Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mad cow is good for you! Government is bad!

The Republicans say so.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains: (my bold)

Lately, however, there always seems to be at least one food-safety crisis in the headlines — tainted spinach, poisonous peanut butter and, currently, the attack of the killer tomatoes. The declining credibility of U.S. food regulation has even led to a foreign-policy crisis: there have been mass demonstrations in South Korea protesting the pro-American prime minister’s decision to allow imports of U.S. beef, banned after mad cow disease was detected in 2003.

How did America find itself back in The Jungle?

It started with ideology. Hard-core American conservatives have long idealized the Gilded Age, regarding everything that followed — not just the New Deal, but even the Progressive Era — as a great diversion from the true path of capitalism.

Thus, when Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, was asked about his ultimate goal, he replied that he wanted a restoration of the way America was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

The late Milton Friedman agreed, calling for the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration. It was unnecessary, he argued: private companies would avoid taking risks with public health to safeguard their reputations and to avoid damaging class-action lawsuits. (Friedman, unlike almost every other conservative I can think of, viewed lawyers as the guardians of free-market capitalism.)

Such hard-core opponents of regulation were once part of the political fringe, but with the rise of modern movement conservatism they moved into the corridors of power. They never had enough votes to abolish the F.D.A. or eliminate meat inspections, but they could and did set about making the agencies charged with ensuring food safety ineffective.

So every e-coli drenched spinach leaf and every tomato seething with salmonella comes directly from a government run by Republicans. Take a look at a government run by those who hate governing. It doesn't, can't, won't work. Which is what they intended all along.

Paul Krugman ends his article:
The moral of this story is that failure to regulate effectively isn’t just bad for consumers, it’s bad for business.

And in the case of food, what we need to do now — for the sake of both our health and our export markets — is to go back to the way it was after Teddy Roosevelt, when the Socialists took over. It’s time to get back to the business of ensuring that American food is safe.

Just an interesting aside... weren't the Republicans just a moment ago embracing the legacy of Teddy?

Continuing where he left off in his economic talk last week in Brooklyn and foreshadowing his major speech tomorrow on the topic tomorrow in Pittsburgh, McCain said “there is a role for government” in improving the economy. “There always is.”

“I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” he reminded.

crossposted at Rants from the Rookery