The wholesale failure of any flood protection system in the ravaged Mid-West has once again exposed another disaster created by capitalism. The ruling class’s neglect of the country’s infrastructure has made tens of thousands of working people homeless; killed at least two dozen residents along the Mississippi and its tributaries; submerged 100 blocks of Cedar Rapids, Iowa — a city of 200,000 — under water; destroyed tens of thousands of houses; flooded 160,000 acres of cropland in Illinois; and has seen the failure of 20 levees. And virtually all of this death and destruction was preventable if not for the anarchy of the profit system.
This failure of the flood protection system was long predicted. Army Corps of Engineers brigadier general Gerald Galloway told the NY Times, “We told them there were going to be more floods like this….This shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
The Times (6/22) cited a chaotic system of levees, “owned and maintained by all sorts of towns, agencies, even individual farmers.” It reported the levees “have poor construction, signs of stress, trees growing on them, [and] animal burrows. A 1994 report urging a more uniform approach to flood control along the Mississippi river system was largely ignored. That report stated, “Many levees are poorly sited and will fail again.” In fact, the situation is so chaotic that Galloway said, “We don’t even know where some of these levees are.”
The Wall Street Journal reported (6/19) that scientists believe the unplanned and chaotic development has made floods worse. “By building along the riverbanks and forcing the Mississippi into a bed that is half the width of where it ran a century ago, residents are displacing water and forcing the river to run faster and higher.”
The racism of the system was revealed in the levees supposedly protecting impoverished East St. Louis, Illinois, with its large black population, where leaks were discovered on the Illinois side. The Associated Press reported that at one place “water was bubbling out of the ground like a volcano.”
John Barry, author of “Rising Tide” about the 1927 floods, told the Christian Science Monitor that the low standards governing U.S. levees are a joke around the world. The Dutch inland standards are 12 times as rigid as the U.S. and their ocean levee standards are 100 times as rigid.
The politicians, from Bush to McCain to Obama, paid lip service to the flood victims, posing for photo ops in brief visits with survivors. These ruling-class servants are ready to spend trillions on imperialist oil wars while never caring about workers’ lives, from the Mid-West to the Mid-East. Capitalism’s priority lies in its drive for maximum profits, not in protecting people’s lives.