Sunday, May 20, 2007

What is it all for?

WaPo reports - Tainted Chinese Imports Common
Dead pets and melamine-tainted food notwithstanding, change will prove difficult, policy experts say, in large part because U.S. companies have become so dependent on the Chinese economy that tighter rules on imports stand to harm the U.S. economy, too.

"So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as possible," said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China and now director of international trade and services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm.

As a result, the United States finds itself "kowtowing to China," Cassidy said, even as that country keeps sending American consumers adulterated and mislabeled foods.

It's not just about cheap imports, added Carol Tucker Foreman, a former assistant secretary of agriculture now at the Consumer Federation of America.

"Our farmers and food processors have drooled for years to be able to sell their food to that massive market," Foreman said. "The Chinese counterfeit. They have a serious piracy problem. But we put up with it because we want to sell to them."
To me, this story brings home the importance of answering the question, "What is the role of government?" Is it to protect its citizens or is it something else entirely? I understand that we need a healthy economy and that the economies of various states are becoming more and more intertwined. However, if we are willing to allow tainted foods into our country, just for the sake of economic growth or stability, are we not cutting off our nose to spite our face, so to speak? Is it worth it? That is always the ultimate question, "Is it worth it?" We allow so many things in the name of economics and short term gains. When are we going to start to look at long term health effects, or does that just fall under the category of acceptable losses?

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