Progressivism is bad enough. Add globalism to progressivism and it’s 100 times worse.
Thanks to that toxic cocktail, we are now saddled with a bureaucratic administrative state that can’t even do the job it was advertised to do.
Consider the historical record and our current predicament.
The reformers of the Progressive era championed safety standards for food, drugs, and labor.
The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 gave birth to the Food and Drug Administration. The chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture had mobilized a coalition of women’s clubs, physicians, and pharmacists to lobby for uniform national standards for patent medicines.
The act prohibited the interstate marketing of drugs in which the “standard of strength, quality, or purity” of the active ingredient was “adulterated” or not on an approved list.
Regulating what got on the approved list, and how, became an instrument for building bureaucratic empires, protecting market share, and crushing upstart competitors.
Addressing the latter syndrome, the Trump Administration has been eliminating regulations that have the effect of preserving monopoly status for certain drugs by keeping competing formulas from being approved. As a result, the FDA approved a record 781 new generic drugs in 2018 alone.
Meanwhile, it’s been a constant battle for vigilant consumers and their allies in Congress to stop the regulators who relentlessly sought the power to put vitamins and nutritional supplements under their watchful eye.
A gamut of clinical trials, a regime of inspections, and a bible of regulations overseen by the vast pure food and drug bureaucracy were supposed to ensure the purity and effectiveness of drugs sold in the United States. (For the sake of this discussion we will put aside the question of vaccines and related issues.)
Once globalism was added to the mix, the formula was rendered ineffective.
Communist China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of “active pharmaceutical ingredients,” the base components drug companies use to manufacture most of the medications found on store shelves across America. Today, 80 percent of prescription drugs consumed in the United States originate in India and China.
Drug companies are not required to disclose the country of origin of the active ingredients in their products. That means consumers are unknowingly exposed to the risks associated with drugs made in China.
What are those risks? Well, in 2008, 100 Americans died after taking the anticoagulant heparin that was made in China. Some of the heparin was fraudulently replaced with chondroitin, a dietary supplement for joint aches.
One of the Chinese heparin manufacturers was cited by the FDA for sketchy ingredients, dirty storage equipment, and insufficient testing facilities, the Washington Post reported.
But the FDA doesn’t even inspect most foreign drug makers. And the documentation these manufacturers provides is, well, not worth the paper it’s printed on.
The U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, established by Congress in 2000, tells us, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) struggles to guarantee the safety of drugs imported from China because of the small number of FDA inspectors in the country, the large number of producers, the limited cooperation from Beijing, and the fraudulent tactics of many Chinese manufacturers.”
And you can be sure China is not regulating its own pharmaceutical industry.
Equally disturbing is the fact that our dependence on Chinese-made drugs means “banning certain imports due to contamination risks creating drug shortages in the United States.”
So here we are in the United States with a vast and vastly expensive administrative state apparatus in the FDA that is incapable of ensuring the safety of the drugs being sold here. In other words, incapable of doing the job it was created to do.
A reasonable person might ask how the FDA allowed these drugs to be imported in the first place—or, more to the point, how did the FDA allow pharmaceutical companies to move production to China beyond the reach of inspectors.
A reasonable person might conclude the FDA’s acquiescence is evidence of “regulatory capture,” whereby the agency comes to serve the very industry it’s supposed to oversee.
And now let’s consider another area of progressive interest, labor standards.
In her speech at Washington Square Park, Elizabeth Warren invoked the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 garment workers died just a half block from where Warren spoke.
It was a sweatshop on the upper floors of a 10-story building, employing mostly immigrant teenaged girls who worked 12-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Doors to the exits and stairwells were locked and the victims who didn’t die from the fire or smoke inhalation jumped or fell to their deaths.
This tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history, gave new urgency to labor reforms. Francis Perkins, a reformer and eyewitness to the disaster, became Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of labor.
The Department of Labor has come to administer 180 federal laws and thousands of regulations pertaining to workplace health and safety, wage and hour standards, job training, and work visas.
Its mission is “to develop the wellbeing of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”
Yet the greatest threat to “the wellbeing of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States,” the greatest hindrance to advancing “opportunities for profitable employment” has been the ideology of globalism that has guided Washington policymakers for decades.
American producers who comply with the safety, labor, and wage standards generations before them had fought and died for, were bankrupted by a flood of cheap imports produced in foreign sweatshops whose conditions would be criminal in the United States.
Just days ago we learned of an incident that bears a chilling resemblance to the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster. At least 43 people died when a fire swept through a six-story factory in New Delhi, India. Fire trucks couldn’t get through narrow alleys. The migrant workers earning $2-a-day sleep in the factory between shifts.
While the U.S. Department of Labor stood mute, the goods produced in these unspeakable conditions are sold in the United States to compete against goods made by American labor.
More than 2 million jobs were force-marched from America to China under the banner of globalism while the Labor Department said and did nothing.
The cocktail of progressivism and globalism gives us the worst of both worlds.
We are stuck with the administrative state, but we’ve lost the industries the bureaucrats were supposed to efficiently manage.