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Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.
America's animal farm
Deregulation mania has led to unsafe drugs, a financial crisis, and even a mass escape of dangerous animals in Ohio.
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2011 12:29
Bayer's product, Yaz, was marketed as a safe birth control option, but in reality presents many health risks [EPA]

I write this during what might well be the final days of our existence, as it seems the good Reverend Harold Camping has revised his earlier prediction of The End Of Times. 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", endangered Bengal tigers, 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-sympathiser-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 of the anti-regulation zealots who have 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.

If you think the animals have run wild in eastern Ohio, then take a look at what a-not-quite-as-evolved species did on Wall Street, resulting in thousands of zookeepers finally showing up to occupy this land those on "The Street" thought was theirs to defile and despoil.

From the 1980s onward, when we started to "get government of our backs", as Ronnie liked to say, we created a mess that now has awoken 99 per cent of the people who generally can't spare the pocket change for a $10,000 Tiffany towel rod. The apogee of this idiocy was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which in 1999 repealed one of the great accomplishments of the New Deal, the Glass-Steagall legislation separating commercial and investment banks.

Led by muppet look-alike former Senator Phil Gramm, his right-wing brethren on Capitol Hill, and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and his band of merry Rubinites (the same economic team advising President Barack Obama), this legislation, perhaps more than any other, created a Celebrity Poker atmosphere on Wall Street. The Securities and Exchange Commission, as a result, pretty much became a stop in the revolving door for Wall Streeters left to self-govern.

That may or may not have something to do with why the Bush and Obama administrations have worked hard not to make anyone not named Madoff pay for their extraordinary crime of destroying our economy. For that, in common Washington parlance, would be "looking backwards".

Dangerous drugs

And of course, 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 a will or a way. For that we have Bayer, the makers of birth-control pill Yaz, to thank.

This past week Nightline ran 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 per cent. In the past, only listening to Rush Limbaugh could accomplish that.

"[Yaz spent] 10 times the amount marketing this pill than they did testing whether it would kill people."

- Mike Papantonio, plaintiff's lawyer

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 "10 times the amount marketing this pill than 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 the mayor of Fire Island.

Until 1997, the FDA did not even allow broadcast advertisements for prescription drugs, and the US is one of only two countries in the world (New Zealand being the other) that even allows this type of advertising. It seems that 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 $3bn 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: 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.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008
bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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Al Jazeera
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