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Stop Blaming the Bureaucrats
Congress has the ability to act as an effective watchdog over federal agency activities. Individual members, on occasion, also have the ability to use their watchdog role as cover for throwing temper tantrums and playing petty tyrant. The targets of such tizzies may well be the persons who are the least able to defend themselves against a political assault, career federal officials.

According to, one member of Congress “suggested her subcommittee will ‘zero out management salaries’ in the fiscal 2008 budget if FDA does not take her advice on improving food plant inspections....”

Congress has multiple avenues for modifying food safety regulations including legislation specifying new regulatory requirements. For a Representative to threaten people’s jobs in order to promote their opinion over the professional judgement of career officials working under the laws set by Congress is to act as a bully, not a watchdog. Such attempts at intimidating FDA career staff accomplishes little except to generate headlines. The conclusion is that perhaps publicity, not improved food safety, was the politician’s goal all along.

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