A Nation Free of Lead? Clinton Says She’ll Do It

Philip Bump examines the viability of Hillary Clinton’s pledge that should she be elected president she will “within five years to remove lead from everywhere.”

“That’s almost certainly impossible.”

“Lead isn’t only transmitted in water through lead pipes. It exists, as Clinton pointed out, in paint in homes. For decades it was added to gasoline — an initiative of the auto industry that once made Flint prosperous. Once in gasoline, it spread throughout the environment, contaminating the dirt around roads and the houses adjacent to those roads … Getting rid of those pipes alone within five years would be hugely difficult and massively expensive.”

“The Centers for Disease Control notes that most housing built prior to 1978 uses some lead paint. According to the Census Bureau, there are nearly 70 million houses in the United States that meet that standard. Seventy million.”

“The problem of lead in the United States is a problem for which there is no easy solution. At best, we’ve reached a stalemate with lead, doing our best to reduce our children’s exposure to the metal, an effort that extends back to the late 1970s.”


  1. Literal much?

    She’s talking about lead pipes and lead paint. Not all traces of lead on a planet where it is one of the most common elements.

    It’s an ambitious goal, but one worth tackling.

    1. “It’s an ambitious goal, but one worth tackling.”

      The same could be said for returning to a tuition-free model for public colleges and universities, or for establishing a single-payer system for health care.

      1. Except that you’d never stop paying for that, and I’m all for it, if Bernie would explain how he can do it. Which he never will. Because he’d start bleeding support once people realized the rich can’t be the only ones paying for it.

        This would be a one-time thing (once the lead is gone, it’s gone), that would ALSO help with education–because it’s a lot harder to teach kids who got too much lead in their systems when they were young.

        1. Cal, maybe it’s time we stop arguing over which progressive to pick?

          The people have already made that choice for us.

          1. I agree with you that the Dems seem to have made their choice. However, I don’t agree that the person they have selected is a progressive. Instead, I view her as being to the left of center on some issues, in the middle on some issues, and to the right of center on a few issues, particularly with respect foreign policy and the use of the US military.

            I also think that the GOP voters seem to have made their choice. Unlike the Dems, the GOP voters have decided not to go with the party establishment’s candidate. I think that fact, along with the fact that each party’s candidate has some very strong negatives, will make for a very interesting campaign.

          2. I don’t think it’s helpful to progressivism to narrowly limit who gets to be called a progressive. I mean, the first progressive President (arguably the greatest) was Teddy Roosevelt–you think he was a dove with regards to war? FDR certainly was not, and a good thing too. LBJ took that tendency too far (escalating a war that was entirely optional out of a fear of being seen as weak), but we still got Medicare.

            ALL progressive leaders have greatly disappointed progressive activists. Sanders would have, without question. To paraphrase Mr. Spock, having is often not so pleasing a thing as wanting–not logical, but true.

            With Hillary, her long varied record, we know what we’re getting, and we know she can take the heat.

            The GOP voters have decided to go with fascism. It remains to be seen whether the GOP leadership agrees to go along with them.

            I think our choice is pretty clear. And what we choose will impact not only us, but the entire planet. That’s something I think American progressives don’t think about nearly enough. How many lives did that handful of votes for Ralph Nader cost, around the world? How many more before we fix the damage we caused by taking our eyes off the road?

          3. I don’t think one has to “narrowly limit who gets to be called a progressive” in order to conclude that Clinton not a progressive.

            While she now espouses progressive views on many more issues than she has in the past, I think Clinton overall is a middle of the road (or “third way) politician rather than a progressive, and that has been shown repeatedly by her actions.

          4. Stick all the labels on her you want.

            She’s still part of the left, and always has been. Yes she’s closer to the center than Bernie–which is why she can actually get elected and do something.

            She went from supporting Goldwater in ’64 (when she was a teenager raised in a Republican family) to leaving the Young Republicans at Wellesly, and supporting Eugene McCarthy (one of the many Bernie prototypes you can find in our history, none of whom ever became POTUS, or really achieved much of anything in terms of actual policy changes, though Eugene did help elect Nixon, give him that). Anybody who’d go that far to the left in four years–four years that marked her transition from a child to a young adult–merits the name progressive.

            She fought for civil rights–much longer and harder and more intimately than Bernie did. She fought for women’s rights, for healthcare reform, for a better life for disadvantaged Americans.

            You want perfection–it doesn’t exist–which is why Bernie was so weak on gun control–one of the few progressive issues that would hurt him in Vermont.

            They’re POLITICIANS, not activists. You can’t hold them to the same standards.

            The higher you set the bar, the smaller our tent becomes. And the further right we go.

          5. IMO, one of your problems is that you insist on trying to define others in ways that are not justified by the facts but that are necessary to support your own narrative.

            For example, notwithstanding your inaccurate statement, I don’t “want perfection” because I am fully aware that perfection is an abstract ideal and not a practical goal.

            As for putting labels on Clinton (or any other candidate), you conveniently ignore the fact that you were the one who first put a label on her in this dialogue by saying that the label “progressive” applies to her. I simply responded by pointing out why I think the label you used isn’t applicable to her.

          6. Cal, it just so happens I think this is your problem, not mine. We shall agree to disagree. 🙂

            I’m not sticking the progressive label on her–she stuck it on herself, a long long time ago, and she wears it well. And she would have worn it just as well if Bernie hadn’t run at all. She was meeting with Warren (who took money from Wall Street) before Bernie even declared.

            The label applies to her because she clearly wants progress. Is that even remotely in doubt?

            Do you think it’s a code word for socialist? It isn’t. Never was. Why would we need one these days? I think people used it interchangeably with liberal, and sometimes socialist-leaning folks used it, but it does not mean the same thing.

            See, not everybody who wants progress is a socialist–there’s a dark side to socialism, an intolerant side, a totalitarian side, that some try too hard to pretend doesn’t exist, or is only part of the distant foreign past (you know, like fascism). Socialism has undeniable contributions to make to human society, has contributed mightily in the past, but the notion that you can’t stand for progress if you don’t believe in some ‘ism’ or other–wrong. We can agree on goals without agreeing on theory. Call it pragmatism or praxis–same difference. We spring forward, or we fall back.

            A win in November moves us forward. A loss, no matter how far left our standard bearer may be, moves us the other way. Period.

      1. Cuz terjanderson banned me. I was not sufficiently reverential to the Sacred Bern. 😉

        1. Ha! He did the same to me one, I just emailed Teagan and he fixed it. You should try it, or set up a new account… we miss you over there.

          1. I generally enjoy reading what he has to say, even when I disagree with it.

            Sanders is done in terms of getting the nomination. Question is, does he know it yet?

          2. If he does, he’s doing a horrible job calming the distaste he’s built for Hillary among his supporters. But it’s not like Democratic cannibalism ever came at a cost.

          3. I want to believe he’ll do the right thing.

            But he’s a politician, and what’s more a LIFELONG politician, who has mainly labored in obscurity, viewed as a sort of quaint New England relic, a joke. And I don’t think he ever believed he was going to do this well (who did?). And then the huge cheering crowds, the upset victories, the nonstop attention. This is what I was afraid of, and it has come to pass.

            The bug bit him hard–he started believing his own bullshit (I’m not saying everything he says is bullshit, but some of it is, and it’s important for the bullshitter to know when he’s bullshitting). And for him to be the hero of the piece, somebody had to be the villain. Hillary has somehow always been easy to cast in that role. But it’s bad casting. And it’s destructive to the very goals Sanders is fighting for.

            He has to start pivoting to supporting her in the general, and if he actually tries to fight it out at the convention, that means whatever good was in him has succumbed to the Presidential Virus that all politicians (and I mean every last one of them) carry within them.

          4. Oh man, you need to come back and join us. There’s pretty in depth discussion of all this on the PW side. As I said earlier over there: Wait, so you’re saying running on openness and moral superiority then pivoting hard to backroom dealings to peel off superdelegates is bad politics?

            I always felt abandoning the high ground midstream was the best way to ensure you didn’t get swept away in the river.

          5. I saw that (believe me, I still read the comments over there), and it was a damned good bit of observation, I thought. People always want fair play–when they feel like the game is stacked against them. But show them a way to beat the game, and they’re all for chicanery. How else do you think Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008?

            But he was Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders is just Bernie Sanders. He’s not that good a player. Which is why I don’t want him as captain of our team.

        2. i’m shocked i haven’t been banned too, but so far i just get sternly worded responses ….

          1. Amateur mods on a forum as busy as PW are never a good thing. I think they just get so overwhelmed, they start overreacting, as a defense mechanism.

            A moderator shouldn’t also be commenting. Impossible to be objective about it. But obviously there’s no budget line to compensate people for moderating without commenting (a most unrewarding task). And the mods at PW are valuable as commentators, so it hardly makes sense to keep their input off the forum.

            So I don’t know what the answer is, but it sure as hell shouldn’t be censoring people who haven’t broken any of the rules, simply because they’re saying things the mod doesn’t like. The term “Repressive Tolerance” comes to mind. Marcuse lives.

            And that, btw, is another reason I don’t want Bernie Sanders to be President.

          2. i have no issues when i get facts wrong and am corrected … what i resent is the nastiness of a moderator who’s just annoyed because someone disagrees with them and then makes truly nasty comments that have little to do with the issue and then banning people just because they can … i’ve never seen e grise do that – he always seems pretty measured … but, i agree that moderators – paid or not – should agree that they will act as a ‘moderator’, otherwise just be a commenter like everyone else and speak up like everyone else …. hope to see you back on pw during this election cycle though …

          3. Didn’t see this until now.

            Much as I disagree with terje’s moderating, he certainly does know his onions when it comes to the political process.

            Political history he’s maybe a bit fuzzier on. 😉

  2. Five years may be unrealistically optimistic — but the point is she’s ready and willing to tackle getting rid of lead contamination in the environment. That’s what’s known as being on the side of the angels.

  3. Five years may be unrealistically optimistic — but the point is she’s ready and willing to tackle getting rid of lead contamination in the environment. That’s what’s known as being on the side of the angels.

    1. Say she got rid of half the lead pipes in five years–that alone would be a huge thing. Lead paint is much easier, and we’re a long way towards accomplishing that already.

      Many experts believe that the nationwide fall in the crime rate was caused, in part, by the phasing out of lead paint.

      1. Lead pipes matter more in some areas than others. If the water is alkaline with a high amount of dissolved minerals (particularly carbonates), the lead will never end up in the water. In those cases, replacing the lead is symbolic.

        1. But there’s always the risk of another genius like Snyder showing up in a position of power, isn’t there? Those lead pipes in Flint were never a problem–until he fiddled with the water supply.

          Triage it–get rid of the pipes in more threatened areas first.

          But ultimately, get rid of them all. Because you don’t gamble with the next generation one bit more than you have to.

Comments are closed.