How do you fix problems with government? With more government, of course. That’s the CBS strategy based on reported problems at the Food and Drug Administration. In a two-story effort, the network pushed for more legislation, more regulation and more spending.
Two April 23 “Evening News” stories were filled with critics of the FDA arguing politicians are “not sure that the FDA is up to the job,” as anchor Katie Couric put it. But neither report included a response to any of the charges from the agency or anyone who argued against growing bureaucracy.
Reporter Wyatt Andrews concluded his story claiming that everyone wants Congress to increase FDA regulations and funding. “Every proposal to fix the FDA says the real job belongs to Congress. That Congress has to deliver new funding and new authority to bring the FDA into the 21st Century.”
CBS spent 4 ½ minutes detailing problems in the food and drug sides of the FDA. That meant interviewing the anti-industry group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ; the pro-regulation Consumers Union; an industry group that wants a whole new federal agency; a disgruntled former FDA official and liberal Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), whose most recent rating from the left-wing Americans for Democratic Action was 100 percent.
Bill Vaughan, of the Consumer’s Union, blamed the FDA for deaths. “There’s an old saying: the history of the FDA is written in tombstones,” he claimed.
Reporter Nancy Cordes concluded her part by talking about how much the FDA budget needs to grow. According to her statement, an additional $11 million is slated for FDA food safety efforts in 2008. Even that’s not enough. “Former FDA officials say the agency needs 10 times that,” concluded Cordes.
Cordes never mentioned that the 2007 food safety budget had increased by nearly $20 million – a rise of 12.5 percent. The increase she said former FDA officials want would represent an extra $106 million, or a 60-percent increase in the food safety budget.
She used a graphic to compare the number of inspectors between the FDA and the Department of Agriculture. FDA is responsible for 80 percent of our food supply, she said, and USDA 20 percent, “but the USDA has five times the number of inspectors.” Cordes didn’t question whether that was too many. She concluded the number the FDA had was too few.
Only one person in either story made a free market point. When the FDA responded to a “deadly outbreak of e-coli” by asking industry to police itself, that’s exactly what happened. According to Cordes, “the California produce industry imposed standards on itself – far more strict than the FDA’s rules.”
Joe Pezzini, of Ocean Mist Farms, explained how industry can solve problems easier and faster than government. “We didn’t wait for legislation or regulation, ’cause that can take quite a bit of time to do.”