Count on Congress to find a problem where none exists and throw our money at it.
This past week the Senate voted 73-25 for an overhaul of the nation’s food safety laws, creating a vast bureaucracy that will require the hiring of countless more federal inspectors and managers in perpetuity.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the bill will "grow the government, increase food prices, and drive small producers out of business without making our food any safer."
And the problem the bill claims to address is actually lessening. In March the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nine food-borne illnesses tracked by Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network or FoodNet have been declining.
The bill gives the Food and Drug Administration huge new powers even though it has done a poor job with the ones it already has.
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial recounted the costly blunder of a tomato recall that was unnecessary.
“When the FDA mistakenly fingered tomatoes as the source of 1,300 illnesses in 2008, the tomato industry suffered $100 million in losses,” the newspaper said. “The real culprit was tainted jalapenos."
The bill is estimated to cost $1.4 billion over the next four years alone. And who has ever known a bureaucracy to shrink.
There is one hope left for our wallets. Apparently Congress ignored an aspect of the Constitution that requires revenue-raising measures to originate in the House. It seems the Senate version authorizes the Food and Drug Administration to assess fees on food importers and producers who fail inspections or must recall food.
Maybe they won’t get around to this till the next Congress when more Republicans come to town.