Home > Uncategorized > Governor Christie Worsens NJ’s Childhood Lead Scandal

Governor Christie Worsens NJ’s Childhood Lead Scandal

Another Example of How Gov. Christie Pays for Tax Cuts for Corporations & The 1%

Trenton’s Warped Priorities Shaped Under Neoliberal Austerity

Sometimes a story jumps right up and smacks you upside the head – or kicks you in the stomach – choose your own metaphor for a violent jolt to the conscience that makes you sick at heart and feel ashamed to be alive.

Longtime environmental reporter Todd Bates at the Asbury Park Press wrote one of those stories yesterday, which I encourage you to read in its entirety before I note these few contextual points:

As if the headline weren’t sick enough to stand on its own, we learn some incredible facts from good old fashioned investigative journalism.

First, in addition to learning just some basic facts about the health effects of lead on children, we see another disgusting example of how politicians like Gov. Christie pay for all the corporate tax cuts and subsidies they shower on the business community:

The New Jersey government left countless children exposed to lead poisoning in the last decade by diverting more than $50 million away from a health fund so routine state bills and salaries could be paid, an Asbury Park Press investigation found.

But, Todd got it badly wrong here – the theft of this money was NOT “so routine state bills and salaries could be paid”.

These kind of cuts are necessary because the corporations and the wealthy hold virtual veto power over any attempt to raise new revenues (i.e. increase taxes on the wealthy).

The diversions are necessary to close budget gaps created by tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Governor Christie already has provided a record $4.6 billion in such cuts to corporations, while raiding numerous environmental, clean energy, and now childhood health protection programs (for full details on that, see: New Jersey’s Surge in Business Tax Subsidies Reaches New Heights).

There can be no clearer example of the huge social damage incurred as a result of the rigid anti-tax and anti-government ideology and austerity policy of the political right, including Governor Christie, the entire Tea Party and Billionaire captured Republican Party.

Second, we see another example of deep racism and environmental injustice – note where the disproportionate burden falls and whose children suffer the lead poisoning:

Newark had 880 children under 6 with at least 5 micrograms, by far the highest number in the state, followed by Paterson (385), Jersey City (372), Irvington (250), Trenton (224) and Elizabeth (183).

Black urban children are by far the hardest hit – the lead poisoning crisis being just a part of a larger point we’ve been writing about in the context of the debate over the use of open space funds.

From public health, to education, to disproportionate environmental risks, to climate change, to food deserts ,and open space funding: the people living in our cities are being systematically and grossly neglected.

Third, it is astounding that it has taken more than 2 years since Sandy hit before the public health implications got any real in depth media treatment. In a parallel story from Todd Bates we learn that federal Sandy funds – money that Christie can’t steal – uncovered additional problems:

One in 16 people tested so far under a state superstorm Sandy project had elevated lead levels, according to state data.

Governor Christie and his media stenographers have instead been consumed by what I have called “rebuild madness”.

While Governor Christie has been obsessed by “rebuild madness” and invested his entire coastal effort and billions of federal dollars in rebuilding, while programs to protect poor black children are ignored and robbed.

Another sad confirmation of what the people in Ferguson say: black live just don’t matter.

When will this intolerable injustice change?

Finally, I must note that both the NJ DEP and the NJ Department of Health track lead as a public health indicator and have been well aware of and ignoring the childhood lead crisis – see this 2009 DEP power point (page 6).

I strongly encourage the few remaining intrepid journalists out there to look into DEP and DHSS policy and program failures.

[Note: Todd’s story mentions that NJ trails the nation, but doesn’t make the point quite clear: the NJ DHSS significantly underestimates the problem by using a 10 ug per deciliter blood lead level to determinate elevated levels, while federal CDC recommends half that level, 5 ug.]

And of course, folks might want to recall this Keep It Green Coalition ad – just another example of propaganda and lies that mask exactly what the ballot question would do, which was to transfer funds away from urban areas to wealthy rural & white suburbs, while slashing DEP toxic site cleanup and water resource program funds – emulating the tactics, just like the childhood lead program diversion.

Keep It Green Open Space ad - perhaps one of the met disgustingly cynical and misleading ads ever

Keep It Green Open Space ad – perhaps one of the most disgustingly cynical and misleading ads ever

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  1. hd
    January 4th, 2015 at 14:20 | #1

    I don’t think it’s just “black lives don’t matter” anymore. I think it’s people in general don’t matter. It’s all about the corporations these days.

  2. January 4th, 2015 at 14:46 | #2

    @hd
    I’ll agree with you on the power of corporations, but must disagree about the racism and environmental justice issues.

    Not only are black people disprorpiationately impacted by pollution, but they are repressed by the prison industrial complex and by police violence.

    Suggest you read “The New Jim Crow”, a superb book by Michele Alexander.

  1. April 27th, 2015 at 16:40 | #1
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