Wednesday, January 05, 2011

How Do Entire Cities Get Bedbugs?

by Dick Mac

As the right-wing continues spending their political capital espousing the virtues of small government, they continue to spend more and more money on things that benefit fewer and fewer people.

The move to privatize government services has not led to efficiency and savings, privatization has led to fewer services for more money and huge profits for companies who win the contracts for privatized services.

It's getting easier and easier to see the breakdown of society through the elimination of formerly essential services. The first major incident in recent memory was he collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The lack of infrastructure maintenance, always one of the first things cut when right-wingers take control, has become embarrassing. We can't even keep our bridges up and our roads repaired.

The degradation of the schools, the closing of public health facilities, the loss of libraries and firehouses, reductions in police forces, and a general withdrawal of services is leading to a sickly, dirty, broken-down nation where the money collected for society is funnelled to the top and basic societal needs are ignored.

The reemergence of bedbugs in American cities is a sign of the breakdown of the most basic services a government should provide. Bedbugs were all but eradicated until recently. With cuts to all pest control programs in every state and municipality, it didn't take long for bedbugs to return.

In New York, our municipal government focuses services and investment on a very small percentage of the people, all living in one of the five boroughs. Our mayor is a fan of providing "development" money to companies to "clean-up" the city and its image. The city then ensures that those areas are well-maintained, either with direct subsidies or corporate "partnerships."

Corporate "partnerships" are organizations formed between the local government and local companies (often multi-national corporations with a local presence). The government says: OK, we will give you a tax break of so much money per year for so many years, and you will pay to sweep the streets and keep the area clean.

This sounds like something companies and citizens alike used to do for free: people kept the area around their home and business clean. Now, though, Verizon and Bank of America and May Department Stores, et al., expect to receive millions in tax breaks to perform services that cost thousands to perform. Then they hire local people at low wages and no benefits, and pocket the difference. All the while the municipal coffers shrink, and the services for areas of the city outside the little circle created by these partnerships become underfunded.

What city can any longer pay attention to its rodent and pest problem, its bridges and tunnels, its municipal buildings like schools and libraries?

In a recent article on, Morgan Brennan made this point about the resurgence of bedbugs:

Although the exact cause remains a mystery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chalk up the resurgence of these tiny terrors to "increased resistance of bed bugs to available pesticides, greater international and domestic travel, lack of knowledge regarding control of bed bugs due to their prolonged absence, and the continuing decline or elimination of effective vector/pest control programs at state and local public health agencies."

America's Worst Bed Bug-Infested Cities

[T]he continuing decline or elimination of effective vector/pest control programs at state and local public health agencies.

Bedbugs, falling bridge, closing schools, firehouses and libraries . . . what next?

Guys like me will always blame the rich and the corporations, and guys on the right will always blame the poor and the unions, while both sides place blame on the politicians.

I never get the logic that says the poor are hurting he economy, when they do not control any money or can even participate in the economy; and the union members I know all sink their money directly back into the economy by spending the money they earn.

So, why can't we afford the basic services that made us a once-great civilization?

Must be the unions, and the poor, and the working poor. Right?

Who isn't carrying their share of the burden of running the government?

I sleep well at night knowing that the poor, working poor, and the middle class aren't getting all our tax dollars, or getting rich on tax breaks: they all pay their taxes, however much or little that may be.

Damn! If only the government would get out of the business of education and maintenance and transportation and public safety and trash control and public health, and let corporations run everything, we wouldn't be in this mess. Right?


So, how do entire cities get bedbugs? They sacrifice basic government services at the altar of the free-market and pretend that some magical money is going to trickle-down to the municipalities through the largess of the wealthiest citizens. We've been doing it for thirty years and it is a failure. Governments need money to run, big countries need big governments, big governments cost money, the people with the most money have the most to spend. This isn't socialism! This is civilization!

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