I have written on several occasions that we are all increasingly dependent on the global system known as the “official” economy, and that this official system is now breaking. I have also repeatedly mentioned that the masters of this present global system are waging an active war against anyone who tries to create a safety net of alternative systems. One of their means is the use of governments to pass laws that make various acts of self-sufficiency illegal, or that impose a penalty on people who use alternatives to the official system. Here are three beautifully evil examples:
Oregon State House Bill 3008. Are you an Oregonian who recently chose to save money by bicycle commuting instead of driving? Four members of the Oregon legislature want to take that money away from you. They are Republican Representative Wayne Krieger, Republican Representative Sal Esquivel, Republican Representative Bill Garrard and Democratic Representative Michael Scaufler. They have introduced House Bill 3008 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/cgi-bin/searchMeas.pl), a measure that, if passed, would require all bicycles ridden in Oregon to be registered by their owners via a $54 biannual fee. Failure to register would result in a traffic fine of up to $90. This is the same amount charged for registering cars!
Ostensibly, the bill is designed to raise funds for improvement and expansion of bikeways and bike paths, but in actuality, the bill may be yet another attempt to discourage people from using bikes as transport, and to force them back into cars. One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Wayne Krieger, had opposed the Oregon Vulnerable Roadway Users bill in 2007. He has also stated his belief that bikes don't belong on the road. (Source: http://bikeportland.org/2009/03/06/mandatory-bike-registration-bill-introduced-in-salem/) The other thing is that only two thirds of the registration funds collected would go toward bikeway/bike path projects. The remaining third would be kept by the registering agency (who could be a private contractor hired by the State).
Is this the way to protect the budgets of struggling families, or to combat global warming? Is this how to address impending energy shortages? And what about the many, many homeless people one sees on bikes nowadays, people for whom a bicycle is a vital piece of equipment? Is the state going to try to shake them down, or will they try to confiscate their bikes? House Bill 3008 is just plain stupid.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This is the law which is causing consternation among thrift shop owners, small home-based makers of childrens clothes and toys, and sellers of children's books. This law, sponsored by Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush and signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush, requires that any toys, apparel or other “children's products” (products made for children 12 years old or younger) must be subjected to third-party testing for lead and phthalates before being sold. Enforcement of this law was intended to apply even to items made before the law was passed. Moreover, the law was intended for any product consisting of a completed assembly of various parts – even if those parts did not contain lead or phthalates themselves.
These requirements mean the effectual destruction of thrift shops and garage sales, as well as other sellers of used children's books, toys and clothing. Moreover, they mean testing for things that clearly could not possibly contain lead, such as rag dolls made from cloth, cotton stuffing and thread. And the third-party testing requirements threaten the very existence of small-scale, home or cottage-based industries and sellers, since they can't afford the third-party testing fees. (See http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/197224, http://www.amadirectlink.com/news/story.asp?id=629, http://www.middletownjournal.com/hp/content/oh/story/news/local/2009/02/18/hjn021809leadlibraries.html, http://www.ldnews.com/ci_11810629?source=most_viewed, and http://www.khnl.com/Global/story.asp?S=9799062&nav=menu55_2)
But the requirements of this law are good for Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, and the really big children's product manufacturers, who are the only ones with enough cash flow to afford compliance with this law – yet whose products, made outside the United States in countries with lax regulations, were responsible for causing the very problems that this law is supposed to fix. Were you trying to become self-sufficient by starting a home-based children's craft business? Has this law just wiped you out? You could always try to get a job at Wal-Mart or McDonald's. How effective are laws to protect chickens when they are written by foxes? Look, there goes a ten-year-old right now, chewing on his bicycle chain! Was that kid's bicycle subjected to third-party testing before it was sold??!
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. This bill, also known as House Resolution 875, was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro and 39 co-sponsors, all Democrats. This bill has many bloggers upset because of the perceived threat the bill poses to our ability to be self-sufficient in providing our own food without having to rely on the present global system of industrial food production. The fuss over the bill made me curious, so I downloaded a copy of it (you can get yours here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-875) and read the whole thing this afternoon.
This bill is our government's response to recent food safety scandals such as melamine residues in baby formula and pet food shipped to the U.S., as well as outbreaks of samonella in peanut butter, eggs, meat, poultry, pet food and vegetables. The introductory paragraphs of the bill make it clear that the bill's purpose goes beyond merely protecting consumer health: “Congress finds that the safety of the food supply of the United States is vital to...public confidence in the food supply and to the success of the food sector of the Nation's economy...” and “...loss of public confidence in food safety [is] damaging to consumers and the food industry, and place[s] a burden on interstate commerce and international trade...” (emphasis added). In other words, one of the primary purposes of this bill is to repair the damage to the global food industry due to loss of consumer confidence on account of recent food safety scandals.
The bill proposes to set up a far-reaching bureaucracy responsible for enforcing uniform standards for all “food establishments,” as defined by the bill. “Food establishments” are defined as facilities that slaughter animals, that process raw seafood or other raw animal products, that process cooked, pasteurized, or otherwise ready-to-eat animal products or that processes raw, ready-to-eat fresh produce, or any establishment that process all other categories of food products not described in the aforementioned definitions. The bill also has requirements for “food production facilities,” defined as farms, ranches, orchards, vineyards, or feedlots.
For “food establishments,” the bill sets up requirements for mandatory inspections, quality control processes, testing and documentation of records. It also requires all “food establishments” to register with the Federal government. For “food production facilities” such as farms, the bill requires the operators to follow the National Animal Identification System, as well as “minimum standards” related to “growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations” for “fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment and water...”
The concern over the safety of our nation's food supply is commendable. Some of the provisions of this bill seem to address that concern in a reasonable manner, including testing requirements for food imported to the United States. However, as I read this bill, I got the impression that too many of its provisions are poorly defined, and could lead to draconian, hugely invasive government interference in small, family-owned farms, driving them out of business. The requirement to follow the National Animal Identification System is a sure-fire small farm killer, written expressly to drive small meat farmers out of business due to the huge cost of compliance. This bill seems to be yet another attempt at knee-capping the peasants.
One thing about the peasants: Since I am a peasant who wants to escape from reliance on our breaking system, I care a great deal about the attempts by the corporate masters of our present system to force me into continued dependence on their system. In fact, I get mad. There seems to be a shortage of anger about these things nowadays. When that anger is expressed, it's usually in the form of calls to “write your congressman!” Should chickens appeal to foxes for protection? But if chickens figure out a way to make predatory behavior hard on foxes, they're apt to get more satisfying results. Write your congressman if you like, but don't stop there.
Therefore I'll just inform you that H.R. 875 sponsor Representative DeLauro is married to Stanley Greenberg, principal of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a political campaign company (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Greenberg_Quinlan_Rosner). Among his company's recent clients is Monsanto, a large-scale manufacturer of pesticides and other farm “inputs,” as well as genetically-modified seeds. As a huge agribusiness player, Monsanto is a company that would have a great deal to gain from driving small farms out of business, and has actively campaigned against organic agriculture. (Source: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto)
Monsanto also makes products such as Roundup Herbicides and Fielder's Choice Seeds, and is a partner with the Scotts Miracle-Gro company in distributing lawn care products. You can find their products in any Home Depot or Lowe's or Tru-Value hardware store. Or then again, maybe you can't. At least I can't anymore. My anger toward Scotts and Monsanto has induced a selective blindness in my eyes – I can't see their products anymore, no matter what store I visit. Oh, well. I guess I can't buy what I can't see. As I find out more about other corporate sponsors of this sort of foolishness, I may stop seeing their products also.
Oh, and if you want to find out more about the National Animal Identification System, read this: http://www.dcexaminer.com/opinion/columns/TimothyCarney/Livestock-tracing-bill-could-be-end-of-family-farms-ranches--41197442.html. I guess I won't ever again be eating at McDonald's either.