Floods in California: Not a “Natural” Catastrophe

This year has seen extraordinary amounts of rain in California, putting inordinate amounts of stress on the levees. The 1,700 person town of Pajaro, home to mostly undocumented farm workers, was flooded due to levees breaking. It was evacuated just ahead of the floodwaters when the rains were more than the Pajaro levee could bear.

The breach of the Pajaro levee was not just due to this very wet winter. The Pajaro has experienced floods 5 times in the past, and one time resulted in 2 deaths. The levees were breached because they were grossly under-engineered. As far back as the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers recognized the Pajaro levee was inadequate to protect the town from flooding. The cost-benefit analysis from the Army Corps determined that the cost of repairing the levee was too high to protect a town of low-income farmworkers.

Now many of the evacuated townspeople are living in shelters outside of town. They are starting to gather at the barriers of the town, wanting to return, to check on their homes, and their pets. “Why can’t they escort some of us to our homes to make sure they’re okay?” one farmworker asked. “I want to feed my dogs. But instead, they’re treating us like criminals, not letting us through.” But the county had no estimate as to when they might be able to return.

To make matters worse, at this time, the evacuees cannot work, since they don’t have their tools or cars to get to work. Governor Newsom claimed there was $42 million in aid available, but then realized there was only $300,000. This was almost in the same breath that the governor declared that the failed SVB bank would be bailed out and all depositors would be “made whole,” regardless of the amount of their deposits.  FDIC insurance covers deposits in failed banks up to $250,000 per individual, and in this case decided to make the big investors whole, covering over $250,000! So one depositor is worth the same as an entire town of migrant workers?

Within the capitalist system, it is obvious that government protects capital and not people.