Congress Proves Yet Again They’re Worse Than Useless

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Another day, another congressional hearing. Today it was all about the water in Flint, which produced “often-furious questioning” aimed at EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Michigan governor Rick Snyder:

The long-anticipated hearing provided the highest-level jousting yet over a public health disaster that has revealed another partisan divide on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail.

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have called on Snyder to resign, which some committee Democrats also urged Thursday. But Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a longtime critic of the EPA, joined other Republicans in targeting the federal agency during officials’ testimony in the two hearings this week.

Have you ever watched one of these self-righteous displays of mock fury? Of course you have. Did you ever learn anything from them? Of course not. They’re the American version of old-time Soviet show trials, with the victims expected to sit stoically while members of Congress take turns competing to see who can berate them most theatrically for the TV cameras.

But if they want something to be really outraged about, here’s a list of cities, counties, and entire states that have a higher percentage of kids with lead poisoning than Flint ever did after they switched their water supply. These are not crisis levels, either. These are normal, everyday, forever levels:

  • Allentown, PA: 23.11%
  • Atlantic City, NJ: 10.2%
  • Baltimore, MD: 6.7%
  • Cleveland, OH: 13.67%
  • Detroit, MI: 8.0%
  • Erie County, NY: 14.0%
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 9.2%
  • Illinois: 5.97%
  • Louisiana: 4.95%
  • Milwaukee County, WI: 10.7%
  • New Hampshire: 6.24%
  • New York (outside NYC): 6.67%
  • Ohio: 5.99%
  • Philadelphia, PA: 10.19%
  • Pittsburgh, PA: 8.32%
  • Richland County, WI: 12.4%
  • Salem County, NJ: 8.9%
  • Toledo, OH: 5.28%
  • West Virginia: 5.28%
  • Wisconsin: 5.57%

This is by no means a complete list. I just got tired of typing. And if no place in your state shows up, don’t be too quick to feel smug. Most likely it’s just because your state doesn’t bother to do rigorous testing.

When Gina McCarthy had the gall to explain that EPA has to follow the laws that Congress writes, Jason Chaffetz hammed it up predictably. “You failed!” he screamed at her. Of course, that’s the US Congress she was talking about, the body Chaffetz and the rest of the panel work for. If they actually give a damn about lead poisoning, maybe they should think of doing something about it instead of preening for CSPAN. They’re not in medically induced comas, after all.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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