STEALTH BUSINESS INTEREST PANDERING….The Wall Street Journal reports today that the FDA is considering a rule that would allow federal law to pre-empt state law in the area of medication labeling. If approved, it would give pharmaceutical firms protection from suits in state courts as long as they follow the FDA’s guidelines on its labels:

Other federal agencies have made similar moves toward helping to shield businesses from certain forms of legal action. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last August proposed a new rule on car-roof strength that would grant legal protection to car makers that adhere to the safety standard. The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a sweeping regulation in early 2004 that said federal banking laws take precedence over a number of state consumer-protection statutes when applied to national banks.

This is a good example of how George Bush’s business pandering instincts are considerably stronger than his conservative instincts. After all, liberals are the ones who usually support federal-level regulations, while conservatives believe such things should be left up to the states as much as possible. This is not a fundamentally conservative proposal, it’s just a sop to a K Street campaign contributor.

As usual, though, the whole issue is a bit trickier than it seems at first glance. The fact is that federal rules probably make a lot of sense here, for the same reason that federal rules make a lot of sense for anything related to interstate commerce. What’s not so obvious, however, is what happens when you move issues into the federal court system without expanding the federal courts to handle the increased load: it doesn’t simply rationalize the rules surrounding liability suits, it makes many of them impossible ? if you accept that “wait five years while hemorrhaging your client’s money” is frequently equal to “impossible.”

And of course that’s the whole goal. This is not stealth conservatism so much as stealth business interest pandering. And it’s what the Bush administration specializes in.

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