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New and Improved! With added disease and toxins!

Jesse Kelly, who is a GOP candidate for Congress in Arizona attended a campaign rally hosted by a local Tea Party group. During the question and answer session, Kelly was asked about the recent salmonella outbreak, which sickened 1,300 people and led to a recall of half a billion eggs. The outbreak was traced back to a producer in Iowa, who had a stunning 20 year record of health, safety, labor, and other violations. We’ve also recently seen 29 miners killed in a mining disaster caused by a mining company that willfully ignored safety laws, and even the Gulf oil spill, where BP has been responsible for 97% of all flagrant safety violations in the last three years.

So, given that we are seeing more and more disasters caused by a small number of companies, would Kelly support a law that gave the government the power to shut down companies that willfully, flagrantly, and repeatedly break the law.

I would think that even Tea Party members would be in favor of law and order. If you break the law, and especially if you break the law repeatedly, you will go to jail. Shouldn’t the same thing apply to a company? For a company, going to jail means being shut down.

But what I find especially ironic is how Kelly answered the question, or more accurately, didn’t answer it. Here’s the dialog:

Question: Given the salmonella outbreaks that we have seen every three weeks, with the chicken industry, with pesticides and what not that they put onto spinach in order to get the salmonella. We have rules and regulations. However there is no rule mandating that they be enforced. Is there some way when you’re in Congress that you’ll have a bill passed that says instead of having companies voluntarily change, mandate that they must change or give them the ability to shut ‘em down and that goes for mining companies or anyone who has hundreds of violations against ‘em.

Kelly: Here’s the thing with that point, that’s the first time I’ve ever had that question. Congratulations on being unique. First shot out of the box, no ma’am. I do not believe that what we’re lacking right now is a lack of regulations on business. [...] You could literally go spit on the grass and get arrested by the federal government if you wanted to right now. [...] More regulation, more federal control, giving Nancy Pelosi more power, is not the solution right now.

Q: Who’s protecting us?

Kelly: That’s the thing, ma’am, it’s our job to protect ourselves. Because no one else is going to look out for your best interests except for you. [...]

Q: Am I supposed to go to a chicken farmer and say I’d like you to close down because all of your birds are half dead?

Kelly: I’ve not heard a lot about that recently, obviously there’s a new thing that comes along every day. But I know this, every portion of our economy that is heavily regulated doesn’t have fewer disasters, it has more.

Kelly essentially changes the subject, saying we don’t need more regulations. But the question they asked was not about having more regulations, the question was about enforcing existing laws and regulations.

The current situation is like having laws against murder and theft, but having no way to enforce the law. Companies are expected to voluntarily comply with the law. Isn’t this like asking people to give themselves tickets for speeding, or (more apropos to Arizona) asking illegal aliens to kindly please leave the country? But according to Kelly, it is up to you to make sure that you don’t buy eggs with salmonella, or work for a company whose mine is going to collapse and kill you.

Kelly even manages to get in a swipe against Nancy Pelosi. So according to Kelly, enforcing the laws against illegal businesses gives Pelosi more power, but enforcing laws against illegal aliens is a high priority. That’s hypocrisy.

You might want to call this “E Coli Conservatism“. If we are going to pretend that corporations are people and give them rights like free speech, shouldn’t they also have responsibilities like not breaking the law, injuring, or even killing people? When people break the law, we remove them from society. When companies break the law, we should remove them from business.

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16 Comments

  1. Sammy wrote:

    “You could literally go spit on the grass and get arrested by the federal government…”

    WTF? Does she live in Singapore? That’s literally one of the stupidest things I’ve ever literally read.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  2. Michael wrote:

    “When people break the law, we remove them from society. When companies break the law, we should remove them from business.”

    This is now one of my favorite quotes. Thank you.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Brian wrote:

    Interesting comment, that “every portion of our economy that is heavily regulated doesn’t have fewer disasters, it has more.”

    He reads that as evidence that regulation causes disasters. I read that as evidence that we (generally) are regulating the right portions of the economy–those that have more disasters.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  4. ZJD wrote:

    I wonder how many Tea Party supporters and, to a lesser extent, Republicans, actually consider how far down the road they want to go with their “less taxes, less regulation, less government” talking points? I mean, where do they draw the line before laissez faire anarchy? Has anyone asked them what government regulations they DO endorse – besides, of course, limiting the individual rights of those with a different social outlook than them? Has anyone forced them to contemplate who ultimately benefits from decreased (or no) regulation?

    In my experience, those who most fervently rail against the societal control of police are often the ones who complain loudest when their 911 call isn’t responded to quickly enough. I have no doubt that Jesse Kelly’s tone would be different if his children got salmonella poisoning due to lax food safety.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  5. CT wrote:

    The budget for the FDA has increased nearly 300 percent over the last decade (19 percent from 2009-2010 alone). Yet, we contour to average 76,000,000 foodborne illnesses per year. All the regulations to date has not prevented the outbreaks nor will more prevent future ones.
    Kelly has a point, look after yourself because Mommy Government cannot elliminate risks, life is full of them.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    CT, your numbers are completely bogus. The budget for the FDA increased 100% over the last 40 years, not 300% over the last decade. See http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/08/slides/2008-4365s1_03_16_Science%20Board%20Meeting%20Handout.pdf

    Not only that, but the largest increase in their budget occurred in FY2002, “when Congress increased direct appropriations to FDA by 23%, in response to the domestic terrorist attacks and the anthrax scare.” In other words, the largest increase in the FDA budget was to prevent terrorism, not foodborne illnesses.

    I could find no historical count of foodborne illnesses over time. The number you quote is from a paper published in 1999 and is only for one year. Where do you get your claim that the number averages the same year after year? Reference please!

    Your claim that regulations have not stopped outbreaks is ridiculous. We were spared an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in this country only because of meat packing regulations.

    And finally, you obviously did not get the whole point of this article, which was NOT that we need more regulations. We just need to enforce our current laws. Your argument is like saying “we spend all this money on police, and yet we still have all this murder and theft. Therefore we need to spend less on police and get rid of all those useless laws against murder and theft.” (Although I would definitely argue that we need to get rid of the laws against recreational drug use, but unfortunately the Republicans are against that).

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  7. ZJD wrote:

    “All the regulations to date has not prevented the outbreaks nor will more prevent future ones.”

    Hear that WHOOSH sound? It was the thesis of this post going over your head. No one is suggesting more regulations, because a lack of regulations is not the problem. Lack of meaningful enforcement is, which is why companies can stay in business even after breaking the law multiple times.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  8. ZJD wrote:

    It took me six minutes too many to write that comment…

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  9. Jonah wrote:

    Kelly better be careful about less regulation because the FDA regulates the safety of the bottled water he’s drinking out of in the video.

    Also about the FDA, one of the ways to cut down medical costs is to approve generics faster. Lately the division that approves generics, under the new admin, has been making a larger effort to get generics out the door faster. This means a larger budget and quite frankly a well deserved one. As an example, the FDA approved a generic version of a blood thinner called lovenox manufactured by sanofi. Since the approval sanofi has reduced prices by about 10-15% due to the competition the generic has introduced. The market for lovenox was about 5 B worldwide before the approval of the generic.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  10. Sammy wrote:

    IK: I’ve found a whole lot of Fox News types (my unproven assumption) who throw out unverifiable “facts” because on those sites, they’re never questioned, nor held accountable to back up their statements.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    I even have an ironic name for the new law that would put the worst corporate offenders out of business: “300 strikes and you’re out”.

    OSHA has 5 levels of citations, the most severe is called “Egregious Willful Citations” that are “issued for each instance of a willful and flagrant violation” that have “a substantial probability of death or serious injury”. From June 2007 to February 2010, oil refineries owned by BP received 760 of these. The rest of the industry? Just one. If a human criminal committed that many felonies, wouldn’t we consider them a menace to society and throw away the key?

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 12:35 am | Permalink
  12. patriotsgt wrote:

    I agree we need to enforce the laws, regs and rules already on the books. If there comes a situation not covered (hard to imagine but it could)then we need to add to our existing.
    Problem as I see it is whether we’re talking about criminal or corporate, our govt and in particular our judges do not hold people accountable (maybe they’re not accountable themselves). Drunk driving offenses have gotten slightly more stringent over the last 20 yrs, but why would we let anyone convicted of driving drunk 2 or more times ever drive, no matter what? I don’t understand that. Same reasoning can be applied to corporations with 2 or more Egregious Willful Citations that could result in a death, that should mean they can’t do that thing again, ever. And the individual persons behind the corp who were responsible should get the same sentence.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink
  13. ThatGuy wrote:

    Unfortunately if the government actually enforced these laws, irresponsible and unethical businesses could find themselves defunct quite quickly. Then who would bankroll the political all-stars of hypocrisy and general ass-hattery? You’d have nothing left to blog about IK!

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 6:18 am | Permalink
  14. Iron Knee wrote:

    That would be sad, but I’m prepared to live with it. I have a day job, after all.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  15. Bert wrote:

    I don’t see any value in putting a company out of business for breaking the law. With the way bankruptcy laws are written, they can always reorganize and it’s business as usual. If you do succeed, the people can start a new business.

    It is the people at the top level who make the decisions to break laws to save money. It is they who need to be punished.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  16. Iron Knee wrote:

    Bert, you have a good point. Years ago, when I lived in Texas, they passed a law that allowed them to put illegally polluting companies out of businesses. What happened was that corporations would “sell” their toxic wastes to small, fly-by-night companies. In one case, one of these small companies was caught driving down a highway in the middle of the night with the valve on the back of their truck open, dumping the pollutants on the road. They put the company out of businesses, but the owner just started a new company, signed up the same customers, and kept on going.

    Finally, they changed the law so that the producer of the pollution was responsible for making sure the waste was disposed of properly, and they also made it possible to throw people who violated the law on purpose in jail. That solved the problem right away. So yes, you can’t just stop at putting the company out of business, although for big corporations like BP and Massey Energy, it would help serve as a deterrent.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink