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Vol. 75/No. 21      May 30, 2011

Give federal aid to flooded areas

Facing the worst floods in nearly a century, working people in the Midwest and southern United States are largely being left to fend for themselves. As of May 16 a mere $5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds had been approved for the state of Mississippi, where thousands have lost their homes and many farmers are ruined.

What is needed is a massive emergency, federally funded public works program to build housing, provide medical care, reclaim the soil, and create tens of thousands of jobs in the stricken areas.

President Barack Obama has shown little interest. He didn’t even bother to look out the window of Air Force One as he flew over the Mississippi River on his way to give a speech in El Paso, Texas, May 10, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Not until his May 16 visit to Memphis, Tennessee, did he go to a flood-hit area. “We’re grateful for your resilience,” he told residents forced to flee their homes.

In contrast to the indifference in Washington, working people are extending solidarity and helping each other through the disaster.

The devastation working people face was not inevitable—it is the product of reckless capitalist development on floodplains and the engineering of river basins to maximize profits, regardless of the consequences for the environment and workers’ livelihoods.

As always, those most affected are working people—in this case farmers, fishermen, and workers living on floodplains in poorly constructed houses or trailers unable to withstand floodwaters.

The catastrophe along the Mississippi comes on top of grinding unemployment and high prices battering working people for years now. With thousands of acres of crops under water, food prices that are already too high will rise further. Meanwhile, the big seed monopolies like Monsanto and DuPont are preparing to make a killing as many farmers will have to replant.

Science and technology, created by the labor of working people, make it possible to minimize the effects of floods. But as long as a few wealthy families hold state power, land will remain private property and housing used by working people will be built where landlords buy cheap and reap profits—often in the most precarious locations such as floodplains. Rivers will be subject to the profit drive of the shipping companies, not the needs of the toiling majority. So-called natural disasters that are largely man-made will multiply.

It will take a revolution by millions of working people—on the land and in the mines, mills, and factories—to wrest power from the capitalist class and begin to reorganize society to advance the interests of all those dispossessed by the exploiting handful that rules today. That is the road forward for workers and small producers looking for answers to the capitalist crisis we confront today.
Related articles:
Flooded regions need massive U.S. gov’t funds
‘Millions of jobless could be put to work’  
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