Krugman On The Big Con

Isaiah J. Poole

Columnist Paul Krugman on Monday wrote that he did something highly risky: He ate a salad.

We are well familiar with the e. coli contamination of lettuce and spinach, and the more recent cases of pet food contamination. But Krugman, following on the heels of work Rick Perlstein has published on TomPaine.com and on his blog, The Big Con, on what he calls “e. coli conservatism,” has pointed the finger at what he has called “a literally sickening ideology.”

“Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating? Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman,” Krugman writes. Why? Friedman, the economic idol of the conservative movement, legitimized the Bush administration’s antipathy for regulating the private sector, even arguing in 1999, according to Krugman, that the Food and Drug Administration should be virtually dismantled. He argued that in the case of the drug industry that “the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies” would keep bad drugs off the market. Vioxx, anyone?

But the danger of a hands-off-the-market approach, and the related decimation of the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to protect the nation’s food supply, is becoming more apparent by the day. The Washington Post on Sunday published a particularly graphic example  of what FDA inspectors managed to intercept in food shipments from China, such as “scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.” But what is particularly scary is the fact that the FDA is able to inspect less than one percent of the food that comes into this country from China and elsewhere.

Perlstein has posted a “best of” selection of his posts on “e. coli conservatism” on The Big Con blog.

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