Big Business Finds Itself Under False Attack From Regulators, Media

January 15, 2013

Big business can be forgiven for looking over its shoulder given how some industries have found themselves targets of media attacks and government regulation over the past year.

Trying to succeed in a sluggish market has been difficult enough for many industries, but the one-two punch combination of big media and government will make any executive or entrepreneur think long and hard about starting a business or trying to grow.

When media and government overreach there is a costly negative impact on the economy and job picture.

Witness the media attack beef industry. This past spring when ABC News ran a four-part series on the beef industry, touring the factories of Beef Products, Inc. in Iowa, reporter Jim Avila declared that BPI was producing "pink slime" (in a two-week period, ABC used the term 52 times).

Media watchdogs such as the Media Research Center called ABC on the carpet and BPI countered as well, calling ABC's coverage a "gross misrepresentation" of the product and process that utilize state-of-the-art equipment and technologies that ensure its "100% beef" label.

BPI has always maintained that Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) is safe and healthy, and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While the company filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit against the network for defamation, the beef and cattle industry have taken a huge hit.

National restaurants and grocery chains, fearful of being tarred with the "pink slime" moniker, stopped buying LFTB from BPI. The company had no choice but to suspend all operations at three of its four plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa, leaving 700 employees out of work.

Two Iowa State University economics professors pegged the cost of the media storm to at least $573 million dollars. That includes a loss of $90 million in payroll and nearly 2,000 support jobs "in the areas of transportation, handling, construction and public utilities as well as retailers and foodservice businesses."

Lest we're quick to assume ABC is getting a bum rap for merely doing its journalistic duty, top legal and cattle experts are quick to have the beef industry's back.

Steve Brill, founder of CourtTV and American Lawyer Magazine, stated in a recent column about BPI's lawsuit against ABC: "... As an aficionado of these cases, I can report that this is the most detailed, persuasive complaint of its kind that I have ever read."

Famed American doctor of animal science Temple Grandin praised the beef trimmings in a speech this month, saying its production should never have been suspended. Rivaling ABC's move against beef, the Obama administration has its own bully that's been delivering industry-crushing sucker punches.

Four years ago, the president outlined his energy policy and told us that if someone wanted to build a coal plant, they could, but that they would go bankrupt; and his Environmental Protection Agency would end up being the anti-energy vehicle to deliver the blow.

Used to power nearly half of all electricity generation for years, coal is the single largest electricity source in America.

With 497 billion tons of recoverable coal in the United States — enough to provide electricity for 500 years at current consumption rates — coal has the potential to be an important resource long into the future.

Yet, to the EPA, coal shouldn't be embraced as a means to affordable energy. To the EPA, coal shouldn't even be able to compete in a free energy market. Instead, coal is a dead industry walking.

The Institute for Energy Research reports that due to the latest regulations from the EPA and low natural gas prices, coal-fired generation in the United States has decreased from a 48% share of the generation market in 2008 to a 42% share in 2011. And for the first six months of 2012 it is down to a 35% share.

So, of course, the coal industry is nearing extinction with widespread job losses and plant shutdowns.

Many coal operations simply cannot maintain the investments it would require to keep up with the EPA's stringent emissions reduction requirements.

No wonder the United Mine Workers, normally a slam-dunk endorsement for any Democratic nominee for president, did not endorse Mr. Obama's re-election.

What's worse, however, are some of the EPA's newly proposed rules that essentially shut the door on coal for good.

The Heritage Foundation recently detailed the EPA's assault on coal and American consumers: "Many of the new rules carry exorbitant costs, provide little to no benefit, or are based on weak scientific and empirical evidence ... the EPA uses outrageous worst-case scenarios, ignores state and local emissions controls, uses outdated data, and models air quality problems using emissions data that contradict actual monitored readings."

So in the case of coal, an efficient and reliable industry's knees are buckling, thanks to an agenda-driven federal government. In the case of beef, a state-of-the-art food industry has been undeservingly shamed due to the agenda-driven media.

In an already uncertain economy which has seen millions of jobs lost over the past few years, such episodes only serve to threaten all industries and businesses — where job growth might be possible.

• Blackwell, who served as Ohio Secretary of State from 1999-2007, is the first African-American elected to statewide office in Ohio, and a board member at both the National Taxpayers Union and Club for Growth.

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