Photo of the day

The Post’s year-end gallery is entitled “eye catching photos.”  For some reason, I just couldn’t resist Warren Buffett and Bill Gates playing ping pong:


Berkshire Hathaway chief executive Warren Buffett, left, plays table tennis with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in Omaha on May 5.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Double good news on the bacteria front

Wonkblog brings two pieces of science informing policy– hooray!

First, a more sensible approach to the widespread use of antibiotics and livestock:

This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced new policies to curtail the widespread use of antibiotics in cows, pigs and chickens raised for food…

One reason we’re seeing so many new, resilient bacterial strains — from staph to strep to salmonella — is that we’re overusing the antibiotics we already have, scientists say. This gives bacteria more opportunities to evolve and essentially outsmart these drugs…

There are a number of culprits. Many doctors still over-prescribe antibiotics for their patients. But large farms are another place to look: By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics in the United States are used on livestock, both to control disease and to promote animal growth. The FDA wants to phase out the use of antibiotics for animal growth over the next three years. It’s also proposing greater veterinarian supervision of antibiotics.

Given that this is Wonkblog, there’s a nice thorough rundown of the contreversy and how this policy may work.  Short version– I’d have to say this is far from perfect, but a really, really important step.

Additionally, the FDA is taking on “anti-bacterial” soap.  I don’t know who’s in charge there, but you go guy!

Anti-bacterial soaps pretty much make one promise: Namely, that they will kill bacteria.

Now the Food and Drug Administration says  that they have no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps do any better at stopping the spread of germs than less-glamorous, non-anti-bacterial soaps with no bacteria fighting powers to speak of…

Which is why the FDA put out a preliminary rule today that would require antibacterial soap makers to prove that their soaps do provide a clinical benefit — and one that outweighs the possible risks of regular contact with antibiotics.

“Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk,” Janet Woodcock, who directs the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says in a statement.

Awesome.  It can actually be hard to find handsoap that’s not antibacterial (and given the above facts, that’s what the Greene family tries to purchase when we can find it).

Given the way things are heading, these and other small steps may not be enough, but it is a good thing to see the FDA taking the growing problem of antibiotic resistance seriously.

And on a PS front, this is a great example of how political control of the bureaucracy matters.  The bureaucracy makes a lot of policy.  I’m guessing these changes don’t happen under a Romney administration.

Have liberals won the fight on inequality

No.  But it really is pretty impressive how much the conversation has changed in recent year–again, I’ll give credit to the forgotten and ridiculed Occupy movement for really making a difference here at the popular level.  Drum makes the important point about how much elite level policy discourse on the issue has changed:

For many years, it’s been conservative conventional wisdom that inequality is necessary for growth. In fact, the more the better, since the bigger the incentives we offer to successful businesses and entrepreneurs, the more success we’ll have.

Today, this argument is all but dead. Think about that. It’s remarkable that we’re even asking “Does high inequality hurt growth?” Hurt it! This shift in our default assumption represents huge progress. After all, if the answer is yes, it’s one more reason to favor policies that reduce inequality. But even if the answer is no, all it means is that growth is independent of inequality. There are really no arguments left that are actively on the side of high inequality aside from simpleminded libertarian fantasies that economic capitalism is neutral by definition, and therefore everyone automatically gets what they deserve.

There are lots and lots of reasons to oppose high and rising income inequality. Maybe its effect on economic growth is one of them. Maybe not. Either way, aside from the simple self-interest of the rich, there are no longer any real arguments for favoring, or even ignoring, rising income inequality. The fact that this is now so widely accepted as to be barely worthy of notice—well, that’s kind of amazing, isn’t it?

Good point– I barely even noticed it!  I don’t expect us to make substantial progress against inequality anytime in the near future.  But having the intellectual case for inequality as a good thing completely undermined certainly makes real progress a lot more likely.


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