Wednesday, May 30, 2007

all asshat, no cattle

From The International Herald Tribune (h/t Rick Perlstein at .common sense):
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn't have the authority to restrict it. - A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was scheduled to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal, effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge has played out.

Note: it doesn't say Bush is fighting to keep meatpackers from having to test their animals for mad cow, which is how I read it at first. No no, it says he's actually trying to prevent them from being able to test them all.

This would bring corporate welfare to a new low, but the agricultural industry has been in this rut for years, where small ranchers/farmers/packers are forcibly denied their right to produce a better product so that the big dawgs won't be forced to raise their standards. How, exactly, is this capitalism?

These are the kind of people that many are starting to refer to as "E. coli conservatives," that is, people who have developed their economics around their desire to protect big business. For the E. coli conservative, the protection of big business is not the by-product of laissez-faire economics; rather, laissez-faire economics is the by-product of protecting big business. When the two come in conflict (and that happens more often than one might expect), it's the economics that goes out the window, not the protectionism. These are the people who support corporate welfare, which is designed to preclude competition and is, thus, the very antithesis of free market economics, but even that is not what gives them their name. The term comes from their willingness to endanger other people's health and lives for the sake of big business' bottom line, most egregiously illustrated by the support of a lazy, dangerous, and exploitive livestock-raising and meatpacking system that has led to the pervasive presence, in beef especially, of the eponymous bacteria previously found only in the animals' excrement. This is why it's no longer safe to eat rare steak.

Perlstein has some choice morsels for this one:
First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they're even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.

There's your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

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