A Fitting Finale to Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Senate Career
California’s U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, whose long multi-term career in the Senate is drawing to a close, showed last week the heartfelt compassion she feels for poor and downtrodden urban citizens living in Flint, Michigan.
As a reminder, Flint is a predominantly poor and minority community peopled with residents forced to drink and bathe in lead-contaminated water while local and state officials and the ever-watchful eyes of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency steadfastly looked the other way.
It’s a measure of Sen. Boxer’s character that she and her party apparently only view Michigan’s poor as bartering chips with which to play a high-stakes game of government-shutdown brinksmanship.
Both Boxer and the Democratic Party’s leaders seemed to exhibit selective blindness by avoiding any comparison of the plight of Flint with the equally poor and afflicted predominately Hispanic rural communities in California.
Thousands of California’s rural poor have suffered for years with either with no water at all — a result of drought-dry wells — or are numbered with the millions of others that must drink and bathe in water as contaminated as Flint’s. Lead, selenium, radon or arsenic — California’s drinking water is a toxic brew in many communities.
Sen. Boxer and California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, are big on promises but woefully short on delivering relief to Hispanics, Mixteco, Hmong, South Pacific Islanders and Asians that comprise sorely afflicted California minority communities dotting California’s southern Central Valley.
Last month, U.C. Davis issued its economic estimate of 2016’s drought impacts on California. By Davis’ numbers, just 78,800 acres of the 560,000 acres to be fallowed in 2016 by California farms because of reductions in surface water deliveries due to natural drought. The remaining 86% — an estimated 481,200 acres — will stay barren and unproductive because federal and state regulators limit water deliveries or for other water-policy causes.
In dozens of press releases dating as early as 2013, the two senators have promised to work for these Californians, find solutions and relieve their third-world misery in our first-world country. They invited President Barak Obama to visit and see the casualties first hand. Upon doing so, he promised to make relief for California’s minority communities “his top priority.”
Despite the passing of years, no proposals or active help followed. Rather, the record shows that the senators and administration teamed up repeatedly to derail a series of proposed Congressional solutions to California’s water woes. All the while, temporary fixes drained state and county coffers waiting for federal aid.
Then, following a visit by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to the hard-hit Central Valley in September, Feinstein, Boxer, and Democratic Party spokespeople made the rounds of Sunday-morning talk shows to poke fun at Trump for saying California’s drought was manmade, not natural. In the cool light of day, the U.C. Davis economic report confirmed that his characterization of drought impacts was more true than not.
The past week in Congress was no exception.
California’s congressional delegation’s Democrats, led by Sen. Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, raised a highly public stink over placement of monetary relief for Flint in a continuing resolution meant to keep the federal government operating until December 9, after the general election. Last Tuesday, Democrats vowed to let the government grind to a halt rather than pass a resolution that ignored Flint’s misery.
There was no mention of California’s minority communities suffering long years without water or drinking and bathing in contaminated water supplies. Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi neither championed help for California’s poor nor pushed to provide them aid.
The matter proved embarrassing to the Democrats and, in the end, a deal was struck: Flint’s poor communities will receive aid, and Louisiana’s flood victims will see money to help start anew. But, as has been true so many times in the past, solutions for California’s plight were nowhere to be found.
The drought-weary, waterless California minority communities that Boxer, Pelosi, Feinstein and their political party once showcased on their national stage must look forward to no relief from their misery and pain.
After four years of unkept promises — a period longer than the entirety of World War II — California’s minority poor were again left to watch from the sidelines as victims of manmade and natural disasters in Louisiana and Flint jumped the line and were given succor and care.
This past week’s closing act in a decades-long set confers on Barbara Boxer a legacy of neglect of her constituents as the crowning achievement of her political career. Before President Obama even signed the deal, both houses of Congress — including Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi — went on extended recess vacations until after the November election.
I doubt you’ll hear much about this in their recess electioneering appearances and press events. But it’s important to record the story before it is quickly swept under the rug and forgotten, along with Sen. Boxer’s career’s sunset political ploy.