Lots of people were discouraged because Sen. Rand Paul’s proposed amendment to reign in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was overwhelmingly defeated last week. It would have prohibited FDA agents from carrying weapons and making arrests as well as liberalized the rule on advertising of various foods’ health benefits.  (The amendment’s text and the vote of individual senators is shown here.)

I have a different take. I find it encouraging, first, that a senator even made this sort of proposal and, second, that 15  per cent of the senators supported it.

You have to remember the context in which Sen. Paul made his proposal. The FDA has long been a sacred cow in the Congress, much like the Federal Reserve Bank has long been a sacred cow. Both these agencies-organizations have for many years obtained whatever they want from Congress, with little in the way of pushback. Over the last year, we’ve been seeing some pushback involving the Fed. And now we are seeing pushback against the FDA. (I know, there are some who will argue that the FDA’s budget has remained level in recent years, but on the important matters–those of power and authority–the FDA has been doing pretty much what it wants.)

It’s not just that there’s pushback, but there’s the cause of the pushback. Senators have now been alerted that at least some of their constituents are upset that the FDA has created its own police force that bullies small farmers and producers of nutritional supplements.

Sen. Rand Paul clearly had the FDA crackdown on raw dairies in mind when he stated in support of the amendment (as quoted by Reason): “We have nearly 40 federal agencies that are armed. I’m not against having police, I’m not against the army, the military, the FBI, but I think bureaucrats don’t need to be carrying weapons and I think what we ought to do, is if there is a need for an armed policeman to be there, the FBI who are trained to do this should do it. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to be arming bureaucrats to go on the farm to, with arms, to stop people from selling milk from a cow.”

The vote also helped illuminate the implications of the FDA being a sacred cow. The FDA serves the interests of Big Pharma and Big Ag, but only because it is encouraged to do so by its bosses—America’s senators and representatives, and the President. Both these corporate groups donate heavily to senators and representatives and presidential candidates running for office. So once elected, they in turn give the FDA carte blanche to make sure the corporate interests get everything they want…and to make sure that those who might challenge Big Pharma and Big Ag are kept in their places.

It’s not, as some like to think, a conspiracy. No, it’s just pure money politics. It might be said that the U.S. has the most sophisticated system of corruption the world has ever known. Soft money, hard money, PACs, Super PACs, revolving-door hiring between corporations and Washington agencies and Congress. It’s all really legalized bribery.  It’s why you see the Democrats and most Republicans marching in lockstep to support the FDA.  All that supposed bad blood between Republicans and Democrats? It’s mostly  political theater. On the big issues, the issues that matter most to their corporate masters, the two parties cooperate just fine.