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Tilting at Windmills

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October 24, 2010

E COLI CONSERVATISM ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE.... Over the summer, there was a major egg recall, following at least 1,300 salmonella-related illnesses spanning 22 states over the summer. The Washington Post reported in August that the outbreak highlights the need to fix "the holes in the country's food safety net."

That truth was hard to deny, and even harder to ignore. As we learned more about the story, we saw that the salmonella problems stemmed from an uninspected producer in Iowa, with a record of health, safety, labor, and other violations that go back 20 years. The need for better regulations and enforcement has been obvious for decades, but conservative, anti-regulatory lawmakers have consistently put industry profits above public safety.

With this in mind, Zaid Jilani flags a story that's so astounding, it's almost hard to believe.

Although there are a diverse set of political beliefs in the United States, there are currently two major political philosophies clashing for control of the American body politic. One, the progressive view, believes in a society where a democratically elected government plays an active role in helping all people achieve the American Dream, no matter who they are. The other, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own-society that favors the wealthy, big corporations, and other privileged sectors of society.

GOP House candidate Jesse Kelly, who is running in Arizona's 8th congressional district, championed this second vision a week ago at a campaign rally hosted by the Pima County Tea Party Patriots. During a question-and-answer period, a voter asked Kelly about the recent salmonella outbreak, which led to recall of more than half a billion eggs.

The voter asked if Kelly, if elected, would he help pass a law that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies to shut down companies that have too many safety violations, such as the companies that allowed millions of eggs that sickened people to be sold to the public. Kelly responded that he doesn't "believe what we're lacking right now is more regulations on companies," complaining that "you could probably spit on the grass and get arrested by the federal government by now." When the voter followed up by asking, "Who's protecting us?" Kelly responded, "It's our job to protect ourselves." The exasperated voter asked once more, "Am I supposed to go to a chicken farmer and say I'd like you to close down because all of your birds are half dead?" Kelly once more answered, "There's a new thing that comes along every day. But I know this: Every part of our economy that is regulated by the government doesn't have fewer disasters, it has more."

If you're skeptical a congressional candidate could really be this crazy, all of this was captured on video.

It really never occurred to me that right-wing Republicans would start running on a pro-salmonella platform, but Jesse Kelly and his Tea Party allies have a surprisingly twisted worldview. Kelly seriously seems to believe that laws to enforce food safety are unnecessary, and may ultimately make matters worse. Just let the free market work its magic, and everything will be fine.

It's hard to overstate how radical this is. A lack of regulation is literally putting Americans who eat food in the hospital with life-threatening illnesses, but instead of wanting to improve safeguards, zealots like Kelly insist the FDA should stand aside and let us fend for ourselves. Usually, when an outbreak occurs, reasonable people notice the need for public safety and reject the anti-government crusade. This congressional candidate -- who stands a fairly strong chance of winning -- is doubling down. Jesse Kelly actually supports the notion of Americans playing Russian Roulette every time they go to the grocery store.

A few years ago, Rick Perlstein even coined a phrase to capture this ideology: "E. Coli Conservatism."

I can only assume the vast majority of the country has no idea what they're about the elect.

Steve Benen 8:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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And yet, many of people just like Kelly are poised to assume positions of power and influence in our government.

The old saying "people get the government that they deserve" is fine for a laugh and all, but I don't feel like I deserve people like this.

Yeah, I know, elect more and better Democrats. I just wish Democrats would show some spine and take a stand against this dynamic, instead of continuing the ruse of 'reaching across the aisle' and generally being cowards.

Posted by: terraformer on October 24, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"It really never occurred to me that right-wing Republicans would start running on a pro-salmonella platform,"

I'm surprised he didn't go so far as to say the existing regulations caused the salmonella outbreak. He's obviously a moderate republican.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on October 24, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

You have to wonder if the rich don't eat eggs too. Of course, perhaps they are rich enough to have tasters to pre-taste their meals. If the tasters die, so be it. At least the rich will live on.

Posted by: walldon on October 24, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Don't let's forget the other prong to this attack on consumers: tort reform (in addition to the privatization of the courts in the form of separate business venues and binding arbitration).

Posted by: jhm on October 24, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

This hands off approach should work wonders with the federal air traffic control system. Think of the tax money we'll save, too!

Posted by: leoguy on October 24, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

No different than the views of St Ronny, who did not believe in Product Liability. He said no manufacturer would knowingly make defective products in order to cut costs because, if they did, no one would buy them. He never explained how many would have to become either maimed or be killed before others would stop buying them.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 24, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

The interesting thing to me is that regulators are hands-off on this issue, but extremely hands-on on the raw milk issue. I'm not a raw-milkist, but I am outraged by raids on legal licensed dairies by federal agents with guns drawn.

Posted by: Thefeastnearby on October 24, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I can only assume the vast majority of the country has no idea what they're about the elect.

this has been true for 30 years as US corporate media hides what the true republican ideology is, instead keeping the message on denigrating democrats and promoting the distractions that republicans put out like their "family values" and religious BS

Posted by: pluege on October 24, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

the corporatist ideology is a 2 parter: once republicans eviscerate government regulation (part 1), then they make sure there aren't investigations into the resulting disasters killing and maiming millions - they will make sure cover-up and obstruction is the order of the day protecting their plutocratic corporatist brethren.

Posted by: gak on October 24, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

At Alice's Restaurant:
"Hey Alice, them eggs in the omlette safe to eat?
"Yeah, I think so."
"How you know?"
"Well, after eatin' 'em, only Ol' Max died, and Mrs. Regan's kids got sick. But they got better."
"Why should I order 'em, then?"
"Well, you're a fine strapping lad, so I don't think you'll have any problems."
"Better give me the burger intead."
"Rare, like usual?"
"Yeah. With a side Caesar Salad. I'm trying to watch my 'girlish figure.'"
"You know the dressin's made with raw eggs, right?"
"Yeah, but it's only part of one egg. Not like them 3 or 4 egg monsters you put in them omlette's."
"OK, it's your funeral. Who you votin' for next week?"
"The Republicans. Them Democrats is too socialist for me, stickin' their noses where they don't belong."
"OK, it's your funeral..."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 24, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Most people have no understanding of history. They are use to being able tonwake up in the morning eat their, get a glass of water from the sink and never have give it a second thought. That's been true for over 60 years. They just think that's normal. They don't have any knowledge of the pre-regulation days. Days when 10s of thousands of people got sick from food and water born illnesses every year. When thousands died.

Up until the mid 20th century that was the norm. It took heavy government regulation, first at the state level and then the federal level, to end the routine outbreaks. People just don't make the connection that regulations have have saved 10s if not 100s of thousands of lives over the past 60 some years because they don't remember and not taught about the world prior to those regulations.

It's a lot like Wall Street regulation. People don't can't make the connection between 60 some years of a relatively stable economy and 30s and 40s era regulations on Wall Street. They don't know that prior to those regulations the US us to go through a massive boom-bust cycle with double digit inflation every 10-15 years. One of the reasons FDR had such strong support was not only the Great Depression but because large segments of the population had lived through the see-saw nature of the economy and remembered the previous depressions.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 24, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Most people have no understanding of history. . .Days when 10s of thousands of people got sick from food and water born illnesses every year. When thousands died." thorin-1

History? this WEEK hundreds died in Haiti, from cholera- a water borne illness. It wouldn't take much to repeat that in the good ol' USA- antiquated water treatment plants, plus funding cuts to local municipalities. Chlorination costs money!

Back in high school we read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." I bet they don't do that now. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 24, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

When you say Kelly is running on a pro-salmonella platform aren't setting up a straw man for the Republican?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 24, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"He never explained how many would have to become either maimed or be killed before others would stop buying them."
Posted by: berttheclock on October 24, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Nor how we'd ever learn of the deaths and dismemberments when...
...the corporate media would never report them.
...the few lawsuits that even looked as if they might get near a courthouse doorway would be settled for (relatively) minor amounts, but always with nondisclosure clauses that would keep unpublicized not only the outcomes or dollar amounts involved, but the very existence of the cases and harms involved.
And yet there are pinheads out there -- tens of millions of them -- who buy this by the barrel. It's a constant effort to remind myself that the average IQ in the country is 100... and even 100 (let alone 5, 10, 12 points lower) jest ain't that bright.

Posted by: smartalek on October 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Will he let us keep our guns?
Will he have every knee bend at Jesus' name?
Will he piss liberals off?

Good enough for me... where's my ballot?

Posted by: Median Mid-term Voter on October 24, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

@thorin1 - thank you. I work for a company that is involved in food safety and argue with people all the time who love to create a false history where all food was local and plentiful, safe and wholesome. We don't have data about who and how many died from Salmonella, E coli, listeria, etc. but we do know that life expectancy on farms until the early 20th c. was in the 40s.

Bacteria is natural organic, local and omnipresent on farms

(And before somebody is tempted to write about infant mortality, recall that children are the most likely to die from food-borne illness and that a nursing mother can shed bacteria to her child.)

It is particularly troublesome to me because many of these people are fairly liberal but seem to catch the ant-regulation bug and start turning tea-baggy when discussing things like pasteurization

Posted by: dyspeptic on October 24, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

I've been saying for years that the RNC should produce a video for use in schools when kids turn 6:

"Canary in a Coal Mine: How YOU Can Help America's Companies By Being Their Food-Borne Pathogen Early-Warning System"

Because that's what they are, in the absence of regulation and enforcement.

Posted by: George on October 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

You know, human beings ate food for hundreds of thousands of years before the FDA & Ag Dept showed up.

How about we teach people to wash their food, don't cross-contaminate and cook it thoroughly?

Because that's going to do a hell of a lot more good.

Posted by: JEA on October 24, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

No, actually, I can't read. Why do you ask?

Posted by: JEA on October 24, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

The questioner should have asked, "Since you say that It's our job to protect ourselves,' does that mean I would be justified in taking the law into my own hands and shoot the egg producer whose product sickened my family and hundreds of others?"

Posted by: Takeo on October 24, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

It’s the Neanderthal party.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 24, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I've been saying for years that the RNC should produce a video for use in schools when kids turn 6:

"Canary in a Coal Mine: How YOU Can Help America's Companies By Being Their Food-Borne Pathogen Early-Warning System"

Because that's what they are, in the absence of regulation and enforcement.
Posted by: George on October 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Don't give them any more ideas. Sadly, since America has to learn everything the hard way due to the majority of the public's memory being about 45 minutes, what unfortunately is going to have to happen for people to wake up is something truly appalling and awful, like six or seven hundred schoolkids dying nationwide because of one of these bacteria outbreaks due to lack of regulation. Even in such a tragic case, you can be sure profit-above-all-else Republicans will rush to the defense of their corporate masters, bellowing that there's already "enough regulation" and going on and on about the vaunted "free market" being enough to protect the public. In short: "Dead kids, huh? Sorra 'bout that."

In the interim, it's truly nauseating to think that the teabaggers in the audience that listened to this corporate stooge's answer are dumb enough to fall for it and still vote for him.

Posted by: electrolite on October 24, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the vast majority of the country is about to elect these wingnuts, and the finger should be pointed, in part, to the media for its failure to expose their radical free-market agenda and point out the real-world consequences of enacting this dangerous agenda. The media is so happy to have these Tea Party chuckleheads to cover that they can't be bothered to do the real work of analyzing policy.

The media also tends to build on the false premise that both parties have identified certain "problems" -- such as lack of access to health insurance or salmonella outbreaks -- that need to be addressed; they just disagree on how to address them. The media (and the Democrats) need to get over it -- the Republicans do not see salmonella outbreaks, pre-existing condition exclusions, poverty, crazy derivative trading, mine safety, or climate change as "problems" that need to be addressed by legislators. If it doesn't involve lining the pockets of the Forbes 400, bombing Muslims to smithereens, or imposing their fundamentalist morality on the rest of us, it's not on their to-do list. Period.

Posted by: ameshall on October 24, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

A member of my extended family (a child) is deadly allergic to peanuts. I should ask those family members (they are conservative) what they think - should food safety be compromised? Thought about that (peanut allergy) as I read comments on Think Progress.

"Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking." Wizard of Oz quote that could be applied to Kelly.

Posted by: Appalled on October 24, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Did the FDA stop the salmonella outbreak? Could they have? You do understand that meat, poultry, and EGGS fall under the pervue of the Dept. of Agriculture. If you people ar waiting on the FDA to PROTECT you from salmonella or any other food borne illness then good luck. Remember the tainted tomatoes.....oops, I mean lettuce..... I mean peppers... whatever it was eh? If you are depending on them to insure your drugs are safe, good luck again. Do some research on how successful the FDA has been at keeping bad drugs off the market. Check out the list of additives they allow in foods. Check out the political games that are played to allow some drugs on the market while denying others.
You may not wish to admit it, especially if you are the BIG government type, but Kelly is right when he says that the only person that will really look out for you is YOU.

Posted by: NidanGoju on October 24, 2010 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

I expect that Kelly and other Tea Partiers would consider that government regulations about keeping processed food lines that use peanuts completely separate from those that don't and warning signs in restaurants about peanuts being used in some of their foods are all unnecessary nanny-state intrusions also.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 24, 2010 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Congratulations Nidan. You managed to hit the right-wing talking points head-on... "the government didn't protect us because it CAN'T protect us."

Too bad for this bullshit argument that it ignore reality in several important ways:

1) Government inspections and standards HAVE done a lot to protect us. Illnesses and deaths from contaminated food are still more common than they should be, but they are a lot less common than they were before the government got involved and less common than they are in countries without govenment oversight of food quality.

2) There are specific proposals for giving regulators (of whichever branch is appropriate) the powers needed to do a better job than they do now, but the small-government types like you and the Republican party have blocked them. As well as ensuring that the agencies don't have the funds to hire as many inspectors as they need to effectively enforce our existing laws.

3) Countries in Western Europe that DO have stricter standards also have fewer problems than we do. So we have examples on both sides (less regulation and more) that fail to support your position.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 24, 2010 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

A few years back, mad cow disease was in the news more. Here's my recollection of something that happened: the average large beef processor tested very few cattle, probably so as not to get positives on the disease. One smaller processor wanted to test all its cattle, to justify/advertise for greater customer confidence. . .this was prohibited by our government.

Posted by: JoAnn C. on October 24, 2010 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

The FDA budget has increased nearly 300% in the last decade, 19% alone from 2009 to 2010 ($3.2 billion). So much for your small government arguement. Yet, with all this increased spending, it is estimated that 76 million people per year in this country suffer some form of foodborne illness. Kinda backs up that "bullshit" can't protect you arguement doesn't it.
Give them $30 billion a year and guess what, it still won't be sufficient to "inspect" enough product that makes it to our tables to elliminate the risk.
We can reduce the risk ourselves by not buying fish from Vietnam, South American produce, Argentinian beef, etc. and getting your food from sources closer to home then preparing it using proper cleaning and preperation techniques. But even then, as they say, life will still have risks and nothing mommy government can do to change that fact.

Posted by: NidanGoju on October 24, 2010 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

NidanGoju, do you have a source for that number -- meaningless at is by itself -- other than your ass? Because FDA enforcement was mostly in decline in the 2000s, thanks to the"government regulation is bad" bozoes who were, as you may recall, actually in charge during almost all of the last ten years.

Posted by: Calton on October 25, 2010 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

The other amazing thing Kelly said was that the government caused the BP oil spill by forcing BP to drill in 5,000 feet of water because they aren't allowed to drill closer. (He's every bit as ignorant about gulf drilling as he is about food safety, as a map showing active rigs in the gulf clearly demonstrates.) This line was also followed by applause.

This makes me wonder if requiring a basic test of gov't and current events before granting citizens a voting license is the only solution.

Posted by: scooter on October 25, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

If a bunch of idiots, like this Kelly guy, end up getting elected, and the Repub's take control of congress, I think it is inevitable that a lot of tea baggers are going to end up with "buyer's remorse". Certainly, we would suffer a lot of damage in the meantime, but, I am curious, how many here think a win for the tea party will end up costing the republican party big time long term? Will it be enough to nudge them towards the center? Or, perhaps, enough to cost them a lot of the independent vote and give them a significant "enthusiasm gap" in 2012?

Posted by: steve on October 25, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

My comment above, is based on the realization that virtually none of the promises to cut spending, lower taxes and thereby stimulate the economy, etc. will be followed up on, thereby alienating the republicans that are so energized now.

Posted by: steve on October 25, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

NidanGoju: " Do some research on how successful the FDA has been at keeping bad drugs off the market." One example: Thalidomide, about which Wikipedia says:" In the late 1950s and early 1960s, more than 10,000 children in 46 countries were born with deformities such as phocomelia, as a consequence of thalidomide use...The impact in the United States was minimized when pharmacologist and M.D. Frances Oldham Kelsey refused Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for an application from the Richardson-Merrell company to market thalidomide,..." Undoubtedly, current Republicans would have overruled Dr. Kelsey.-- NidanGoju:"..the list of additives they allow in foods" Most of the pressure to allow unsafe drugs, food additives etc., decried by NidanGoju [?], seems to come from Republicans, well-paid for by lobbyists.

Steve: "none of the promises to cut spending, lower taxes and thereby stimulate the economy, etc. will be followed up on" We know by now from experience, that Republicans do lower taxes on the uppermost incomes, no matter what the deficit.
See also: http://ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2010104222/false-things-public-knows-they-go-vote

Posted by: A on October 25, 2010 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK



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