For the past few nights, the company I work for has been packing 25 pound cases of pitted prunes for the Food and Drug Administration. What they intend to do with them once they are shipped to them is something no one seems to know. I’m assuming the employees at the FDA aren’t going to eat them themselves, so that means they will probably be part of some program where they are handed out to those in need; both here in the U.S. and abroad. I was told last night that this order will take approximately 170 shifts to complete; so it must be huge, because last night we packed over 3,000 cases.
This is not the first time that the company I work for has gotten a contract from the FDA; a few years back they got a contract from the FDA to pack prunes in cartons that took months to complete.
In both instances the FDA sent one of their bean counters to ensure that the quality of the fruit and packaging is up to government standards. While I’m certain the company is getting a hefty profit off this contract, it has taken all my will power not to confront the FDA bean counter and ask him where in the Constitution does it authorize the agency he works for to purchase fruit from a privately owned company and then turn around and give it out to those in need. In fact, I would take my question one step further and ask him where in the Constitution is the justification for the Food and Drug Administration found.
The only thing stopping me is that if I did I would probably lose my job; and then I’d have to deal with the wrath of my wife because my political beliefs caused us to lose half our income stream.
Since I cannot tell for certain the intended use of hundreds of thousands of cases of pitted prunes, I’m going on the assumption that they will be given away in some form of government benefit program; or charity. Does the FDA know, or care that charity is not among the powers given our government? Do the people who work on the line that packs the fruit for the FDA know that charity is no part of the authorized powers given our government?
In a 1794 speech before the House of Representatives, James Madison, (the purported Father of our Constitution), stated, “The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the State governments whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
So technically, if we are to go under the assumption that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, what the FDA is doing is illegal. I wonder if anyone has given any thought to the justification behind an agency such as the Food and Drug Administration; I mean where in the Constitution does it authorize their existence as a federal regulatory agency?
As the company I work for sells its products across State and international boundaries, an argument could be made that the federal government has a certain degree of regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3) The Commerce Clause declares that Congress shall have the power, “…to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among several States, and with the Indian Tribes…” The key question here is twofold; what is meant by the word regulate, and how far may our government extend its authority in the ‘regulation’ of commerce?
I have heard the argument that the word ‘regulate’ simply means to make regular. In researching the Commerce Clause I found no definition for the word regulate which defines it solely as making something regular.
At the time our Constitution was written it was understood that the power to regulate commerce included the authority to impose restrictions and tariffs upon certain goods, and ban others completely if they were found to be harmful or dangerous to the people of the United States. Using that as a baseline, I suppose I could accept the need for an agency whose area of expertise is food quality be established to ensure that a company in one State is not shipping out food that could pose a possible health risk to others.
Now could it be that the FDA is acting solely as an intermediary to inspect the food that our government is purchasing for whatever intended use it has for these prunes? That may very well be the case, but it does not take away from the fact that our government does not have the constitutional authority to purchase food from a private company and then give it away to others. All it can do is to ensure that the food being shipped across State lines, or overseas, meets certain standards of quality and safety.
The history of the Food and Drug Administration dates back as far as 1848, when Louis Caleb Back was appointed to the patent office to carry out chemical analysis of agricultural products. In 1862, the newly created Department of Agriculture inherited that function from the patent office. In 1906 Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act which prohibited the interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. In 1930 the FDA as we know it now came into existence as the government’s regulatory agency for the quality and safety of our nation’s food and drug supply.
I’m not saying I support the existence of such an extensive agency that employs over 14,000 people and whose budget exceeds $4 billion annually, but I can see how people could see the need for such an agency.
Now I’m not trying to stir up shit at my workplace, I’m only trying to get people to think about just one instance in which our government is exceeding its just authority as found in the Constitution. I could just as easily have spoken about our government’s unlawful foreign aid; where billions of tax dollars are spent in foreign countries for aid, relief, military assistance, education, and the creation of jobs for struggling nations. That too is equally unconstitutional; I was only using the example of the FDA inspector in the plant I work in as a single example of the extent to which our government has overstepped the authority given it back in 1789 when it first went into operation.
I know my opinion doesn’t mean diddly squat in the grand scheme of things; I’m just a pissant employee who is expected to perform like a machine; exhibit superhuman feats of strength and endurance without ever getting tired or hurt, but if this were my company and the government came knocking on my door with a lucrative contract in hand, I’d have something to say to them. I would tell whomever it was, “I know the Constitution doesn’t mean much to you people in Washington D.C., but it is the only reason you as a government exist, and I’ll be damned if I will participate in selling fruit to you; an act which clearly oversteps the authority given you by the people who wrote and ratified the Constitution all those years ago. So take your business elsewhere; I’m sure there are many unscrupulous companies that don’t care what the Constitution says, but we aren’t one of them.”