Cloudy Day Pondering

During this global storm, it’s tough to get a long view on policy and what targets will form new commercial culture. Three items drew my attention, not because these answer long term thinking, but because the authors are not swayed in trees.

One is merely a comment on a blog post:

Cyril R.Says:
March 13th, 2009 at 2:09 pm
If this peak oil decline thing is true, then there’s a geological “cap and trade” system underway already. With 100% auctioning, a strong regressive cap, and no easy political way out. Better go for a carbon tax I say. Putting a volatile carbon market on top of volatile energy market is just too big a risk for me. Besides, the abatement cost reduction in the carbon trading system is rather small a benefit compared to a straight carbon tax.

Another takes a necessary longer view of poor strategy, that markets are not mystical, and points again to institutional raiders as a true mark of our era:

Banking Industry Sick Since At Least the S&L Crisis

And it seems Obama is fixing food safety too:

I’ve often said that I don’t believe government has the answer to every problem or that it can do all things for all people. We are a nation built on the strength of individual initiative. But there are certain things that we can’t do on our own. There are certain things only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and don’t cause us harm.

But in recent years, we’ve seen a number of problems with the food making its way to our kitchen tables. In 2006, it was contaminated spinach. In 2008, it was salmonella in peppers and possibly tomatoes. And just this year, bad peanut products led to hundreds of illnesses and cost nine people their lives – a painful reminder of how tragic the consequences can be when food producers act irresponsibly and government is unable to do its job. Worse, these incidents reflect a troubling trend that’s seen the average number of outbreaks from contaminated produce and other foods grow to nearly 350 a year – up from 100 a year in the early 1990s.

Part of the reason is that many of the laws and regulations governing food safety in America have not been updated since they were written in the time of Teddy Roosevelt.

It’s also because our system of inspection and enforcement is spread out so widely among so many people that it’s difficult for different parts of our government to share information, work together, and solve problems.

And it’s also because the FDA has been underfunded and understaffed in recent years, leaving the agency with the resources to inspect just 7,000 of our 150,000 food processing plants and warehouses each year. That means roughly 95% of them go uninspected. That is a hazard to public health.