Tuesday, October 07, 2008


by DM

In the 20th Century, the United States formed federal agencies to oversee transportation, food, drugs, eduction, and the like. These agencies protected the public from unscrupulous businessmen and dangerous products.

At the end of the 20th Century, Americans were convinced that they didn't need those protections, that these agencies were impeding progress and making life too expensive. So conservatives were elected and those agencies were first gutted of effective staff, then managed by executives from the industries they were supposed to regulate. The results have been disastrous.

Conservatives are still getting elected on the lie that less government is better, and that regulation is bad for the economy, even though history and all sane reasoning points to the success of regulation and capitalism.

The conservatives have spent the last generation gutting agencies and stocking them with industry cronies, to the point where everyone thinks this is how it's always been and that this is the way it should be. Gone are the days when a pharmacological scientist might head-up the FDA, or an engineer might head-up the Department of Transportation. No, now it's a drug company executive and an auto-manufacturer that would be expected to head-up those agencies.

These people would have no interest in protecting the taxpayer and consumer, they want to protect the companies producing these products.

All agencies have fewer auditors and investigators than they need to protect our nation, and that's the way conservatives want it. Government is to stay out of the way of industry and that is the final word in these post-Reagan decades.

This means that the federal government is ill-prepared to investigate and protect; and over the past couple of decades, states have had to carry the burden of protecting the citizenry without the assistance of the federal government.

Now come the Supreme Court. On the current docket is the issue of pre-emption.

Leading the docket is an issue that has long topped the business community's wish list: immunity from lawsuits for drug companies. The shield that drug companies argue protects them from suit is a legal doctrine called pre-emption — meaning that Congress can write laws that give the federal government the exclusive right to regulate in an area, barring states from getting into the act.

Consumer Issues Top Supreme Court's Docket

Conservatives want to strip states of the right to regulate industry within their borders, and insist that regulation be kept at the federal level. This means that states could no longer sue to protect their citizens, even though the federal government is no longer equipped to provide that protection.

Pretty impressive.

Any bets on how the Court will decide?

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