Mortgages, Troopergate and Flea Medication -By Josh

Sunday, October 12, 2008 – 1:49 PM
Mortgages, Troopergate and Flea Medication
Politicians and commentators on both sides of the political divide have predictably used the current financial crisis to bash their opponents. Democrats point fingers at the Bush Administration, while Republicans blame Democratic lawmakers who ignored calls to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Some blame Alan Greenspan. Others blame predatory lenders.

The truth is there is plenty of blame to go around, and there has been a complete failure of leadership from both political parties. But rather than comb through the minutiae of what went wrong and figure out just who to blame for what, I believe my cats can actually be more instructive than all of the talking-heads on TV.

I am the proud owner of two lovely one-year-old female cats. They are indoor animals and had never been exposed to biting insects prior to last week. I took the girls on their first road-trip to visit my family in New York, and they came back itching like mad. They had picked up a nasty case of fleas.

I was advised by a friend to get Frontline flea medication, so I went to the local supermarket. When I got to the pet aisle I was unable to find Frontline, but there were flea products offered by Sergeant and Hartz. I figured flea medication is flea medication, so I bought the Sergeant product.

Over the next two days the cats’ condition got significantly worse. They were scratching even more than before and were shaking and twitching, so I called my vet. When I told her that I had used the Sergeant product, she told me that I needed to bathe my cats immediately, since the product was toxic to cats. In addition, she said, it doesn’t kill fleas.

I was understandably shocked to hear this news. I’ve bought plenty of products before that don’t work, but I couldn’t believe that a product specifically designed for cats could be toxic to cats. When I did some research online, I discovered that there are numerous cases of people who have had similar experiences. Many pet owners recounted experiences in which Sergeant and Hartz products caused skin irritation, foaming at the mouth, convulsions, and even death. Both companies have received numerous complaints about their products, but rather than fix them, they simply responded by adding a warning to the packaging advising pet owners to contact their veterinarian in the event of an allergic reaction.

Now, I could call the FDA and do some research to find out why such products are on the shelves in the first place, but when I thought about it I realized the explanation is obvious. Sergeant and Hartz are both big corporations with deep pockets, while individual pet owners don’t have the resources to compete in the influence-peddling game in Washington. Therefore these corporations are free to put poison in a bottle and sell it as flea medication, and those who suffer the consequences are just shit out of luck.

It goes without saying that not all claims in advertisements are true. There are different degrees of untruth in advertising. Sometimes the falsehoods are inconsequential, as in the case of a diner that untruthfully advertises the “world’s best coffee”. Other times the untruths can be more harmful, as in the case of my cats. However, regardless of whether there are harmful consequences, the fact is that the public understands that it is being lied to on a regular basis. This may be more harmful in the long-run than any faulty or dangerous product. When we learn to live with untruthfulness, the consequences are dangerous and wide-ranging.

The degree to which the public has become used to being lied to has been on a noticeable upswing in recent years. The signs of this are everywhere. For example, I recently noticed that the “small print” (or “fast talking”) in radio advertisements now sometimes comes before, rather than after, the commercials. Fast talking was always a joke anyway, since it was too quickly spoken to be properly understood, but apparently marketing executives realized that they could guarantee incomprehension by putting it before the commercial so that the listener doesn’t even know what product it refers to. Obviously the advertisers are legally required to disclose this information, but they have become increasingly adept at following the letter of the law while violating its spirit.

The increasing deceptiveness of the American marketplace is one of the leading causes of the financial meltdown. For years I would listen to radio advertisements claiming that homeowners could “save” money by using subprime, rather than conventional, mortgages. The “savings” referred to the hundreds of dollars per month that borrowers didn’t have to pay in the early years of a loan. What the advertisements didn’t mention was that the up-front “savings” came at the cost of ruinous payments in later years. The purveyors of these products were allowed to lie to the public about their toxic products, make a quick buck, and leave the resulting mess to the American taxpayer.

At issue is a principle that is central to a free-market economy – i.e. caveat emptor, or “buyer beware”. Since it would be impossible for the government to monitor and regulate the claims of every company in America, it is thought that the burden ought to fall to consumers to educate themselves and make informed decisions. According to the principle of caveat emptor, it was my responsibility to research pet products to ensure that I didn’t end up putting poison on my cats.

Of course, we acknowledge that there must be limits to the application of caveat emptor. It would obviously not be OK for a company to sell cyanide pills and advertise them as vitamins. But we don’t need to have a government department in charge of going to every diner that claims to have the “world’s best coffee” and fining them if they don’t actually have the world’s best coffee. In a democratic, capitalist society, we must always be balancing our freedoms with the demands of public safety. Unfortunately, at a time when most Americans understand that our own President lies to us on a regular basis, this delicate balance has been thrown badly off-kilter, and millions of homeowners, pets, and others are suffering the consequences.

The presidential campaign is no exception to the increasing trend of untruthfulness. There are endless lies and half-truths told by politicians from both parties – from Hillary Clinton’s sniper fire in Bosnia to John McCain’s claims that the streets of Baghdad are safe. It has gotten to the point where we expect and accept the fact that our leaders are lying to us.

Case in point is Sarah Palin’s alleged opposition to the Bridge To Nowhere. Palin burst onto the national scene claiming to be an opponent of corruption and pork-barrel spending. She repeated over and over again that she had said “thanks, but no thanks” to the bridge. When the details of the bridge project came to light, it became clear that Palin had actually supported the project until it became a national emblem of wasteful spending, at which point she reversed her position. During her interview with Charles Gibson, she was basically forced to admit that her professed opposition to the project was untrue. The truly amazing part, though, is what happened next. Palin returned to the campaign trail and continued to trumpet the “thanks, but no thanks” line as if the interview with Gibson had never happened. Caveat emptor.

Another example of Palin’s embrace of caveat emptor is her handling of the Troopergate scandal. When charges originally surfaced that Palin had abused her power by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper, she said she had “nothing to hide” and would fully cooperate with the investigation. In actuality, though, she did everything she could to hamper the investigation, from refusing to testify to setting up her own competing investigatory body. This so-called “maverick” and “reformer” tried every trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for her own actions and even went so far as to release her own report to contradict the findings of the bipartisan investigatory body that she had “unlawfully abused her authority”. This would be like having the Sergeant Corporation release its own research stating that its products are safe, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.

Palin, McCain, Bush, Sergeant, and Hartz are all symptoms of a common illness. Rather than refraining from telling lies or removing faulty products from the shelves, the onus is on the individual to separate fact from fiction. Those who are willing to take the time to research things for themselves will be able to make informed decisions, while those who don’t will continue to put poison on their pets and vote for corrupt “reformers” and phony “mavericks”.

The cats are doing fine, by the way…

One Response to “Mortgages, Troopergate and Flea Medication -By Josh”

  • raindancer:

    Thanks for the product warning Josh. I am a weary shopper when it comes to Rx’s! But pet health care products who would a thunk? Thanks to zero regulations, under DicknBush’s administration, we’re f’d. Ding, dong, Dope on the Rope is almost over! Referring do the, puppet Dumbo you know… Bush!

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