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Tea Party Candidate Thinks People Should Fend for Themselves Against Salmonella Outbreaks

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This post first appeared on Washington Monthly.

Over the summer, there was a major egg recall, following at least 1,300 salmonella-related illnesses spanning 22 states over the summer. The Washington Post reported in August that the outbreak highlights the need to fix "the holes in the country's food safety net."

That truth was hard to deny, and even harder to ignore. As we learned more about the story, we saw that the salmonella problems stemmed from an uninspected producer in Iowa, with a record of health, safety, labor, and other violations that go back 20 years. The need for better regulations and enforcement has been obvious for decades, but conservative, anti-regulatory lawmakers have consistently put industry profits above public safety.

With this in mind, Zaid Jilani flags a story that's so astounding, it's almost hard to believe.

Although there are a diverse set of political beliefs in the United States, there are currently two major political philosophies clashing for control of the American body politic. One, the progressive view, believes in a society where a democratically elected government plays an active role in helping all people achieve the American Dream, no matter who they are. The other, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own-society that favors the wealthy, big corporations, and other privileged sectors of society.

GOP House candidate Jesse Kelly, who is running in Arizona's 8th congressional district, championed this second vision a week ago at a campaign rally hosted by the Pima County Tea Party Patriots. During a question-and-answer period, a voter asked Kelly about the recent salmonella outbreak, which led to recall of more than half a billion eggs.

The voter asked if Kelly, if elected, would he help pass a law that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies to shut down companies that have too many safety violations, such as the companies that allowed millions of eggs that sickened people to be sold to the public. Kelly responded that he doesn't "believe what we're lacking right now is more regulations on companies," complaining that "you could probably spit on the grass and get arrested by the federal government by now." When the voter followed up by asking, "Who's protecting us?" Kelly responded, "It's our job to protect ourselves." The exasperated voter asked once more, "Am I supposed to go to a chicken farmer and say I'd like you to close down because all of your birds are half dead?" Kelly once more answered, "There's a new thing that comes along every day. But I know this: Every part of our economy that is regulated by the government doesn't have fewer disasters, it has more."

If you're skeptical a congressional candidate could really be this crazy, all of this was captured on video.

It really never occurred to me that right-wing Republicans would start running on a pro-salmonella platform, but Jesse Kelly and his Tea Party allies have a surprisingly twisted worldview. Kelly seriously seems to believe that laws to enforce food safety are unnecessary, and may ultimately make matters worse. Just let the free market work its magic, and everything will be fine.

It's hard to overstate how radical this is. A lack of regulation is literally putting Americans who eat food in the hospital with life-threatening illnesses, but instead of wanting to improve safeguards, zealots like Kelly insist the FDA should stand aside and let us fend for ourselves. Usually, when an outbreak occurs, reasonable people notice the need for public safety and reject the anti-government crusade. This congressional candidate -- who stands a fairly strong chance of winning -- is doubling down. Jesse Kelly actually supports the notion of Americans playing Russian Roulette every time they go to the grocery store.

A few years ago, Rick Perlstein even coined a phrase to capture this ideology: " E. Coli Conservatism."

I can only assume the vast majority of the country has no idea what they're about the elect.