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Friday, March 10, 2006

They hate us for our safe food

Yesterday, the House of Reprehensibles passed the "National Uniformity for Food Act," which I wrote about last week. The bill is intended to override laws in numerous state which provide additional safety and labelling requirements to the minimal ones currently required by the feds. The vote was 283 to 139, with 212 Repugs and 71 Dumbos supporting it. Interestingly, Walter Jones of North Carolina was one of the 13 Republicans to vote against it. He wants to know what is in his freedom fries, I guess. I wonder if this is another case of once somebody realizes that the Republican leadership is lying, as Jones did with the war in Iraq, that they start to recognize that it may not be the only time.

Pretty much all of the comments I have seen on this monstrous bill have mentioned only the food-safety issue, Congress favoring big business over consumers. Another thing to consider is that it also favors big business over small business. State food safety and labelling laws provide niche markets for local producers; this bill will enable the agribusiness giants like Conagra, ADM, IBP, and Cargill to sell the same crap in the same package everywhere at prices the local producers can't hope to match. As has been happening for decades, these local companies will be forced to either sell out or get out of the business, and any local entrepreneurs (whom Bush claims to love so much) will be discouraged because they will have no niche markets in which to grow their businesses.

Repugs frequently use small businesses as a reason for opposing government regulations, saying that minimum wages, equal opportunity, paperwork for social security and other government programs, OSHA workplace standards, and so on all present formidable obstacles to someone just starting a business. To some degree, I'd say they have a point. But their actions, like this bill and countless others (including especially their refusal to enforce antitrust laws and their support for outsourcing), continually tilt the playing field in favor of big business over small business. In most cases, facing this subsidized competition from huge corporations is a much higher hurdle for new businesses to clear than any amount of paperwork. And these supposedly pro-small-business Repugs side with the big corporations every time.