According to a July 9, 2008 article in The Chronicle,
Fimian also has deep concerns about the economy. “It’s a wonderful economic model, but it’s also very fragile. Overtaxing and over-regulating business runs the risk of ruining the opportunities for the next generation. It’s essential, he said, that government remain friendly to small business. It’s the main source of all new jobs in America. In fact, since 1990, 88 percent of the new jobs in the country came from businesses employing 500 or fewer workers.”He’s not entirely wrong, of course. Small business is a major source of new jobs and a healthy small business sector is absolutely essential to the success of the American economy. But Fimian is dead wrong about over-regulation being a problem today. Indeed, the real problem for both business and consumers is not enough regulation of vital consumer goods and the food supply.
In today’s Washington Post, there’s an article about young moms worried about a chemical used in children’s plastic toys.
Samantha Rosenberg eyed the toy plastic cellphone that her 9-month-old daughter has chewed so much, the color is fading. She wondered if the shiny plaything, and others that fill her home, are endangering Addison's health.This article goes on to report that the U.S. is one of the last industrial nations to ban phthalates. They’ve been banned in Europe since 1999. Parents also are worried about BPA, a chemical used in baby bottles.
Congress this week approved a ban on a family of chemicals widely used in soft plastic toys and other baby products. Health advocates say the compounds, known as phthalates, have been linked to kidney and liver cancer and to reproductive disorders in fetuses and infants, especially boys.
Toymakers and the chemical industry ran an expensive lobbying campaign trying to block the legislation, arguing that phthalates have been used commercially since the 1950s, that they are safe and that the ban is an overreaction.
Rosenberg and other consumers are not sure what to think.
Adding to the rising concern over the safety of our products, we’ve just gone through a Salmonella outbreak, costing the tomato industry millions of dollars in ruined crops, sickening thousands of people around the U.S. and destroying consumers’ faith in the entire agricultural industry, which has just barely recovered from the food borne illness scare affecting spinach a few years ago. Add to this the recent concern over pet foods imported from China, which caused death to family pets. Chinese imports were also linked to harmful ingredients in toothpaste, toys and other products. Americans are asking why their government can’t protect them, not how can we eliminate pesky regulation from businesses.
The truth is the Republican siren song that we need less government and more tax cuts has led to decreasing resources for the agencies set up to protect American consumers, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S Department of Agriculture's (USDA) inspection programs. Less and less money has gone to putting agents in the field to conduct inspections at farms and food processing plants. And there’s less money for and fewer inspectors at the CDC to track down the source of food borne illness once it’s started. That means it is harder to get to the source of the illness and protect people, which is exactly what happened with the Salmonella outbreak, which began in April, and is still making people ill.
For weeks, the CDC thought it was caused by tomatoes. Restaurants and supermarkets took tomatoes off their menus and shelves. Tomatoes rotted in warehouses and farmers ploughed under their fields, killing their crops. Suppliers and farmers lost millions of dollars on ruined tomato crops only to later discover that tomatoes weren’t even the cause of the illness. Meanwhile the real culprits, imported Jalapeño and Serrano peppers continued to make their way through the U.S food supply, sickening even more people.
Just a few years ago, a similar food scare involving spinach cost the California agricultural industry millions of dollars and the spinach industry still hasn’t regained the trust of consumers. It continues to suffer from declining sales. Obviously, an unsafe food supply and dangerous manufactured goods harm not just consumers but businesses. It’s imperative for industry to regain the trust of buyers.
Yet political newcomer Keith Fimian is offering proof that he is a tone deaf ideologue. Less government regulation is exactly what neither business nor consumers need right now.
What we do need is a public private partnership to ensure that our food supply and our consumer products are safe. It is necessary to restore the public’s confidence in both the business community and the government. People must see that farmers, manufacturers, and the government can work together to ensure the safety of their families.
It would be nice to say businesses should get together and regulate themselves without government interference. The problem is they’ve supposedly been doing it, and that approach has failed. Right now, the public has to see an outside regulatory apparatus inspecting foods and manufactured goods. Trust will only be built up slowly when citizens see their government acting responsibly and competently, stopping problems before they occur. It will take years of no more safety hazards and outbreaks of food borne illness to rebuild that trust.
And a conservative ideologue calling for fewer inspectors in the field and less money going to protect consumers will not inspire that trust. Therefore, Keith Fimian's ideas are bad for consumers and bad for business.