Monday, April 29, 2013


This one is all about the social factory, the social wage, and white supremacy.  Really, that's it.  We tend to treat cutbacks in public spending, or cutting programs, and all that as some separate category of capitalism.  It's not.  All of the social assistance programs, all of the programs that are there to help out, or make life better are really just part of the wage workers get, only it is coming from the state which is either acting on behalf or is (depending on your point of view) collective capitalism.  It is there to deal with the subsistence of the working class, its reproduction, and it saves private capital, seemingly, to take care of some real need their workers have so that their labor power can be purchased more cheaply.  

So when you see a program, like the lead paint program in Detroit, cut what is really happening is an attempt to create more surplus value out of the class as a whole, it is an attempt at dealing with the declining rate of surplus value, no different really, then cutting wages, or worker benefits on the job, or increasing hours, or whatever.  It is putting the squeeze on.  It is happening outside the factory because in reality there is no more outside the factory.  We all live in one big social factory where everything we do has to be about Capital now, about reproduction, accumulation, etc. ad. nausium.  

It is usually racist and white supremacist as well.  Look at Detroit.  White working people (waged and unwaged) will suffer from this cutback (the accompanying article contains a video with a "white person" in the feature role), but it is black working people who will really take the hit.  I don't have a survey handy, but I would bet dollars to donuts that the numbers and percentage of black folks who live in housing where their children are exposed to lead poisoning  is far greater than the number of white folks.  I sure as hell also know that the number of poor children exposed to lead poisoning  is far greater then the number of wealthy kids.

Don't let them fool you that cutting these types of programs is somehow in your or anyone else's (but for Mr. Capitalist) benefit.  It also isn't because some evil person woke up one day and said, "well, hell, what can we do to hurt working people or black people or whomever today."  It is not austerity.  It's about profit.  It's about surplus value. It's about the collective capitalist and the social worker.  It always is.  Pretty much everything is in the world of Empire and Global Capital.

The following is from the Detroit Free Press.

Kids put at risk for lead poisoning as 

programs cut

Detroit resident has trouble with city's lead prog...
Detroit resident has trouble with city's lead prog...: Heidi Peterson, 36, of Detroit, talks about having difficulty getting help dealing with the lead paint in her 1907 home that has caused her one-year-old child to be diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels of 34 micrograms/dl.
    Sarah Kathryn Peterson, 1, of Detroit, sits in the room as her mother Heidi Peterson, 36, of Detroit, talks about how she is having difficulty getting help dealing with the lead paint in her 1907 home that has caused her one-year-old child to be diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels of 34 micrograms/dl.
    Heidi Peterson of Detroit and daughter Sarah in their 1907 home that has rooms closed off because of lead dust. Budget cuts and shifted priorities have decimated the city's response to child lead poisoning. / RYAN GARZA/Detroit Free Press
    Sarah's blood-lead level has been as high as 34 micrograms per deciliter — almost seven times the federal standard for intervention. / Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press

    Lead: Get tested, get help

    The Michigan Department of Community Health recommends parents ask their family doctor, pediatrician or local clinic to do a blood-lead test on their child at 12 months and 24 months. Medicaid insurance will pay for it if a child is enrolled. Parents are encouraged to ask about fee waivers if they cannot afford their child’s test.
    If a child is diagnosed with elevated blood-lead levels, here are resources that can help:
    Detroit home rehabilitation grant program
    Information: 313-224-3461
    CLEARCorps, a nonprofit organization, offers a limited number of home lead hazard abatement grants and other resources.
    Information: 313-924-4000
    Wayne County
    Wayne County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division
    Information: 734-727-7400
    Oakland and Macomb counties
    Michigan Department of Community Health’s Lead Safe Homes grant program
    Apply at: and then click “Help For Lead Safe Homes” link.
    The program also is open to Detroit residents.
    Information: 866-691-5323
    Oakland County’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
    Information: 248-424-7066.
    Macomb County Public Health
    Information: 586-469-5236
    Washtenaw County
    Washtenaw County Environmental Health
    Information: 734-222-3827
    Elsewhere in Michigan
    The Michigan Department of Community Health’s Lead Safe Homes grant program is open to families anywhere in Michigan with a child testing with 10 micrograms or higher of lead per deciliter of blood.
    Apply at: and then click “Help For Lead Safe Homes” link.
    Information: 866-691-5323

    The fallout

    ■ Home investigations after a child is found with lead poisoning have stopped.
    ■ There is now only one nurse for in-home lead case management for all of Detroit.
    ■ Families with a lead-poisoned child must now join a 2,000-family waiting list seeking home rehab grants.
    ■ A program to prosecute landlords who fail to remove lead from rental properties has come to a standstill.
    Detroit no longer has a program dedicated to home lead abatement. Work needed on Peterson's home exceeds what the city will pay.
    Heidi Peterson, 36, of Detroit, shows the living area in the attic of her home on Friday April 26, 2013 that is safe for her and her one year-old daughter Sarah Kathryn Peterson have to live in that is free of lead dust. Peterson is having difficulty getting help dealing with the lead paint in her 1907 home that has caused her one-year-old child to be diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels of 34 micrograms/dl. Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press / Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press
    Light struggles to shine the through windows of the dark attic where Heidi Peterson and her 18-month-old daughter, Sarah, now make their life.

    A TV playing cartoons, and the high chair from which Sarah watches them, are two of just a few pieces of furniture in what has become their living space.

    They have cornered themselves here, in their otherwise large old home on Edison Street, because health inspectors say it is one area that tests free of lead. But even that is not a solution. Cooking means going downstairs. Coming and going from the house means passing through invisible dangers.

    Peterson’s house is poisoning her daughter.

    Sarah in recent months has tested for blood-lead levels as high as 34 micrograms per deciliter — almost seven times the federal standard for intervention.

    The unemployed single mother has received a nursing consult, inspections, even bids from contractors to remove the lead hazard. But Detroit no longer has a program dedicated to home lead abatement, and Peterson cannot get the work done through the city’s remaining home rehabilitation program. What is needed on her 1907 home exceeds what the city will pay.

    “It makes me sick to my stomach. I feel helpless,” said Peterson, 36. “I can’t stay in this home waiting forever, because the more I wait, the more likely my child is going to be developmentally disabled.”

    Peterson’s ordeal is a poignant example of a larger city crisis: Budget cuts, expired grants and shifted priorities have decimated the city’s response to child lead poisoning. Detroit has some of the highest child lead poisoning levels among all large U.S. cities because of the city’s older housing stock and the prevalence of lead paint usage in the 1970s and earlier.

    With the cuts, testing for lead poisoning in children has become more limited. Home investigations after a child tests positive have stopped. And a Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office program to go after landlords with lead-contaminated rental properties has come to a standstill.

    It is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lowered the blood-lead levels at which action should be taken to help children. And Congress has slashed the CDC’s lead budget by 93%.

    More than 2,300 Detroit children ages 6 and younger have lead poisoning needing intervention, per the CDC’s new guidelines. And those are just the known ones; fewer than half of city children that age have been tested for lead.

    The toxic metal can cause many problems, but its most insidious attack is on a child’s developing brain. Research has connected lead to decreased intelligence, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

    “It’s 100% preventable,” said Mary Sue Schottenfels, executive director of theCommunity Lead Education and Reduction Corps, or CLEARCorps, a nonprofit dedicated to lead poisoning prevention in Detroit.

    But as of last October, the city Department of Health and Wellness Promotion no longer has a lead program. That includes the loss of investigators who would investigate homes for lead after a doctor or health department informed them of a poisoned child.

    Now, “those houses are never inspected, and the people never know where the lead hazards are,” Schottenfels said. “It’s scandalous.”

    Informational follow-ups with a nurse still occur, now conducted by the nonprofitInstitute for Population Health (IPOP) through one nurse. At its peak around 2009, the city health department had five nurses dedicated to lead.

    The institute conducts in-home case management when a child younger than 6 has lead levels of 20 micrograms per deciliter or higher, or a child 3 or younger has blood contamination at 10 micrograms or higher. That’s two to four times higher than the CDC’s recommended level for intervention.

    “We all know there can be detrimental effects at levels as low as 5 (micrograms) or even lower,” said Jane Nickert, IPOP care coordination manager. “Unfortunately, I’m not sure any state has the infrastructure to provide in-home services to every child who needs them.”

    Rental properties

    Budget cuts have scuttled a successful program through which the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office goes after Detroit landlords who don’t address lead contamination in their rental properties, said assistant prosecutor Mary Morrow, director of the office’s lead enforcement advocacy division.

    Under the program, Detroit officials referred to the prosecutor cases where children had elevated blood-lead levels in a rental home. The Prosecutor’s Office would then send a letter to the landlord giving 90 days to address the problems or face charges. The health department would then resend inspectors to check whether the landlord complied.

    From 2006 until about 2010, the program contributed to the remediation of more than 200 rental properties in the city, Morrow said. Landlords were required to address lead not only in the rental home where a problem was discovered but in all their rental properties.

    The program ground to a halt, however, “when things started to fall apart at the city and we stopped getting cases,” Morrow said.

    In the past year, the Prosecutor’s Office has charged one landlord referred to it — and that came from IPOP, Morrow said.

    “The follow-up we need on most of the cases is not happening,” she said. “It is putting kids at risk.”

    The city in 2010 amended its property maintenance code to require landlords to have lead inspections and risk assessments performed on all rental properties built before 1978. But enforcement has proven difficult in the city’s current financial condition, Morrow said.

    Grant expires

    A three-year, more than $3.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that helped fund lead hazard abatement in Detroit expired in mid-December. About 214 city homes received work through the grant, said Eric Johnson, the Detroit Planning and Development Department’s acting chief of housing rehabilitation.

    The city is now attempting to provide lead remediation through another, $5.3-million community development block grant from HUD for housing rehabilitation, Johnson said. That program also provides for home repair needs such as roofs, plumbing and furnaces for low-income families, and has a waiting list of more than 2,000 families.

    But Johnson said families with children age 6 or younger with elevated blood-lead levels are given priority.

    “We still will be getting referrals from the health department for children that have been poisoned,” he said. “They will still be getting assistance. They will still be our priority.”

    Morrow, however, questioned whether the home rehab program can adequately address lead.

    “They’re not going in and looking for lead the way they were when the health department had a lead program,” she said.

    The program also has several limitations. Those living in multi-family dwellings with more than four units aren’t eligible, nor are those with unpaid city property taxes.

    “Think about how many people are in arrears on their property taxes,” Schottenfels said. “In the neighborhoods we work in, it’s up to 80%.”

    Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Department of Urban Studies, said someone needs to step in and pay for the missing gaps in lead response.

    “This will prevent huge downstream costs for Detroit children,” Thompson said. “We’re talking increased crime, decreased performance in school, decreased lifetime earnings.

    “We need to prevent this scourge from undermining the capacity of our kids.”

    Meanwhile, Peterson tries to survive, without any family nearby to help. She said the shelters on the list she was given are all full. She and Sarah left for an extended-stay motel for a few weeks, but the money ran out. And she worries that criminals will target her home when it is vacant, as they have in the past.

    She keeps a stack of cardboard boxes nearby. Peterson said if no help is forthcoming to remove the lead that is poisoning her child, she will leave, but she is not sure for where.

    She will try to sell the house, though it likely is not eligible for a buyer’s mortgage because of its structural damage, she said.

    “It’s my only asset, but I have to,” she said. “The house is not worth my baby’s health.”

    Contact Keith Matheny: 313-319-8323 or

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