For southwest Flint resident Qiana Dawson, it started when she was combing her 2-year-old daughter Rylan’s hair. Dawson was gently spraying water on the child’s head to ease the task, when Rylan started crying, as if she were in pain. She took her to a dermatologist.
And that was when her family discovered the problem with Flint’s water. “I don’t think you anticipate things like this,” Dawson said nearly two years later. “You take water for granted.” Even in hardscrabble Flint, drifting in and out of receivership since the last century, with a population that’s shrunk nearly 21 percent in 15 years and has one of the nation’s top crime rates — clean, healthy tap water seemed like a citizen’s basic right. Now Flint’s water is only safe for washing floors and flushing toilets. Dawson and her family of four have had to use bottled water for everything else—brushing teeth, cooking, washing vegetables,
In 1895, Eugene V. Debs — the patriotic labor leader, socialist, and five-time presidential candidate — observed: “There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows and let the whales slip through.”
In that regard, our justice system hasn’t changed that much in the 119 years since Debs uttered those words. We spend many more resources policing and prosecuting crime in the streets than crime in the suites, even though corporate crime is much more costly in terms of death, injury and disease.
If you need evidence of this double standard, look no farther than how the federal government has “punished” General Motors for failure to provide timely information about mishandling its recall of about 2.5 million cars with a defective ignition switches that the company has linked to 13 deaths.
On March 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration insisted that GM answers 107 questions about why the company waited until this February to begin its recall when it knew about the problem as early as 2001.