Cliff Schecter, 10/20/2011 [Archive]

America's Animal Farm

America's Animal Farm

By Cliff Schecter

I write this during what might well be the final 48 hours of our existence, as it seems the good Reverend Harold Camping has revised his earlier prediction of The End Of Times to October 21st. As his views would place him comfortably in front of a podium and in the mainstream of any of the every-hour-on-the-hour Republican presidential debates--I'm not entirely convinced he's wrong about a coming apocalypse.

It's also hard to question a general prognostication of doom a day after 56 exotic animals were released into the countryside by the owner of a "private zoo" in Ohio, just before he shot himself to death. In a scene that Director Emeritus of the Columbus, Ohio Zoo and television personality Jack Hanna compared to "Noah's Ark," Bengal tigers (which are endangered), grizzly bears, monkeys, and a variety of other animals--49 in all--were killed en masse by law enforcement.

Make no mistake--this happened because Ohio is one of a handful of states that does not regulate the sale and ownership of exotic animals, and it has been purposefully made that way. Tea-Party-sympathizer-cum-Governor John Kasich, upon his election to that office, began his assault on government by letting an executive order expire that had provided actual restrictions concerning who could own and sell these animals in the Buckeye State.

To Kasich, this kind of crazy Hobbesianism would "hurt small business," which presumably includes the particular lunatic who had done jail time for illegal possession of firearms and was cited multiple times for animal abuse--but still had his Animal Farm up and running in Ohio--until he granted his boarders amnesty. Because to anti-regulation zealots who've taken control of our political culture and institutions, this was the profile of someone still fit to continue to lord over a coterie of dangerous and endangered species, in his own little Jurassic Park.

As Darth Vader would say, "impressive. Most impressive."

Now if you were to ask the Don King of pizza, Herman Cain, I'm sure he'd have a simple plan to solve this problem, which would probably include a number of 9s and the assumption that Zanesville, Ohio is somewhere in the vicinity of Chiang Mai. But for those of us with a beyond-Perry intellect, the story is as simple as it is sadly quotidian: what led to the death of these exotic animals is the same insanity that crashed Wall Street and allows drug companies to lie to people while killing them: the mass deregulation of America.

No deregulation horror story would be complete unless a big pharmaceutical company was poisoning people due to the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA's) lack of will or a way. For that we have Bayer, the makers of birth-control pill Yaz, to thank.

This past week Nightline had a scathing report on the company's over-marketed, under-tested (which is to say, not much at all) birth-control product, which increases a woman's chance of getting an embolism by a healthy 630%. In the past, only listening to Rush Limbaugh could accomplish that.

Preeminent plaintiff's lawyer Mike Papantonio (of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor), who is fighting for many of the victims of this corporation (or person or whatever status we're granting them this week) pointed out to me that Yaz spent "ten times the amount marketing this pill that they did testing whether it would kill people, and even committed such marketing fraud in the process that the toothless FDA ordered them to stop lying in their ads."

The problem is that massive deregulation has turned the project of letting the FDA regulate pharmaceuticals into something that is pretty much akin to paying Alex Rodriguez to hit a ball in the playoffs, or electing Rick Santorum Mayor of Fire Island.

Until 1997, the FDA did not even allow broadcast advertisements for prescription drugs, and the U.S. is one of only two countries in the world (New Zealand being the other), that even allows this type of advertising. It seems other developed nations have this crazy idea that you should decide what prescriptions you need based on a doctor's advice, and not that of a talking bee on television.

As of 2003, over $3 billion per year was being spent on mass media pharmaceutical advertising. It is almost enough to make you puke--if one of their pills is not already causing you to do that.

For just like Wall Steet's nefarious machinations and lions, tigers, and bears running rampant through Ohio, this is the result of a generation of madness, as the Right has continued to decry all regulation as the body count has mounted. Meanwhile, the Left has often simply kept quiet, or even joined the parade.

As Papantonio told me about Yaz, "here is the simple fact: you've made something that is killing people pay off. Bayer has been found guilty of multiple felonies and they are still treated as if they are credible--because we simply slap them on the wrist for the carnage they cause."

While Papantonio was only speaking about a drug company here, that seems like a pretty solid overall summary of what the deregulation of America has achieved over the past generation.


©Copyright 2011 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain. Follow Cliff on Twitter @CliffSchecter.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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