A Teachable Moment

by Christopher Hayes

Matt links to a McClatchy piece about how the Bush administration, in concert with the Chinese government, worked against tightening inspection and regulation of toys manufactured in China. Dog bites man, to be sure. But what's really striking to me is how Democrats have completely failed to use the steady and growing trickle of stories about dangerous products emanating from the unregulated factories of China to make the broader case for importance of regulation. When I took intro economics at the University of Chicago, I remember my professor dismissing with a caustic laugh the very notion of public health inspection of local restaurants. "I don't think the Medici would stay in business very long if they took to poisoning their customers."

That’s more or less the belief system (if you can call it that) that the Bush administration has marshalled to combat something as commonsensical as, you know, making sure children’s toys aren’t coated in lead paint. So this is as teachable moment as they come, and you can bet that, if, say, the national healthcare system in France was accidentally poisoning its patients, we’d be hearing a chorus of conservatives making the case that this was example of the ideological bankruptcy of state-run healthcare.

So where’s the chorus on the other side? Rick Perlstein has been eloquent and consisent in calling attention to the connection between the ideological commitments of modern-day conservatism and the inevitable degradation of public infrastructure and regulatory standards. Other bloggers have joined him, but this is an object lesson in the inability of Democratic politicians to wholistically articulate a social democratic vision even when the opportunity is handed to them on a platter.

Cross-poster over at Ezra's place

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

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