Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pledge To America: #3

A section in the GOP's Pledge to America is entitled "A Plan to Create Jobs and End Economic Uncertainty and Make America More Competitive" includes a subsection "Rein in the Red Tape Factory in Washington, D.C." It reads

To provide stability, we will require congressional aproval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more. This is the threshold at which the government deems a regulation "economicallly significant." If a regulation is so "significant" and costly that it may harm job creation, Congress should vote on it first.

Government overreach- such as in food consumption? According to congressional testimony (pdf) from Cosumers Union in April, 2008

Fish consumption is growing and it is estimated that 83 percent of the seafood we eat is imported. Of that, 21 perent comes from China and much of the rest from other developing countries in Asia and Latin America....

We have considerable evidence that seafood imports from China pose significant safety risks. In June, 2007 the FDA put five types of farmed-raised fish and seafood from China under a "detain and desist" order due to repeated findings that the fish contained chemicals banned from seafood in the United States.

FDA is actually very limited in what it can do to insure (sic) the safety of imports from China or anywhere else. Today it inspects less than 1 percent of food imports entering the country. Today, it inspects less than one percent of food imports entering the country. There are over 300 ports (many landlocked) where food can enter. At the peak of its funding, there were FDA inspectors stationed at only 90 of them, and the number of inspectors has dropped since then.4 This has led to a phenomenon known as “port shopping.” Indeed, if a shipment of seafood from China is rejected by FDA inspectors at one port because it has begun to decompose, there is nothing at all to prevent the importer from trying another port where FDA simply may not be present.

The US government does not protect the public from unsafe imports as well as governments of other developed countries do. While the FDA inspects just 2 percent of seafood imports, the European Union physically inspects 20 percent of fresh, frozen, dried and salted fish and 50 percent of clams and similar shellfish. Japan physically inspected 12 percent of fresh seafood and 21 percent of processed seafood in 2005. If a problem with an import is discovered as a result of people getting sick, the FDA does not have the power to issue a mandatory recall of the food—it must ask the distributor to recall the product.

As with fish, so with eggs. The New York Times reported in August:

Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat.

But when American regulators created new egg safety rules that went into effect last month, they declared that there was not enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to mandate vaccination of hens — a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.

Now, consumers have been shaken by one of the largest egg recalls ever, involving nearly 550 million eggs from two Iowa producers, after a nationwide outbreak of thousands of cases of salmonella was traced to eggs contaminated with the bacteria.

The F.D.A. has said that if its egg safety rules had gone into effect earlier, the crisis might have been averted. Those rules include regular testing for contamination, cleanliness standards for henhouses and refrigeration requirements, all of which experts say are necessary.

However, many industry experts say the absence of mandatory vaccination greatly weakens the F.D.A. rules, depriving them of a crucial step that could prevent future outbreaks.

So the GOP is loathe to acknowledge that deregulation harms the health of Americans and endangers lives. But at least they're concerned about regulations which "may harm job creation." Not so much, as indicated by Mitch McConnell's thus far successful effort to block consideration on the Senate floor of a Democratic corporate tax bill which, The Washington Post explains

includes three provisions. One would end tax deductions that companies may take for expenses incurred when they shutter a U.S. operation and shift the work abroad. The second would impose an income tax on products once made in the U.S. but now manufactured by foreign workers. The third measure would provide a payroll tax incentive for companies to create American jobs by shifting overseas operations back to the U.S.

Democrats said the bill's estimated price tag is $720 million over 10 years.

Business groups are strongly opposed to the Democratic proposal, as McConnell noted on the Senate floor Friday morning when he raised a procedural objection to Reid's maneuver, forcing a Tuesday vote.

"The majority has wasted months in this chamber trying to tell the private sector what to do instead of providing certainty to help them make investment decisions," said McConnell. Many U.S. companies, he said, open operations abroad not to dodge U.S. taxes and workplace laws, but to compete in foreign markets.

Deregulation of unsafe products? Good. Offshoring? Good. Domestic manufacturing? Bad.

Same old GOP. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn writes

This is not a story that begins with the administration of George W. Bush. It begins, instead, with the administration of Ronald Reagan. Convinced that excessive regulation was stifling American innovation and imposing unnecessary costs on the public, Reagan's team changed the way government makes rules.

Prior to the 1980s, agencies like the FDA had authority to finalize regulations on their own. Reagan changed that, forcing agencies to submit all regulations to the Office of Management and Budget, which cast a more skeptical eye on anything that would require the government or business to spend more money. The regulatory process slowed down and, in many cases, the people in charge of it became more skittish.

Clinton didn’t share Reagan's antipathy to regulation. Prodded by consumer advocates and more liberal Democrats, his administration announced its intention to impose new safety requirements on the egg industry. But that happened in 1999, a year before Clinton left office. When George W. Bush succeeded him, the administration’s posture reverted to its 1980s version.

Like Reagan, Bush was skeptical of government interference in the market. And, like Reagan, he appointed officials sympathetic to businesses that wanted to avoid the cost of complying with new federal rules. It was not until 2004, five years after Clinton had proposed the new egg rules, that the Bush Administration issued actual regulatory language. And by 2009, when Bush left office, the administration still had not finalized the rule.

William Hubbard, who was associate FDA commissioner from 1991 until 2005 and now advises the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, tells TNR that the delay was not accidental:

The FDA simply couldn’t get through to the White House. They were very hostile to regulation. ... I was told that each time FDA tried to get the rule cleared through OMB, the response was that there were "not enough bodies in the street," -- that the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths did not rise to the level to justify greater regulation of egg producers. Obviously, public health officials felt strongly that there was a strong justification, but the prevailing attitude at the time within the Administration was that regulation was an evil that should be avoided unless there was a compelling argument for government action.

Yes, it's the same old Republican Party. The only things which change are the names of the corporate lobbyists setting its policies.

No comments:

Overwrought Reaction

Take the "L" and just move on.  162 Democrats joining Republicans to attack free speech and condemn a phrase that advocates one t...