Why Deregulation Is a Crock

Deregulation is always reminding us why the regulations exist in the first place.

From the NYT:

Government inspectors monitoring the automated processing line at the Shapiro Packing meat plant here over the past three years repeatedly discovered sides of beef mottled with cattle manure, a host for bacteria that can be deadly to consumers.Last November the inspectors also found E. coli O157:H7, a dangerous bacterium spread by cattle waste, in hamburger and stopped a shipment waiting to go to public schools from a Shapiro meat-grinding facility. Yet the Department of Agriculture delayed more forceful action and never did more than threaten to shut the packing plant down.

The history of recurring violations at the Shapiro plant illustrates the weaknesses in a new food safety system that the department phased in nationwide from 1998 to 2000, say consumer groups, critics in Congress and some government inspectors.

Critics say the department’s inspection arm, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, has been lax in enforcing safety procedures under the new program, even at plants with repeated violations.

Government audits, interviews with current and former inspectors and a close look at some of 113 meat recalls last year — a record number — show that the inspection service has been slow to establish guidelines for dealing with repeat offenders and has done a poor job of training its inspectors, leaving many uncertain when to take action.

You know, for about 50 years, since muckraker Upton Sinclair took on the food-packing plants in Chicago and forced a laissez-faire, business-oriented govt to clean up the mess that was killing people, we didn’t have to worry that shit was–literally–contaminating our food. But since Reagan began the process of dismantling those regulatory protections saying, “No business would ever endanger its own customers”, we’ve had episode after episode of just that. This is only the latest.

The corporate-driven, obligingly media-regurgitated mythology that “regulations” are onerous burdens piled onto thrifty, safe, consumer-friendly industries by rule-happy bureaucrats for no other reason than the spite and jealousy of the poor for the rich has been systematically depriving us of protections we used to take for granted and that others gave their lives to put in place. The protections that were once consumer-oriented are now business oriented–we protect them from lawsuits when their bottom-line decisions hurt or kill; we protect them from having to pay to clean up their own messes; we protect them from having to pay taxes like the rest of us; we protect them from having to tell the truth about their shoddy products, and on and on and on–and for the sake of… “jobs”, they tell us, but really for the sake of the size of their investor dividends…we are less safe now from predatory corporate practices than at any time since the turn of the last century.

If your job kills–either you or others–is it worth having? Maybe not, but when everybody’s doing it, we have little choice if we want to eat.

One of the immeasurably positive and effective roles govt has had for the last 100 years is protecting its citizens from the illness and even death that result from the unholy worship of frogskins (what Native Americans call money), an adulation that recognizes no virtue absent profit, no responsibility absent force, and no shame absent monetary distress. In the name of “efficiency” or “saving jobs” or “improving our economy”, we’ve allowed ourselves to become targets once again, cannon-fodder on the cut-throat business battlefield. We are trading our health for corporate health, and it’s a bad bargain.

I’ve been reading stories like this for 20 years, and they get worse every year. This company is flirting with bringing the scourge of mad cow disease to our shores for the sake of corporate profits, and the FSIS inspectors aren’t sure what action to take? The situation has apparently devolved to such an extent that positing a wholly-corporate-owned govt is the only thing that would explain it.

At long last, have we had enough yet?

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