatever of our tax dollars it takes to keep them happy.  If the air or water gets bad where they are, if a hurricane blows their home away, they move to higher ground, build a bigger newer home with the insurance money.

Meanwhile, the working poor get made promises of more jobs while being sidetracked with messages of refugee and immigrant invasions.  The poor, a high percentage minority, are victimized by government decisions to cut what little aid they get, and by inadequate services.  When you aren't allowed time off from work, or you don't have a car, when getting to a supermarket is a hurtle, not only do you not get out to vote, you don't really see that it makes a difference.

For those who are living in the shaky middle class, they live with financial insecurity that makes them vulnerable to the fearmongers that convince them that the EPA, immigrants and unions will cost them their livelihood.  Financial insecurity for the right wing is political gold.

I would like very much to invite our three speakers back.  I would like for them to maybe be a panel that addresses political solutions to the huge problems that they posed to us.  I would like to keep this conversation going.

And I want to thank them for opening it up for us.  

1 comment:

  1. What interesting speakers and intersting topics and viewpoints. So sorry I missed this meeting. Savannah is always on point. I hadn't thought about "that the same big corporations that made fortunes selling foods that lead to obesity also share in huge profits from the health problems and dieting regimens caused by obesity!" As a nurse and public health student I strongly feel we need to go after sugar esp high sugar drinks like we did cigarettes. Also I would love to see happy meals just GO AWAY . Let's put a drive through at the farmers market and a free plastic toy to go in kids fruit and veggie orders! Yes, let's continue the conversation. Thanks Agnes, great blog.