Tom Coburn: A Reason to Believe in American Democracy

Sometimes, as life in America seems ever more mean, dark, and broken, the entire political process looks futile. What difference does it make? We changed ruling parties, after eight years of failure and misery, and we got more failure and misery. We’re still operating our extrajudicial offshore prison and occupying two countries to prop up corrupt and failing governments . Our own government is still treating its citizens like inmates in an open-air penitentiary . The economy is a failed gambling scheme . What’s the point?

Then Senator Tom Coburn announces his intention to block the food-safety bill that’s already been waiting around for more than a year :

The legislation would give the agency more power to recall tainted products, require more inspections of food processing facilities and require producers to follow stricter standards for keeping food safe. Currently, the FDA does not have the authority to order a recall and must negotiate recalls with the affected producers. The agency rarely inspects many food facilities and farms, visiting some every decade or so and others not at all.

Coburn says he is doing this because is worried about the deficit. That was the same reason he wanted to block the extension of unemployment benefits and withdraw the troops from force cuts elsewhere in the budget to offset ongoing military spending in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is just hostage-taking. Coburn’s concern about the deficit is one-sided—he’s not asking for taxes to go up to cover the cost of the bill, which is a scary-sounding $1.4 billion, or a considerably less scary $4.67 per American citizen. Taxes are bad. He is expressing the political opinion that removing disease-ridden feces from the food supply is a responsibility that the government should not take on. This is what Tom Coburn stands for: he believes that, on top of everything else, you can actually go eat shit.