Government Interference Disguised As Protecting Us But Costing Us

Dear Everyone;

Two stories one from NY Times the other from the Wall Street Journal. Both about good old government interference designed to protect consumers or industry but in reality nothing more than politics as usual costing the consumer and those who lose jobs - tough about that - but hey - that's politics.

The first article will upset vegans because it is about meat. But should be of interest as a story on government interference because they know better and putting people out of work to protect an industry and destroying perfectly good meat.

The second one on free trade has some problems because it does call for WTO participation and using its rules. Free trade does not need government organizations to have free trade. But at least the author is thinking in the right direction. While the Democarts as usual are thinking protectionism to save jobs and in reality costing jobs and costing consumers more in higher prices - thanks a lot.

Everybody have a nice wonderful Thanksgiving Day with friends and family.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian

Cure Me

NOVEMBER is a busy time for city restaurants. Urban dwellers close up their second homes, and market ingredients shift from cool tomatoes to dense squashes and earthy mushrooms. The appeal of eating comfort foods around a convivial table returns.
Two weeks ago, amid all this autumn activity, Stephen Kaye telephoned, offering to sell a whole Tamworth pig. Stephen is an upstate farmer who has brought us the most delicious asparagus I’ve eaten, the creamiest fingerling potatoes we’ve served, mint that made an ice cream still unsurpassed, and my first grass-fed beef, a Dexter-Angus cross. Now he was proposing to deliver a pig the week before Thanksgiving.
My first reaction was: Are you kidding? Do you have any idea of the logistics that go into serving the great American meal to 185 diners? My harried sous chef hasn’t the time or the space to handle a 150-pound carcass.
But then I remembered that this is also a busy time on the farm. It is a race against the frost, to gather root crops and plant garlic and hardy greens that winter over. And of course it is also ideal pig-killing time. Any later in the season, and precious forage or grain for other animals would have to be used to maintain the girth that the pig put on in summer pasture. Any earlier, and we wouldn’t be taking advantage of all the energy and nutrients available in the field grasses.
If I really am dedicated to cooking by the seasons and supporting local agriculture, I thought, now would be the obvious time to buy a whole pig. Ideally, I would break it down into primal cuts, put the hams in salt for the next month, and then hang them at room temperature for two years, allowing them to slowly dry into prosciutto. And why not grind up the dark, fatty shoulders with salt, pepper and juniper, stuff the mixture into casings, and then leave the sausages in a cool room for six weeks to naturally ferment, developing delicious, tangy porcine flavors?
I can’t, because the United States Department of Agriculture and the local health departments do not allow commercial processing of meat without refrigeration.
This is astonishing, because since Neolithic times, people have safely cured and preserved meats without refrigeration. Europeans have turned curing into an art, and the best processors are revered craftsmen who earn national medals of honor. Salt, time and a good dose of fresh air are the only additions needed to produce salsicce, culatello and 24-month-old prosciutto or serrano — foods that Americans smuggle home from Europe in their luggage.
In the United States, sadly, we have adopted a different approach. In the early 20th century, artisan sausage-makers catered to fellow immigrants and their children who hungered for the traditions and tastes of their homelands. As a child in Bergen County, N.J., I was greeted at my German grandmother’s house with a large platter of bündnerfleisch, Swiss air-dried beef. I pronounced it “bunder,” and translated it into my personal lexicon as “wonder meat,” because I never tasted anything else so good.
The shop that sold that meat is long gone. When first-generation craftsmen retired or died, their children didn’t want to take over the business and the salumeri of the nation’s Little Italys and the wurst shops of the Little Bavarias closed.
At the same time, meat production became industrialized, and was conducted on a much larger scale. As production speeds increased and labor was increasingly unskilled, food safety became a serious issue. The making of sausage and cured meats, once a skilled profession, became an opportunity to process discarded meats into a marginally edible form. Tainted meat and unsanitary factories led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
More recently, in 1996, the Agriculture Department established the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, which detail how production facilities can minimize the chances of contamination. And the key requirement is that all meat be held at temperatures less than 42 degrees.
And so the ancient, ingenious methods of meat preservation created in the days before refrigeration have come under attack because they don’t use refrigerators.
Yet now, as more chefs cook seasonally and buy locally, the use of whole animals is becoming more commonplace. Embracing the notion that meat is a precious resource, chefs in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore., are rediscovering the ancient crafts of meat preservation.
Unfortunately, federal and local health officials are cracking down on these production methods. Last spring, New York City health department officials summarily tossed scores of prosciutto legs — without ever measuring the meat’s moisture or salinity levels to determine their safety. If it was being held anywhere in the bacteria “danger zone” of 42 to 140 degrees, then it was deemed unsafe.
Yet Italy’s finest prosciutto pro-ducers and Spain’s great Ibérico arti-sans hold their products at 55 to 60 degrees, a temperature range that they say enhances flavors, without causing health problems.
What we need is to invert the logic now applied to meat safety. Rather than apply refrigeration standards to an ancient and safe method of preservation, we need an alternative set of standards that take into account what salting and drying can do to discourage the growth of bacteria. Federal and local health officials should recognize artisanal methods as an alternative to refrigeration.
November is a time to give thanks to earth’s bounty, enjoy the fruits of a good season and prepare for the colder, harsher days ahead. On second thought, maybe I will take that pig from Stephen Kaye.
Peter Hoffman is the owner and chef of the restaurant Savoy.

Protection Racket
Free trade is a key to prosperity. Why do Democrats fight it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 12:01 a.m.

"Free trade is the most important single way to promote growth," Milton Friedman said in an interview a few weeks before his death.
But the new Democratic congressional majority doesn't understand that. Just a week after the elections one of the first actions Congress took was to vote down the new trade agreement with Vietnam. Ninety-four Democrats voted against it, 90 of them for it; and that is before some 16 newly elected House Democrats opposed to free trade are even sworn in. As Charlie Rangel, the incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, put it, "We need to be angry as hell and try to protect American industry."
Five new Democratic senators share similar views on free trade. Ohio's Sen.-elect Sherrod Brown wrote a book entitled "Myths of Free Trade," arguing that trade agreements should only be allowed if those nations pass laws "guaranteeing enforceable labor and environmental standards." John Edwards is a protectionist zealot; John Kerry said in 2004 that unless the treaties had the standards in them he would as president veto them.
Republicans aren't always better: several years ago half of GOP senators voted for an amendment (which failed) forbidding the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that outsource any of their work overseas. And President Bush in his first term imposed tariffs on imported steel, which saved the jobs of 5000 U.S. steelworkers but caused higher steel prices that eliminated 23,000 jobs in the steel-consuming industries.

Fortunately, President Bush has become more trade focused. The Central American Free Trade Agreement, allowing freer trade with the Dominican Republic and five Central American nations, was approved in 2005; and a dozen other bilateral or regional free trade agreements with foreign nations have been put in place. Eleven more are under negotiation, with two of the agreements and the granting of normal trade status to Vietnam awaiting congressional approval.
These trade agreements expand America's marketing opportunities and the jobs that go with them. As a Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out last week, Peru already has broad duty-free access to U.S. markets, so by the new Peru agreement "80% of U. S. industrial and textile products, and more than two-thirds of U.S. farm exports would enter Peru duty-free immediately." That's a good deal for both countries and for their people.
Simply put, markets work. A recent Global Insights analysis concludes that Wal-Mart's 1985-2004 expansion of sales resulted in a 9.1% drop in the price of food at home, a 4.2% drop in the price of other goods and commodities, and a 3.1% decline in consumer prices overall, saving the average working family about $2,329 per year. And with that came a net increase of 210,000 Wal-Mart jobs in 2004 alone.
And trade agreements open market opportunities. The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, has expanded total trade between the U.S, Canada, and Mexico by 172%. U.S. exports to Mexico have grown by 189% and to Canada by 111%. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada have doubled, to $10.6 billion from $5.3 billion, and to Mexico even more--to $9.4 billion from $3.6 billion. More than one million jobs were created in America by NAFTA.
Overall the U.S. Trade Representative's office says that 10.4% of the 2005 American GDP is the result of U.S. exports of goods and services. The Peterson Institute says that globalization boosts the U.S. economy $1 trillion annually, or about $10,000 per household. There is no question that trade both increases jobs in some areas and decreases them in others, both internationally and domestically. When cars replaced carriages, computers replaced typewriters, and E-ZPass replaced toll-takers in America, some jobs were lost and other were gained.
The new Doha round of World Trade Organization talks has been delayed by America's and France's refusal to agree to reducing agricultural subsidies. Perhaps these are negotiating positions, but would the U.S ever agree to reduce farm subsidies for greater international trade access? In a Pelosi-Reid Congress certainly not--U.S. farmers received $47 billion from the U.S. government in 2004, about 18% of farm income--but for the American people free trade and lower agricultural subsidies would be a substantial step forward.

Another rallying cry for the antitrade lobby is "outsourcing," putting together companies in other nations that can provide services to American people at lower costs than can be provided at home. Two years ago, as an example, radiologists in India were analyzing American patients' X-rays at one-fourth the cost of radiologists in the United States, and they were using U.S. computers and software. Protectionists would argue that this kind of thing must be stopped, but lower costs for customers are a good thing. And of course job outsourcing works both ways: outsourcing by foreign companies has created more than 6.5 million jobs for American workers-- the Honda automobile plant in Ohio and BMW's in South Carolina being two large employment examples.
In short, trade helps people while protectionism hurts them. Imports give people a wider choice of goods, often at lower prices; protectionism helps local industries--steel companies in the Bush protectionism case--maintain higher prices at the expense of broad social and economic prosperity.
Milton Friedman was right, and the protectionists are wrong. Free trade is essential to economic growth and opportunity.
Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His column appears once a month.