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“Outraged”: Republicans Overcome With “Sequestration NIMBYism”

It’s been about two weeks since Brian Beutler coined a helpful phrase: “sequestration NIMBYism.” Republicans love the sequester policy they hated as recently as last month, and think it’s terrific that these deep, mindless spending cuts have taken effect.

But they’re not at all pleased about sequestration cuts that hurt their own constituents. As Brian explained two weeks ago, the across-the-board nature of the policy makes it nearly inevitable that lawmakers will see some consequences in their districts and states, “but when those consequences materialize, Republicans either blame the administration or plead for special treatment.”

Jed Lewison explained this morning:

After years of doing nothing but talk about the need to cut spending, Republicans have finally started to get what they want — and it turns out they don’t like it. But instead of doing the obvious thing, which would be to change their position on austerity, they’re simply issuing press releases and statements about how they don’t like the cuts that are taking place in their own back yard.

The problem is that their solution — to make the cuts in somebody else’s back yard — isn’t really a solution. It’s just political spin. There is no magic wand to make spending cuts be painless and for Republicans to pretend otherwise is transparently dishonest and defies common sense.

We’ve covered this a bit in recent weeks, but Republican criticism of sequestration cuts appears to be intensifying. Of particular interest at this point is which cuts, in particular, have become cause for alarm.

Is it concern over Head Start closings? Food-safety furloughs? Struggling Americans going without housing assistance? Setbacks for medical research into Alzheimer’s disease and influenza? Layoffs at nuclear containment sites? Disruptions in the courts?

No, as is it turns out, the one issue that finally managed to capture Republicans’ attention is … airports.

We learned last week that the FAA, left with no choice thanks to the sequester Republicans are so fond of, is closing many air traffic control facilities in April. GOP members of Congress are outraged.

Sequestration generally provides agencies little flexibility to determine what parts of their budgets to cut — agencies with broad missions have to cut every program by the same percentage. But the majority of FAA’s employees are air traffic controllers, and as a result, FAA has identified and announced its intent to close nearly 150 relatively low-volume towers to help meet its $600 million sequestration this fiscal year.

A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans led by Jerry Moran (R-KS) attempted to reverse the scheduled closures during the debate over funding the government, and make up the spending cuts with unobligated FAA capital funds, but their amendment did not receive a vote.

The effort reflects a pattern among lawmakers — particularly GOP lawmakers — to decry sequestration cuts in their own states and districts, but decline to support a sequestration replacement plan that includes higher revenue. Instead, they support keeping small airports in their jurisdictions open at the expense of financing improvements at higher-traffic airports.

A variety of far-right Republicans, many of whom demand deep and lasting spending cuts, are now demanding that sequestration cuts bypass their constituents.

In one especially amusing story, a Texas Republican whined that spending cuts under the sequester may — wait for it — hurt the economy.

As Greg Sargent recently put it, “Welcome to Sequestration Nation.”

Note to Congress: it’s a stupid policy doing real harm to real people. Just turn the darn thing off.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2013

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Sequestration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recovering The Constitution From Conservatives

Tea Party types and other conservatives talk about how they’d like their country back.

I’d like my Constitution back.

The rise of these self-proclaimed constitutional conservatives is an ominous development that has received too little notice — and too little push-back.

Until now. Under the banner of “Constitutional Progressives,” a coalition of liberal groups has begun making an important, two-part argument: first, that a progressive government agenda is consistent with constitutional values; and second, that the constitutional conservative approach represents a dangerous retrenchment of the government’s role.

This bid to “rebut the constitutional fairy tales being peddled by the Tea Party,” as Douglas Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center put it, could not be more timely, with the dizzying rise of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

The constitutional conservative critique, as articulated by Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and others, goes far beyond the familiar laments about activist judges. It is, at bottom, an argument against the 20th century — specifically against the notion that the Constitution envisions and empowers a muscular federal government able to ensure that its citizens have clean air, healthy food and safe workplaces.

To grasp the radical nature of the constitutional conservative approach, consider the record of every Republican president since the New Deal.

Richard Nixon ran on the pledge of appointing “strict constructionist” judges, but he created the Environmental Protection Agency, telling Congress that “our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that grows our food.” Nixon didn’t doubt — as do the modern constitutional conservatives — that environmental regulation was an appropriate and constitutional role for the federal government.

Likewise, George W. Bush inveighed against judges “legislating from the bench.” Yet he presided over the largest expansion of Medicare — the addition of a prescription drug benefit — in the history of the program and oversaw a sweeping new role for the federal government in assuring quality education by local schools. Bush didn’t question — as do the constitutional conservatives — whether these were permissible activities for the federal government.

The constitutional conservative vision is dramatically different. It sees a hobbled federal government limited to a few basic activities, such as national defense and immigration. The 10th Amendment, reserving to states the powers not granted to the federal government, would be put on steroids. The commerce clause, giving the federal government the authority to regulate commerce among the states, would be drastically diminished.

Certainly, there’s a legitimate debate about the proper role of the federal government and the scope of federal vs. state power. But that is a different argument than the one long thought settled during the New Deal: that the Constitution grants the federal government power to regulate a broad array of activities in the national interest.

The danger posed by the constitutional conservative approach is to attempt to lash together debates about what the federal government should do and what the Constitution allows it to do.

A white paper by the liberal Center for American Progress spells out the potential consequences of the constitutional conservative vision. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be deemed to exceed the federal government’s enumerated powers.

The federal government would cease to have any role in education, eliminating funding for public schools and college financial aid, and in combating poverty, ending food stamps and unemployment insurance. Laws on everything from child labor to food safety would be overturned.

None of this is likely to happen, of course, for the simple reason that most Americans don’t want it to. When Perry was pushed during a debate about the implications of his views on the constitutionality of Social Security, for example, he waved off the question as an interesting intellectual exercise.

But the emergence of the constitutional conservative argument has real-world consequences — even without a constitutional conservative in the White House. It shifts the legal debate significantly rightward, energizing and empowering conservative judges and justices. And it changes the nature of the political debate as well by narrowing the turf on which, at least in the view of some lawmakers, the federal government is deemed authorized to operate.

“This is a way to weaponize the Constitution to prevent a real debate about how the government can solve national problems,” Kendall told me.

Strong words, but the constitutional conservative vision is too extreme to continue to ignore it in the hope that it will fade on its own.

By Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 18, 2011

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Commerce Clause, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Education, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What If the Tea Party Wins? They Have A Plan For The Constitution, And It Isn’t Pretty

In the Tea Party’s America, families must mortgage their home to pay for their mother’s end-of-life care. Higher education is a luxury reserved almost exclusively to the very rich. Rotten meat ships to supermarkets nationwide without a national agency to inspect it. Fathers compete with their adolescent children for sub-minimum wage jobs. And our national leaders are utterly powerless to do a thing.

At least, that’s what would happen if the Tea Party succeeds in its effort to reimagine the Constitution as an antigovernment manifesto. While the House of Representatives pushes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to phase out Medicare, numerous members of Congress, a least one Supreme Court justice, and the governor of America’s second-largest state now proudly declare that most of the progress of the last century violates the Constitution.

It is difficult to count how many essential laws would simply cease to exist if the Tea Party won its battle to reshape our founding document, but a short list includes:

  • Social Security and Medicare
  • Medicaid, children’s health insurance, and other health care programs
  • All federal education programs
  • All federal antipoverty programs
  • Federal disaster relief
  • Federal food safety inspections and other food safety programs
  • Child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and other labor protections
  • Federal civil rights laws

Indeed, as this paper explains, many state lawmakers even embrace a discredited constitutional doctrine that threatens the union itself.

What’s at stake

The Tea Party imagines a constitution focused entirely upon the Tenth Amendment, which provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”—which is why their narrow vision of the nation’s power is often referred to as “tentherism.” In layman’s terms, the Tenth Amendment is simply a reminder that the Constitution contains an itemized list of federal powers—such as the power to regulate interstate commerce or establish post offices or make war on foreign nations—and anything not contained in that list is beyond Congress’s authority.

The Tea Party, however, believes these powers must be read too narrowly to permit much of the progress of the last century. This issue brief examines just some of the essential programs that leading Tea Partiers would declare unconstitutional.

Social Security and Medicare

The Constitution gives Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” thus empowering the federal government to levy taxes and leverage these revenues for programs such as Social Security and Medicare. A disturbingly large number of elected officials, however, insist that these words don’t actually mean what they say.

In a speech to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, Texas Gov. Rick Perry listed a broad swath of programs that “contradict the principles of limited, constitutional government that our founders established to protect us.” Gov. Perry’s list includes Medicare and “a bankrupt social security system, that Americans understand is essentially a Ponzi scheme on a scale that makes Bernie Madoff look like an amateur.” And Perry is hardly the only high-ranking elected official to share this view.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) mocked President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for calling upon the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan” and “health care” because “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress any of those powers.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who engineered the House of Representatives’s dramatic reading of the Constitution earlier this year, claimed that Medicare and Social Security are “not in the Constitution” and are only allowed to exist because “the courts have stretched the Constitution to say it’s in the general welfare clause.” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said we should eliminate Medicare because “that’s a family responsibility, not a government responsibility.”

Because this erroneous view of our founding document is rooted in an exaggerated view of the Tenth Amendment’s states rights’ provision, many so-called tenthers claim that eliminating Social Security and Medicare wouldn’t necessarily mean kicking millions of seniors out into the cold because state governments could enact their own retirement programs to pick up the slack. This proposal, however, ignores basic economics.

Under our current system, someone who begins their career in Ohio, moves to Virginia to accept a better job offer, and then retires in Florida pays the same federal taxes regardless of their residence. These taxes then fund programs such as Medicare and Social Security. If each state were responsible for setting up its own retirement system, however, the person described above would pay Ohio taxes while they worked in Ohio, Virginia taxes while they lived in Virginia, and would draw benefits from the state of Florida during their retirement. The state which benefited from their taxes would not be the same state that was required to fund their retirement, and the result would be an economic death spiral for states such as Florida that attract an unusually large number of retirees.

For this reason, tenther proposals to simply let the states take over Social Security and Medicare are nothing more than a backdoor way to eliminate these programs altogether. If the Tea Party gets its way, and our nation’s social safety net for seniors is declared unconstitutional, millions of seniors will lose their only income and their only means to pay for health care.

Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and other health care programs

The Tea Party’s constitution has plenty of bad news for Americans below the retirement age as well. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), for example, recently claimed that any federal involvement in health care whatsoever is unconstitutional because “the words ‘health care’ are nowhere in the Constitution.”

Sen. Coburn lumped Medicaid in with Medicare when he claimed that providing for the frailest Americans is a “family responsibility,” and Gov. Perry includes Medicaid on his list of programs that “contradict[] the principles of limited, constitutional government.” Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) claim that “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress” any authority over health care is a blanket statement encompassing all federal health programs.

If this vision were to be implemented, all federal health care programs would simply cease to exist and millions of Americans would lose their only access to health insurance.

Education

Education is also on the Tea Party’s chopping block. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) routinely grills education secretaries at congressional hearings, insisting that the Constitution does not authorize any federal involvement in education. Similarly, Rep. Foxx insists that “we should not be funding education” because she insists doing so violates the Tenth Amendment. And Sen. Coburn does not “even think [education] is a role for the federal government.”

In its strongest form, this position wouldn’t just eliminate federal assistance for state-run public schools. It would also eliminate programs enabling Americans to pay for their college education. Millions of students would lose their Pell Grants and federal student loans if the Tea Party’s full vision of the Constitution were implemented.

Some tenthers, however, offer a slightly less drastic position. It is commonplace for the federal government to grant money to the states if those states agree to comply with certain conditions. Federal law, for example, provides generous public education grants provided that states gather data on student achievement and comply with other such conditions. Many Tea Partiers argue that these conditions violate the Constitution. Thus, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), claims that the Constitution only permits the federal government to provide states with “block grants.”

The truth, however, is that the federal government has never told states how to educate their children—and it could not do so if it tried. Under a Supreme Court decision called Printz v. United States, federal laws ordering a state to take a specific action actually do violate the Tenth Amendment. So, the state of Texas is perfectly free to turn down federal grants if they do not like the conditions attached to them.

Moreover, it is not clear how federal grants of any kind can exist if Congress is not allowed to attach conditions to them. If Congress cannot constitutionally require states to spend grant money on standardized testing, for example, how can they require that it be spent on education and not on building a new wing for the governor’s mansion? Thus, even the slightly more moderate position advocated by people like Rep. Farenthold would likely eliminate the federal government’s ability to provide educational assistance to low-income students or otherwise help fund public schools.

Antipoverty programs, federal disaster relief, and other help for the less fortunate

Sen. Lee would go even further in cutting off assistance for low-income Americans. In an interview with a Utah radio host, Lee claimed that the framers intended all antipoverty programs to be dealt with exclusively at the state level. This would not only eliminate programs like income assistance and food stamps, it could threaten unemployment insurance, federal job training, and other programs intended to provide a bridge out of poverty.

In the same interview, Sen. Lee claimed that federal relief for hurricane, earthquake, tornado, and other disaster victims is “one of many areas where we ought to focus on getting that power back to the states,” a position that would kill the Federal Emergency Management Agency and prevent the nation as a whole from rallying to the support of a state whose financial resources are overwhelmed by a major natural disaster.

Food safety

Sen. Lee also claims that “the framers intended state lawmakers deal with” food safety in this same radio interview. This position would not simply endanger the residents of states with inadequate regulation of their food supply, it would also create costly and duplicative state inspection programs and impose logistical nightmares on food-importing states.

If a cow is raised in Texas, slaughtered in Oklahoma, and then sold as steaks in New York, which state is responsible for inspecting the meat? The likely answer is that all three states would have their own system of laws, tripling the regulatory compliance costs for the meat producer.

Moreover, if New York decides that Oklahoma’s inspections’ regime is inadequate, its only recourse would be to require meat producers to submit their products to a customs check at the border before it could be sold in that state. The result would be higher taxes for New Yorkers forced to pay for these customs stations, and higher costs for businesses forced to submit to inspections every time they brought food across a state border.

Child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and other labor protections

Nearly 100 years ago, the Supreme Court declared federal child labor laws unconstitutional in a case called Hammer v. Dagenhart. Twenty-two years later, the Court recognized that Hammer’s holding was “novel when made and unsupported by any provision of the Constitution,” and unanimously overruled this erroneous decision.

Sen. Lee, however, believes that, while Hammer might “sound harsh,” the Constitution “was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh,” and thus we should return to the world where federal child labor laws are unconstitutional. Moreover, Lee has a very powerful ally prepared to sweep away nearly all national protections for American workers.

Under existing Supreme Court doctrine, Congress’s authority to “regulate commerce … among the several states” includes the power to regulate the roads and railways used to transport goods in interstate commerce, as well as the goods themselves and the vehicles that transport them. Additionally, Congress may regulate activities that “substantially affect interstate commerce.” This “substantial effects” power is the basis of Congress’s authority to make labor laws universal throughout all places of employment.

Yet Justice Clarence Thomas claimed in three separate cases—U.S. v. Lopez, U.S. v. Morrison, and Gonzales v. Raich—that this “substantial effects” test is “at odds with the constitutional design.” It is possible that Thomas’s vision would still allow some limited federal labor regulation—such as a law prohibiting children from becoming railway workers—but anything resembling the essential web of federal laws that protect American workers today would be impossible.

Civil rights laws

Shortly after he won his party’s nod to be a U.S. Senate candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) revealed that he opposes the federal bans on whites-only lunch counters and race discrimination in employment. In a rambling interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Paul explained that, while he believes that Congress may ban discrimination from “public institutions,” he does not support antidiscrimination laws that regulate private business.

As Sen. Paul suggested in that interview, these basic civil rights laws—like national laws banning child labor and establishing a minimum wage—can be snuffed out of existence if Congress’s power to enact commercial regulations is read too narrowly.

In 1964, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters—once again relying on the “substantial effects” test to do so. For this reason, it is likely the Justice Thomas would strike down this and other federal laws protecting civil rights.

The union

Gov. Perry suffered well-deserved ridicule when he suggested in 2009 that Texas may secede from the union if “Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people.” But Gov. Perry’s ill-considered remark is merely a distraction compared to a much larger movement to effectively secede from the union one law at a time.

Gov. Perry joins lawmakers from New Hampshire, Montana, Virginia, Idaho, Florida, and many other states in backing unconstitutional state laws purporting to “nullify” a federal law. Many state legislatures have passed, and a few governors have signed, laws claiming to nullify part of the Affordable Care Act, and Perry signed a law that partially nullifies federal light bulb standards.

Nullification is an unconstitutional doctrine claiming that states can prevent a federal law from operating within their borders. Although nullification conflicts directly with the text of the Constitution, which provides that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding,” it has experienced a significant revival among state lawmakers eager to second-guess national leaders’ decisions.

This doctrine is not simply unconstitutional, it is a direct attack on the idea that we are the United States of America. As James Madison wrote in 1830, allowing states to simply ignore the laws they don’t want to follow would “speedily put an end to the Union itself.”

Conclusion

America has long endured the occasional politician eager to repeal the entire 20th Century, but, as President Dwight Eisenhower observed nearly 60 years ago, “Their numbers [were] negligible and they are stupid.” Sadly, this is no longer the case. Tenthers increasingly dominate conservative politics and their numbers are growing.

If this movement succeeds in replacing our founding document with their entirely fabricated constitution, virtually every American will suffer the consequences. Seniors will lose their Social Security and Medicare. Millions of students could lose their ability to pay for college. And workers throughout the country will lose their right to organize, to earn a minimum wage, and to be free from discrimination.

Worse, because the Tea Party believes their policy preferences are mandated by the Constitution, they would do far more than simply repeal nearly a century of essential laws. Once something is declared unconstitutional, it is beyond the reach of elected officials— and beyond the voters’ ability to revive simply by tossing unwise lawmakers out of office.

For this reason, the Tea Party’s agenda is not simply one of the most radical in generations, it is also the most authoritarian. They do not simply want to eliminate decades of progress; they want to steal away “We The People’s” ability to bring it back.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress, September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Commerce Clause, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Labor, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Minimum Wage, Politics, Public, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, SCOTUS, Social Security, State Legislatures, States, Tea Party, Unions, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Food Kills: A Threat To Public Health

The deaths of 31 peoplein Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Our food often betrays us.

Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Dryden, Va., died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhea linked to another strain of E. coli. Her brother was also hospitalized but survived.

Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to livestock, not humans. And 90 percent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, a professional organization of doctors, cites the case of Josh Nahum, a 27-year-old skydiving instructor in Colorado. He developed a fever from bacteria that would not respond to medication. The infection spread and caused tremendous pressure in his skull.

Some of his brain was pushed into his spinal column, paralyzing him. He became a quadriplegic depending on a ventilator to breathe. Then, a couple of weeks later, he died.

There’s no reason to link Nahum’s case specifically to agricultural overuse, for antibiotic resistance has multiple causes that are difficult to unravel. Doctors overprescribe them. Patients misuse them. But looking at numbers, by far the biggest element of overuse is agriculture.

We would never think of trying to keep our children healthy by adding antibiotics to school water fountains, because we know this would breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s unconscionable that Big Ag does something similar for livestock.

Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in the United States House of Representatives, has been fighting a lonely battle to curb this practice — but industrial agricultural interests have always blocked her legislation.

“These statistics tell the tale of an industry that is rampantly misusing antibiotics in an attempt to cover up filthy, unsanitary living conditions among animals,” Slaughter said. “As they feed antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy, they are making our families sicker by spreading these deadly strains of bacteria.”

Vegetarians may think that they’re immune, but they’re not. E. coli originates in animals but can spill into water used to irrigate vegetables, contaminating them. The European E. coli outbreak apparently arose from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany.

One of the most common antibiotic-resistant pathogens is MRSA, which now kills more Americans annually than AIDS and adds hugely to America’s medical costs. MRSA has many variants, and one of the more benign forms now is widespread in hog barns and among people who deal with hogs. An article this year in a journal called Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that MRSA was found in 70 percent of hogs on one farm.

Another scholarly journal reported that MRSA was found in 45 percent of employees working at hog farms. And the Centers for Disease Control reported this April that this strain of bacteria has now been found in a worker at a day care center in Iowa.

Other countries are moving to ban the feeding of antibiotics to livestock. But in the United States, the agribusiness lobby still has a hold on Congress.

The European outbreak should shake people up. “It points to the whole broken system,” notes Robert Martin of the Pew Environment Group.

We need more comprehensive inspections in the food system, more testing for additional strains of E. coli, and more public education (always wash your hands after touching raw meat, and don’t use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables). A great place to start reforms would be by banning the feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock.

By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 11, 2011

June 13, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Consumers, Corporations, Environment, Government, Homeland Security, Lobbyists, Politics, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bad News For Americans Who Eat Food

In December, Americans who eat food received some very good news. A sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food-safety system, approved by both chambers with large, bipartisan majorities, cleared Congress, and was quickly signed into law by President Obama.

The long-overdue law expands the FDA’s ability to recall tainted foods, increases inspections, demands accountability from food companies, and oversees farming — all in the hopes of cracking down on unsafe food before consumers get sick. This was the first time Congress has approved an overhaul of food-safety laws in more than 70 years.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, the Republican-led House is fighting to gut the law.

Budget cuts proposed by House Republicans to the Food and Drug Administration would undermine the agency’s ability to carry out a historic food-safety law passed by Congress just five months ago, food safety advocates say. […]

To carry out the new law, President Obama is seeking $955 million for food safety at the FDA in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Last week, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA pared back that amount to $750 million, which is $87 million less than the figure the agency is currently receiving for food safety.

“This subcommittee has begun making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship,” said Chairman Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.).The full committee was scheduled to vote on the proposed cuts Tuesday, and the budget proposal was expected to pass.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the cuts yesterday, which are severe enough to prevent the FDA from implementing the new law. Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety programs at the Pew Health Group, part of a coalition of public health advocates and food makers, said this week, “These cuts could seriously harm our ability to protect the food supply.”

Boy, those midterm elections really set the country on the right path, didn’t they?

It’s also worth appreciating the fact that these cuts to food safety were made in the name of fiscal responsibility, but it’s a classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish. Indeed, cutting funding on food safety is likely to cost us more money, not less.

I realize this may seem counter-intuitive. I can even imagine some Fox News personality telling viewers, “Those wacky liberals think it costs money to cut spending! What fools!”

But this just requires a little bit of thought. When we cut spending on food safety, we save a little money on inspection, but end up paying a lot of money on health care costs when consumers get sick.

The GOP approach is misguided as a matter of public health, public safety, and budgeting.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, June 1, 2011

June 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, President Obama, Public, Public Health, Regulations, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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