Notionally, Governors Rick Perry of Texas, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and our own Terry Branstad of Iowa are conservatives and Republicans. I separate the terms conservative and Republican because on certain issues Republicans do not behave like conservatives.
Recently, the three aforementioned governors stood proudly in support of Beef Products International and its pink slime…err lean finely textured beef. The entire charade struck me as odd because here were bastions of the right wing defending pink slime by saying that the USDA had deemed the product safe. It was as if these normally “government is evil” politicians had suddenly had a come to regulation moment.
The comedic display also perturbed Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican. Normally, I do not see eye to eye with Mr. Robinson on any issue, particularly his support of candidates who I abhor but a friend of mine who was a high school acquaintance of his pointed me to his thoughts on pink slime. However, we agree on the political response to pink slime. In his post entitled “What Ever Happened to Free Market Conservatives?” he posits:
Last time I checked, most Republicans believed in something called the free market. If people don’t want their kids eating products that contain finely textured beef, that’s their prerogative.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the pro-pink slime crowd is going beyond just saying the product is safe. Governor Branstad is encouraging schools to continue to use the product. His actions might have also convinced the folks at Hy-Vee to reconsider pulling the product. I understand why Branstad and others feel like this is a smear campaign, but at the end of the day, it’s the consumer who dictates to the market not the other way around.
This is what I have been trying to say for the past couple of weeks. It is not the safety of pink slime that is in question. It is the presence of pink slime in ground meat that was believed to be 100% ground beef and not Dr. Frankenstein’s ground meat product that is angering people.
What we are asking for is transparent choice. In a perfect competition—something that free market conservatives used to believe in—consumers have total transparency to the products that they are buying and thus can make rational decisions. Any degree of opacity benefits the corporations selling products because it retards the ability of the consumer to make a rational, fully informed choice.
Granted, the Iowa Republican turns around and goes back to the standard tripe in a “lessons learned” post later:
And finally, Republicans need to stand united with other agricultural groups and business and find common ways to assure the safety and stability of our food and our economy.
In the end, what is being said here is the principles do not matter when the paymaster comes calling. The agricultural industrial complex is a huge political donation machine. Terry Branstad alone received ~$150,000 from people tied to Beef Products International, the infamous maker of pink slime, but he assures us it has nothing to do with his full throated defense of the product. He is just looking out for his constituents. Whatever.
Check out the contributions of BPI owners and employees to political candidates as compiled by the Des Moines Register. Lest people think I am piling on the Republicans, of the over $800K donated to state and federal campaigns less than 4% went to Democrats.
I do, however, question the ultimate wisdom of BPI owners Eldon and Regina Roth. As you can see in the database linked to above, both are listed as frequent donors to serial candidate, election loser, and general bigot Bob “I really want to win elected office before I die” Vander Plaats. This is the guy who led a campaign to recall the Iowa Supreme Court justices who sided with civil rights and equality in deciding to allow gay marriage.