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Meet D.C.'s new mayor

By Tom Toles

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The other defense department

We mark anniversaries of important events so that we don't forget the lessons we learned. Of course, eventually we forget the anniversary -- and the lessons, too. This week was a good, um, reminder of that. It's been fifty years since one of the nanny-state stormtroopers overruled the market's magical ability to regulate itself and kept thalidomide off the market in the U.S.

Her name was Frances Oldham, not that we remember that, and the drug thalidomide, which we have also just about forgotten, caused horrifying birth defects such as flipper-like arms and legs in countries where it was used to treat morning sickness during pregnancy. Not here. Because of Dr. Oldham and her GOVERNMENT MANDATED insistence on drug testing! What a concept!

It's pretty hard to fit this true story into the small-government narrative, so down the memory hole it will go! And the crush-the-government crusade will go on, to the applause of people who still have hands thanks to Frances Oldham. --Tom Toles
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By Tom Toles  | September 16, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  DC  
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Comments

gee, bp comes to mind as do many 'companies.'

Posted by: bertzel | September 16, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

A free market that will regulate itself is as big a fantasy as a unicorn-it simply doesn't exist. Once the free market mentality takes hold, greed wins-every time.

Companies will willingly bury data that shows a product is dangerous, just to make a few million dollars before that dangerous flaw is uncovered. Don't believe me? Do some research into the Phen/Fen scandal.

Posted by: amethystmarbles | September 16, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

dudeupnorth, as a common tater...I would also like to add that thalidomide has since been approved by the FDA for other uses.

Posted by: bertzel | September 16, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Today’s blog has to be one of your best, TT, but don’t take my word for it: I only started reading them about a week ago. Which means that prior to Labor Day some really really marvelous stuff could have been going on right below your very cartoons. (I've written in this space before today, but what may surprise you is this: my thoughts and musings were not based upon your blog, but upon conversations I've overheard on the elevator where I happen to be employed.) Anyway, one of the interesting features of the thalidomide debacle and tragedy is that serious (and some of them bright enough) people think that the devastating drug was sold here in the US of A. While in fact, it was not. They see someone with a missing part – or parts – and whisper the dreaded “uh-oh,a thalidomide baby,” when they have no idea if this is someone who came here from another nation –like the UK or Germany where it was allowed – and they go right on thinking that this awful stuff was sold and used here. So thanks, TT, for reminding us about this important anniversary -- and about that nice lady you mentioned. Speaking of anniversaries, on September 6th you failed to mention the one hundred and ninth anniversary of the shooting of President William McKinley back in your own hometown of Buffalo, New York. Leon Czolgosz, the vile anarchist who fired two bullets into Number 25’s heartily-endowed abdomen, was thankfully and finally reduced to a smoldering corpse-like, late anarchist in “old sparkie” – one of the first to enjoy hanging’s new-fangled 20th Century alternative. Had the deforming drug been allowed here, and had Leon’s mother taken thalidomide for her own bouts of morning sickness, perhaps the devious assassin would not have had the hands necessary to pull the trigger. Isn’t history something, the way it reveals how events are actually woven together -- that on the surface seem entirely disparate??

Posted by: dudeupnorth | September 16, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Domestically, we need another Teddy Roosevelt, another "trust buster." He feared the concentration of power, whether it was in labor unions, political machines or large corporations (called trusts at the turn of the century). He was the exact opposite of Ronald Reagan, who espoused a free market that would regulate itself and eliminate waste through the profit motive. Only Jesus Christ would not be corrupted by the vast wealth and power of the multinationals when left to their own devices.

Posted by: gss49 | September 16, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Excellent bit of history Tom. Thanks.

Without regulatory agencies we would be exposed to, maimed and killed by, a lot more hazards than we are now, whether it be on the highway, at home, at work, at school, etc. We would be the victims of the profit motive overshadowing all other concerns.

But, as with the historic example TT gives us, there is plenty more of this still going on even today. USDA is tragically underfunded and understaffed to regulate the corporate food processing world we've created. Evidence the recent salmonella and E. coli issues. Speaking of the food industry, the meat packing world is loaded with people maimed or killed by the "keep the line moving" mentality. Often times, even if negligence is found, fines or punishments are so low that Tyson, Swift, and others consider a death or two at their plants as just part of the cost of doing business (and I'm not making this up...check out Human Rights Watch for some in-depth looks at this industry). OSHA, the folks that are supposed to be looking out for these kinds of issues, is underfunded and understaffed as well, not to mention how much the regulations for this industry have been gutted, by both political parties. And the fact that many of these meat packing workers are undocumented leads to them having no voice and great fear of speaking out.

And the list goes on. How about the Minerals Management Service basically being in bed, literally, with the mining and extraction industry, allowing them to skirt all kinds of regulations. This was because of a complete lack of oversight, and also because of how that agency was set up and modified over the years.

I'm all in favor of competent employees in Federal agencies, accountable to their supervisors, not given raises if not deserved, and not expanding the work force if it's not necessary. But...we NEED regulatory agencies, properly staffed. We NEED regulations with teeth, and enforcement of those regulations, to keep the profit motive from taking our lives and limbs.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | September 16, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

let us also not forget the LSD testing our government practiced. Now we have to deal with eating genetically altered foods which may, or may not be labeled as such....

Addictions also are a real deterrent when it comes to citizens being responsible for their health and well- being. Food, nicotine, alcohol, street drugs, perscription drugs, are all examples. Some can and do overcome these unhealthy addictions. Many do not.
Nonetheless, I agree, government does overstep its bounderies in quite a few areas. Many,of which, we are unaware of...
However, SOMETIMES it is necessary for the government to step in for the common good.

Posted by: bertzel | September 16, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

We do need a certain amount of oversight. The problem occurs when we turn our personal responsibility over to someone or something else. We abdicate. Too much debt? It's the credit company's fault. Can't afford your house payment? It's the mortgage company's fault. Over-medicated? It's the doctor's fault, the drug company's fault, or the FDA's fault. No matter what our problem, we want someone else to take responsibility for it and fix it. Sometimes stuff just happens but usually we dig our own holes.
If you believe that the government has too much power, stop giving it to them. Be in charge of your own life and take responsibility for the choices you make...especially the bad ones.

Posted by: lderusso | September 16, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Where do you go to sign up as a nanny-state stormtrooper? When I googled "stormtooper" all I got was German SS and George Lucas. There was one cool site where you could buy one of those wild looking white suits from Star Wars. Mr. Toles, the time has come for you to draw us a uniform that will let us know who they are!

Posted by: gowen1 | September 16, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Nobody can fool Toles because he knows everything he does is for the political gain of the democrat party.

Posted by: bignoisylawnmower | September 16, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Strange day. Not one demurral. What happened to all the usual bash-government-types?

Posted by: GeneTouchet | September 16, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

You can not fool me. I worked at FDA for six years and I KNOW they are honest and hard working. Shame on those who denigrate the FDA workers for political gain. Perhaps some really believe their trash talk. But do believe me. They are flat out wrong.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 16, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Dear bertzel, thank you, all expectant mothers should avoid any drug that isn't know to be absolutely safe. It is common sense what our Government should regulate and control. Safety is a learning experience. From transportation, to work safety, to the food and drug supply our Government does a pretty good job. But Government has a tendency to overreach. Our citizens have a responsibility to protect themselves also. When it comes to food, everything in moderation. Government in moderation also. About your cartoon Mr. Toles. The results of the primaries on Tuesday show a real concern about ALL incumbents by the electorate. I am wondering if even President Obama might have a challenger from his own Party for the nomination in 2012.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 16, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh & Toles thanks for the reminder...
Regards.

Posted by: bertzel | September 15, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh & Toles thanks for the reminder...
Regards.

Posted by: bertzel | September 15, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

bobbo2. My sadness goes out to your sister. I myself was only a yearling when this happened, tho I am thankful my mom didn't 'partake' for whatever reason in this "drug testing". Some of my siblings may have suffered as well. Perhaps that is why, to this day I refuse to take the "Flu" shot....remember the big epidemic of last year...made me laugh...perhaps the medical field needed some extra income...'supply & demand"?

Now ...the smoking ban is a different story !!

Posted by: bertzel | September 15, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

I remember Thalidomide. It was a treatment for morning sickness in expectant mothers. It was a great tragedy in Europe, especially in Great Britain. Now it has been found to be useful for other medical treatments. But it should never have been given to pregnant women. Accutane was a cure for severe acne. It was prescribed to my sister when she was pregnant. It should not have been. Our family learned the hard way about that. The FDA is a vital department of our Government. But sometimes even after extensive testing drugs are found to be unsafe in certain situations. A reasonable Government with reasonable responsibilities is much more likely to do it's job well than a Nanny State that tries to fix everything. Great Britain was a Nanny State and they let Thalidomide be sold over the counter. Government that tries to do everything will do nothing well. A Nanny State will be a Government that treats us like children. The problem the Democrats have is that they don't know what Government should and should not be involved in.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 15, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Just think the government was even cutting taxes back then when Dr. Oldham was doing all the drug testing.

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now ... Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus." – John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, president's news conference

"Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 17, 1963, annual budget message to the Congress, fiscal year 1964

"In today's economy, fiscal prudence and responsibility call for tax reduction even if it temporarily enlarges the federal deficit – why reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: "The Economic Report Of The President"

"It is no contradiction – the most important single thing we can do to stimulate investment in today's economy is to raise consumption by major reduction of individual income tax rates." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: "The Economic Report Of The President"

"Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort – thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 24, 1963, message to Congress on tax reduction and reform, House Doc. 43, 88th Congress, 1st Session.

"A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues." – John F. Kennedy, Sept. 18, 1963, radio and television address to the nation on tax-reduction bill

"I have asked the secretary of the treasury to report by April 1 on whether present tax laws may be stimulating in undue amounts the flow of American capital to the industrial countries abroad through special preferential treatment." – John F. Kennedy, Feb. 6, 1961, message to Congress on gold and the balance of payments deficit

Posted by: jornolibist | September 15, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Just think the government was even cutting taxes back then when Dr. Oldham was doing all the drug testing.

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now ... Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus." – John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, president's news conference

"Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 17, 1963, annual budget message to the Congress, fiscal year 1964

"In today's economy, fiscal prudence and responsibility call for tax reduction even if it temporarily enlarges the federal deficit – why reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: "The Economic Report Of The President"

"It is no contradiction – the most important single thing we can do to stimulate investment in today's economy is to raise consumption by major reduction of individual income tax rates." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: "The Economic Report Of The President"

"Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort – thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate." – John F. Kennedy, Jan. 24, 1963, message to Congress on tax reduction and reform, House Doc. 43, 88th Congress, 1st Session.

"A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues." – John F. Kennedy, Sept. 18, 1963, radio and television address to the nation on tax-reduction bill

"I have asked the secretary of the treasury to report by April 1 on whether present tax laws may be stimulating in undue amounts the flow of American capital to the industrial countries abroad through special preferential treatment." – John F. Kennedy, Feb. 6, 1961, message to Congress on gold and the balance of payments deficit

Posted by: jornolibist | September 15, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that's it. Get Government off our backs. Let's bring back the snake oil. If some people die or suffer massive birth defects, the market will eventually determine that the stuff isn't so good for you. Never mind that it might take years to do so. Or maybe eat some salmonella-laced eggs for breakfast while you contemplate air travel with no FAA safety rules.

Posted by: ebtnut | September 15, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

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