Prime time for the PRIME Act
Since well before the current lockdowns, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie has been ringing an alarm bell about the monopolistic and over-regulated meat processing industry, which leaves our food supply vulnerable to unexpected disruptions.
It took the COVID-19 crisis to get his colleagues in the House of Representatives to take the issue seriously, but finally a bill to address looming meat shortages with a local, free-market solution is making headway with bipartisan support.
Massie joined the showwith an urgent message for all Americans, as the common-sense reform in his PRIME Act challenges special interests who want to keep a lockdown on smaller-scale meat processing.
Urge your representative to vote for the PRIME Act, and listen or read to my interview.
Bob Zadek: I’m delighted to welcome to the show this morning Representative Thomas Massie, who represents the fourth Congressional district in Kentucky. He was elected to Congress in 2012. You may remember that he committed the outrageous act a few weeks ago of insisting that Congress actually adhere to the rules of conduct set forth in the Constitution.
How outrageous is that? For that he earned the scorn and snide tweets of many in Congress and indeed the President. Notwithstanding that, he still insisted that Congress follow its constitutional duty and actually vote in person, not anonymously and not from afar on the first $2 trillion bailout measure. It’s astonishing — that is getting to sound like a small number, but it was a big number at the time.
Congressman Massie has a unique perspective on government in general and on how we are behaving during the virus. He gave us a warning several weeks ago, indeed, several months ago and probably a few years ago, that we are about to suffer a USSR-style food shortage. Get ready for empty supermarket shelves, especially in the meat counter.
I am delighted to welcome the show representative Thomas Massie. Thomas, welcome to the show this morning.
Thomas Massie: Hi Bob, the honor is mine. I rarely get this much time to explain my positions and my thoughts and my observations in Congress. Usually they try to limit you to a 15 second sound bite on TV and if they don’t like what you’re saying, they cut your microphone off.
Bob Zadek: Well, Thomas, if you are concerned that people aren’t giving you enough time to talk, you can come on the show that Sunday and you will have the whole hour to say to our audience what you don’t get to say to your colleagues in Congress and to those who sit and watch C-SPAN.
A Political Origin Story
Bob Zadek: Now, Thomas, you’re of course from Kentucky and in your early life you went to MIT. So I guess you were a techie or a nerdy or whatever silly label people imposed upon you at that time. You were quite successful. You started a business. You earned perhaps 29 or so patents. Your business was successful.
There you were, living the life, successful at what you chose to do, and then you made… a wrong turn? A right turn? The audience will decide. You decided to have a career change and leave business and leave the success and run for Congress.
What were you thinking?
Thomas Massie: Well, the short answer is that it was a momentary lapse of judgment that encouraged me to get into politics. But the longer answer, which I think your listeners deserve, is that it was out of concern that I got involved in politics. I wasn’t really a political junkie. I was too busy with my business, which was in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, by the way. I tell people that now I’m back into artificial intelligence and virtual reality now that I’m in Congress, but I started there technologically.
My wife grew up in the same county as me in Kentucky. We were high school sweethearts. We both went to MIT. We started our company together and did that for 10 years in New England, but we desperately wanted to come back to Kentucky where we both grew up.
So after 10 years, we left the tech lifestyle to go low tech. We bought the farm that she grew up on from her parents. They still live on the farm with us. We raise cattle there. I decided that I wanted to live a sustainable lifestyle and my wife was all in for that too. We built our own house off the grid. We logged our own timbers, and cut them with our own saw mill.
The house that we live in has been off the grid for 13 years, since we built it. It’s never been on the grid. It runs on solar power. I bought a battery out of a wrecked Model S Tesla. I rewired it and it runs in our house. In fact, there is a rainstorm coming in a bit and the house will be running off of a Tesla car battery here when the clouds come out.
We were living a happy lifestyle, not bothering anybody, minding our own business when I got drawn into local politics. I actually wrote a letter to the editor. If somebody could go back in history and stop me from submitting that letter to the editor, I can assure you I wouldn’t be in Congress right now. It was the banana peel that I stepped on. I had written many letters to the editor before that letter, but I’d thrown them all in the trash because I didn’t want to upset my neighbors. That one I was compelled to submit.
Basically, the local government was going to pass a new tax. They were going to tax everybody, but most of our folks are farmers. So the tax was going to go on the farmers and ostensibly it was to fund a conservation office that was giving out grants to their own board members.
I was like, why would we tax farmers who are the best conservationists in the world, and then give the money to people who are self interested? So I fought that, wrote a letter to the editor, and inspired people to show up at a town hall type meeting. We stopped the tax.
I wrote another letter to the editor when they tried to zone our farm property and say, “you can only ever farm this property, you can’t build a business on it,” and we stopped the zoning in the County and before you know it, people encouraged me to run for the county executive office, which I did.
I got in there, found waste, fraud and abuse, and I also ticked off a lot of people. I aired all the dirty laundry that I found. I hung it up to dry for everybody to see. And then our Congressman decided not to run for reelection and the people in this county and surrounding counties that knew what I was doing in the County encouraged me to run for Congress. I did and I won. It was a seven way Republican primary — a very brutal election; baptism by fire, if you will — and then I find myself in Congress. That was in 2012.
A Glimpse into the Life of a Congressman
Bob Zadek: Here you are, turning your back on what sounds like a pretty idyllic, low tech, wonderful self-contained lifestyle, surrounded by people who respect you and who listen to you and you are accomplishing some good. So now you go to Congress. It sounds like an incredible sacrifice. What was your goal?
Thomas Massie: I was hoping to bring some prosperity and some hope to our economically-depressed region of Kentucky. When my wife and I moved back from New England, we were trying to avoid big government. I found that you can’t escape the growth of government — the federal government was growing, the local government was growing, and it was literally diminishing people’s quality of life.
I realized that somebody’s going to have to go and battle it. I know that might sound weird for somebody that’s running for political office to say you’re battling the government, but what I’m battling is the growth of government.
There are legitimate roles for government, but it’s just gotten way outside of its constitutional boundary. And finally, as soon as I got to Congress, even before I put my wife and kids’ pictures on the wall, I put a debt clock on the wall. It is updated every second with the national debt. I didn’t want to ever forget why I went there. My goal is to try and stop the debt from growing.
When my youngest daughter came to my office the first time, she looked at the debt clock and she said, “So daddy, when you fix things here, will that go backwards?”
Here’s a little kid who understood that that’s actually what you need to do. It needs to go backwards. You don’t need to just stop it. You need to get us out of debt.
Bob Zadek: Every day when you walk into your office, the first thing you see is this visual going up and up and up and up at increasing speed. And that’s how you start your day? That’s like self-flagellation! How could you be in a good mood before you even have your coffee?
Thomas Massie: That’s a great question. I suffer that every morning and so does my staff. It kind of depresses them. So in December we replaced the debt clock with the Christmas clock and it goes down because it is the number of days until Christmas. So there is a reprieve in December. We go from the debt clock to the Christmas clock.
You’re besieged by lobbyists and special interest groups a dozen plus times a day who are coming in and most of them are asking you to spend more money. If they have to wait in the lobby right outside of my internal office, they get to watch that debt clock while they’re waiting. So maybe when they come into my office they’re a little more reserved in their demands for more money. That’s my hope.
Bob Zadek: I’m reminded of a company called Sharper Image that sold high-tech toys, devices, and stuff like that. The worst product they ever sold was this digital clock — when you bought it you entered the answers to ten questions — your age, your weight, whether you smoked, whether you drank — and when you pushed the button it would tell you the hour of the day and the minute you were going to die, and you sat there and watched it go down every day. You have the functional equivalent of that product with the debt clock. That’s what you reminded me of.
How long did it take for you to say to yourself, what have I gotten myself into?
Thomas Massie: It took 48 hours for my wake up call — 48 hours after they handed me the voting card. The voting card that I am given belongs to 750,000 people in Kentucky. It doesn’t belong to a caucus. It doesn’t belong to a party. It doesn’t belong to a member of leadership. I’ve always held that opinion. It belongs to 750,000 people in Kentucky. They thought that was kind of a quaint idea when I got there, because the second day that I was in Congress, and I was voting, I put my card in the machine and I voted no. I was maybe one of five or six “no” votes that day.
And a staffer comes over to me and informs me of my mistake, and I said, “well, ma’am, I meant to vote that way.”
She said, “Well, if you want to know what is in this bill, come over here to the leadership table and we’ve got a team over here that can explain the bill to you.”
And I said, “I read the bill. That’s why I’m voting no.” This isn’t even another member of Congress, this is a staffer.
She told me, “Well, we’re not whipping this vote tonight so you can vote how you want on this one.” And then she walked away. I was dumbfounded.
I’m like, “Wow, here’s a 20 something year old staffer that just gave me permission to vote how I want on a bill.”
And that was that.
Another quick anecdote, when you get to Congress, you pinch yourself. The ceilings are twice as high in Congress as they are in any other building, and it’s all marble and mahogany. The doors are immense.
They make you feel small. You pinch yourself and you ask, “How did I get here?” And then after about eight weeks, you meet some of your colleagues and you say, “How the hell did *they* get here?”
I’ve raised a little Cain. I had voted against speaker John Boehner. He did a fundraiser for me in September before I was elected in the general and I joined part of a revolt against him within a couple of weeks of getting to Congress and realizing what a scam it was. I voted against him. But there were some lobbyists that felt that I was salvageable. So they asked to have lunch with me in the basement of the Capitol Hill Club. Now it’s dark and dingy down there. Nobody can look in the windows because there are no windows in the basement. There is a bar and then you sit at some tables and it’s usually where you’re hanging out with the lobbyists because we’re not allowed to talk about money in our offices with the lobbyists for political campaigns.
So we have to literally walk 20 yards across the street and go into this other building to have those conversations. I’ve been there eight weeks, and my chief of staff was with me and the woman who I hired to help me raise money in Washington DC facilitated this meeting. There were three lobbyists at the table from the medical device industry, and one lobbyist told me, “You know, you’re not like these other congressmen. You’re smart. You’re going places — you could really make a difference here. Your chief of staff, we like him too.”
So they puff him up by the way, and by the way he went to MIT, Stanford and Caltech. He had patents of his own.
They said, “You know, you’re just wasting your time on these transportation committees and oversight committees and science committees. You really need to be on the Ways and Means committee because that’s the most powerful committee here. And you’ve got what it takes to really make a difference.”
They told me that Paul Ryan was going to be the next chairman of the Ways and Means committee. By the way. I’d never heard that anywhere. I wondered how they knew that was going to happen.
They told me, “You know, there’s always one or two guys here that screw up and they don’t get reelected, so we know there’s going to be a seat on the Ways and Means committee and we are prepared to raise the money that is going to get you on that committee.” That was an eye-opener to me, Bob. When I walked out of there I said, I need to get a shower. That was like one of the slimiest meetings I’ve ever been in.
Imagine if you’re me and you just got to Congress — part of you thinks, “Wow, these guys really recognize talent when they see it! You feel like Britney Spears being recruited by a record label.”
Bob Zadek: With those wonderful anecdotes, and the audience is loving these stories, but when you describe them the picture I get in my brain is that you are not Thomas Massie. You are just a chess piece who other people move around and you are like a twig in the stream. You are just a vote. You don’t have any brain. Am I exaggerating?
Thomas Massie: No. They’re not looking for a few good men. You know, the military said that until it became not politically correct. They’re looking for a few compliant individuals who are just smart enough to carry their bucket of water.
After I left that meeting, it caused me to be curious. I found out that you have to give about a million dollars to the Republican Party. And by the way, if you’re on the Democratic side of the aisle, you have to do the same thing. You have to give about a million dollars to get on the Ways and Means committee. Now are you going to go back home to Kentucky and ask somebody to hold a fundraiser for you in their living room and pass the hat and ask for $50 or $500 checks from your friends and neighbors and then tell them this is to buy my seat on the Ways and Means committee? I don’t think so. What you do is you pass the hat with the lobbyists and then you become they’re twig, and that’s the way it works. You pay to get on these committees.
I don’t want to leave your listeners with the impression that you can buy a seat on a committee. You have to rent it. They will not sell it to you. You have no equity in that seat. Every two years you have to pay that money.
Bob Zadek: You are the last vestige of an at will employee. They don’t exist anywhere in society except in Congress.
Thomas Massie: That’s right. At will. And you bet you gotta pay for that honor to be on that committee. You got to stay on the ball and raise the money. By the way, this is also how the leadership gets control over you because they can put up the bat signal. Let’s say I vote against John Boehner a second time, which I actually did. I led the coup with another individual. What the leadership can do is they call up the lobbyists. They’ve got a bat signal. They say, “If you want your legislation to be in the next omnibus bill, don’t you dare support Congressman Massie.”
So your fundraising in DC goes from 60 to zero in about four seconds. They can do that to you. And that’s one of the things they do that doesn’t show up in the news.
Bob Zadek: So it’s just a big ritual. It’s a big Kabuki play broadcast only on C-SPAN 2 before the eyes of the voting public. Oh my God. That almost sounds creepy.
Introducing the PRIME Act: Smaller Bridges
Bob Zadek: We are living in these unusual times created by Covid-19 pandemic crisis. One of the many profound changes of life in America has been an impending food shortage. Yes. Food shortage. We are not talking about East Germany or about Venezuela, or the USSR, we are talking about a food shortage in the USA in general, and in particular with respect to the supply of meat in America.
Is America ready for a food shortage? How did the food shortage come about and what is Congressman Massie’s plan? He’s got us covered for correcting the impending food shortage in a permanent way which may relieve us of a huge swath of government regulation. So Congressman, you have been warning about the impending food shortage since long before the virus. What did you see as happening and what is about to happen now vindicating your prediction. And most importantly, what is your cure?
Thomas Massie: By way of introduction, I’m going to tell you a quick story about John Boehner and me on the floor of the House. One day he caught me in the aisle and looked at my shoes and he saw I was wearing cowboy boots on the floor of the House and he said, “Massie, what’s with the boots?” I was immediately terrified because he would get in the seat and lecture everybody on dress code if he saw somebody wearing something he didn’t like on the floor of the House. And I thought, “Oh no, everyone is going to get a lecture because I wore boots. And then I remembered there’s at least 10 people that wear cowboy boots.”
I said, “Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I know at least 10 other members that wear cowboy boots.”
He said, “They’re from out West, from Arizona and Texas and Nevada. Massie, you’re from Kentucky.
Then I looked at him and said, “Mr. Speaker, I think I’m the only cowboy here that owns a cow.”
He goes, “Alright, alright. Massie.”
I’ve been in Congress for about eight years, but for 16 years I’ve been raising cattle and I have identified a problem long ago. And in fact five years ago I proposed a solution. I’ve got Democrats, Republicans, and independents in the House and the Senate on this bill because I’ve been predicting this problem. Our food supply is brittle. The farmers are robust and they are numerous and the consumers are numerous and the supermarkets are robust and numerous. But we have allowed four meat packers, and one of them is owned by China and one is owned by Brazil, and the others are multinational. We’ve allowed four meat packers to control 80% of the meat market because the farmers take their animals to these giant factory scale slaughterhouses. Meanwhile you’ve got these small local processors that can process beef, but they can only process it if you own the animal.
The USDA has regulated them out of existence in most cases, or just out of the supermarket with overregulation. The big factories love this regulation because it keeps the little guys out. So five years ago, and for every Congress since then, I’ve introduced a bill called the PRIME Act, which stands for Processor Revival and Interstate Meat Exemption.
It says that if the farmer lives in the same state as the grocery store and the consumer and the meat processor, then the USDA doesn’t have to be at that meat processing facility 24–7. Today you’ve got these small meat processors. Of course, they are inspected by the local health department and they’re subject to surprise inspections by the USDA, but they don’t employ a full-time USDA meat inspector, so they’re not allowed to sell their food in the supermarket. So my bill says as long as it’s local, as long as the consumer can know who the butcher and the farmer were, then they can buy it in the grocery store. That’s the bill that the world needs right now.
Bob Zadek: Let me just remind our audience that ever since 1967 — the Wholesome Meat Act — it has been the law that a beef processor cannot sell the beef that it processes, which is the product. It cannot sell it unless they have an on-site full-time, federal government employee inspector. That has created a huge mouth of the funnel, which means that all beef as you pointed out from all ranchers and growers of beef and other meat have to sell their product to a processor and only a few processors are large enough to be able to afford all of the regulatory infrastructure, which means that through legislation they have in effect, once again, created a an oligopoly of only a few, while smaller processors simply cannot exist because they can’t afford it.
Your solution is to remove that bottleneck. And the reason it is relevant now is that with processors unable to get employees because of stay at home regulations, they couldn’t process the meat fast enough and therefore you have a huge supply at one end (of cattle) and a huge demand on the other end. But it has all got to pass through the mouth of the funnel, which is the processors who have been closed down until the President ordered them to operate. (Of course, he didn’t quite do that, but that’s what the media reported, because they don’t quite understand stuff.)
Your solution is to widen the mouth of the funnel and to do so through intrastate commerce so as to avoid the reach of the federal government through the federal government regulation of interstate commerce regulation of interstate commerce.
The Senseless Slaughter on the Horizon
Bob Zadek: Tell our urban and suburban listeners what is happening on the farms with the pigs and the cattle which are ready for market and cannot get to the processor. We have a growing demand on the one side and growing supply on the other. What is happening on the ground at the ranches with the meat that is ready to be slaughtered.
Thomas Massie: A lot of people who don’t farm don’t understand why you can’t just keep the animal alive and keep feeding it and keep it on your farm. Everybody knows like one year is worth seven dog years. Right? Well, with chickens, you measure their lifespan in weeks.
What you’re seeing on farms is the euthanization of chickens first. You can’t keep the breeds of chickens that are being raised commercially for mat. You can’t keep them another four weeks. They get broken legs and heart attacks — they are not geared to stay around very long. They’re geared to end up as chicken wings. They’re destroying the hatchlings and the eggs because they know if they can’t sell the adult chicken, why should they have young chickens be born? So the farmers have already reacted rationally to the problem.
Now pigs have a lifespan that’s measured in not years, but months. There are slaughter-ready hogs — ready to go to the butcher, but there’s not enough processors to butcher them. So the farmers are shooting the animals and burying them or rendering them — trying to turn them into fuel. But in almost all cases, the animals are being wasted. This is a tragedy.
You haven’t seen this yet in beef cattle because we’re in the summer. Grass grows into summer and cattle are marketable, at least the ones that are considered prime, up until about 30 months of age. After that, the USDA has another set of regulations that kick in because mad cow disease has never been discovered in a beef animal less than 30 months old. Once you get over 30 months old there’s a whole other set of rules that kicks in for these animals if they’re beef cattle.
So you’ve got like a wall there too. We’ve seen the milk poured out, we’ve seen the chickens killed and wasted, we were seeing hogs slaughtered by the thousands this week. If we don’t do something, you’re going to see the same sort of thing in the cattle market because the cattlemen are getting a double whammy. They’re seeing the prices go down at the auction ring because the milk demand has changed. The dairy men are selling their dairy cattle into the beef industry at prices far lower than any cattlemen could raise a beef steer.
In fact, I went to the processor on Thursday with two of my steers. I’ve only got 60 cattle, but I took two of my steers to the processor. By the way, this was an appointment I made in January to get them butchered in April. That’s how backed up they are. This is a USDA facility. I had to drive three hours to get there. I saw farmers unloading dairy cattle into the beef plant. Now this is not unusual. This happens. It usually doesn’t happen at this plant though. This is a smaller plant. These weren’t old dairy cattle. These were productive dairy cattle that still had big milk sacks. They were selling them there. We used to have thousands of bridges to cross to get from the farm to the table.
Now we’ve reduced it to four bridges. One of them is owned by the Chinese, one of them by Brazil, one of them is multinational and one of them is an American company. But there is the oligopoly. These four bridges are crumbling. I want to talk about the President’s response too and how that’s not a silver bullet. There are these smaller bridges. A lot of them have been abandoned or destroyed, but there are still a lot left. We need to divert traffic, which is these animals — across these smaller bridges. The PRIME Act would do that.
Now very quickly, the President’s solution has been to use the Defense Production Act. Now he’s not seizing the means of production. The reason he invoked this is he’s trying to absolve the big companies of liability from their workers. The big four meat packers are concerned that if they tell their workers to come to work and because they have a higher incidence of Covid-19 at these factories, the worker might later come back and sue them for telling them to come to work when they knew that they had a high chance of catching Covid at work. So the President is saying “America First,” but he’s telling American workers they can’t sue the Chinese factory they work at here in the United States. To me that’s not “America First.”
We may need some kind of legislation to deal with all the lawsuits that may come up after Covid and the courts open up — when people that would sue for a hot cup of coffee at McDonald’s start all sorts of lawsuits — but it should cover everybody, not just the multinational corporations. It should cover the hairdresser. It should cover the small meat processor. It should cover the grocery store and it should be legislative, not executive fiat. It shouldn’t be by executive order.
Bob Zadek: I have two questions. You mentioned that your bill, which has been in the hopper for some time, has the support of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Who exactly did you have in mind when you said independent other than Bernie Sanders in the Senate? I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Thomas Massie: The lead sponsor of this bill is Senator Angus King in the Senate. He’s even got the right name for this bill. He is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the House. Justin Amash is a sponsor. He was Independent. He recently switched to the Libertarian Party. So I guess I’ve got four categories: Independents, Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats.
Deep State Opposition
Bob Zadek: My next question is more practical. Your bill seems so obvious. I can’t imagine any organized group of people opposing it. I tried to imagine who would lobby against it? Perhaps the big meat packers. I guess that’s the answer, but tell us about the opposition because it seems such an obvious, painless cure to all things a food shortage in America who would have funk it?
Thomas Massie: There’s a revolving door in Washington DC that everybody knows about between lobbyists and members of Congress or their staffers. They go lobby, then they come back and they are staffers, then they go lobby again and the Congressmen do the same thing, but there’s another revolving door with the executive branch. There are staff congressional staffers who go work at the USDA. Then they become lobbyists and then they come back and work in Congress. So the power of the USDA derives from their authority and they are opposed to the bill. So the big money is against it and the Deep State is against it.
These farm groups pay a membership fee and go have dinner once a month and have their meetings with these farm groups that represent them as lobbyists in DC. When they get to DC, they lobby against the farmer. They are against the act, even though all the farmers that belong to that group are for the act. And that’s because so much of their money comes from the meat packers or from other lobbying organizations like the corn growers, who have a vested interest in seeing the cattlemen get only cheap prices for their calves.
By the way, these are the same people that lobbied to get rid of country-of-origin labeling on beef and pork in 2015 and were successful, despite being supposedly pro-food safety. So now when you go to the supermarket, when you buy your fish, it tells you what country it came from. When you buy your vegetables, you know what country it came from. In fact, if you buy an iPhone or a set of shoes or a suit or some tools or a car, they’re all labeled with a country-of-origin label. But guess what isn’t? Beef and pork are no longer labeled because the lobbyists got that passed.
Where’s the Beef? Pass the PRIME Act
Bob Zadek: It seems to me that since your bill is designed to benefit consumers by supplying a source of supply of food, which goes in the list of necessaries in life, isn’t this a classic case of where voters can influence the success of your bill by insisting that our representatives or senators support the legislation? This is a classic case where our listeners and their friends can influence this by insisting their elected officials support the legislation because it’s good for all Americans.
Thomas Massie: This is the case, and I know people at home are saying, “My Congressman never listens to me,” or they’re saying, “I’m a conservative and she’s a liberal and she wouldn’t ever respond to me.”
I’ll tell you what, these congressmen, more than anything, desperately want to get reelected. When they’re staring down hungry constituents, when they have to watch animals being slaughtered on the news, when they’ve got farmers going broke… Now you have leverage and the general public has leverage. I would encourage you not to send an email, not to write a letter. I don’t even care if you have the best penmanship in the world. Don’t write a letter. Certainly don’t send a fax. Pick up the phone and make three phone calls. Don’t make four phone calls. Don’t make two phone calls. Make three phone calls.
Everybody listening to your show has three people to contact in Washington, D.C. They all have two U.S. senators. Both of those U.S. senators work for you. You all have one U.S. Representative that works for you. Do not bother calling anybody else. I know you say, “Yeah, but what they do affects me, so they should listen to me.” Well, good luck with that. They’re not going to listen to you, but the three that will be your two U.S. Senators and your one U.S. Representative, call them.
Don’t “@” them on Twitter. That does not count as constituent feedback. Okay? Don’t make a Facebook comment. Pick up the phone and call them. That’s my advice. I’ve been on the floor of the House of Representatives. When people turn to me and say, “how are you voting on this?” And I say, “Well, I see the pluses. I see the minuses,” they say, “Well, I got a hundred phone calls against this bill. I’m not voting for it.” Or, “I got 50 phone calls for this bill, I’m going to vote for it.” It’s literally tens of phone calls that make a difference. It doesn’t take thousands.
Bob Zadek: Take those three elected officials of yours and mail them a hamburger bun with no hamburger in it and say, you’re on my elected official, put a hamburger between these two pieces of the bun! They’ll get the message. So I think that might be more effective, Thomas, and quite graphic and visual.
Thomas Massie: Yeah. Where’s the beef? Pass the PRIME Act! Write on a little sheet of paper and stick it between the buns. I love your idea.
The Serious Flaws in the Paycheck Protection Act
Bob Zadek: To all of our friends out there, you have homework. When you put down your device and finish listening to conversation with Thomas, either send a hamburger bun to your elected official or call them and tell them to help get the PRIME act passed. Now, Thomas, we are running out of time. I want you to offer a few thoughts if you may, because you were so involved and such headline grabbing in the first $2 trillion installment on the bailout and the so-called Paycheck Protection Act and your opinion of the act. Remember we only have a couple of minutes left and how Congress has missed the boat or not.
Thomas Massie: First and foremost, a lot of people said I was trying to delay the vote or stop the vote or stop the bill. One person can’t do that. That wasn’t my goal. One person could delay it, but what I did is I told everybody a day in advance I would note the absence of a quorum if they didn’t have a quorum there because, article I, section five of the Constitution says Congress has to have a quorum to do business.
All I demanded on March 27th was that we follow the Constitution.
And once everybody showed up, the second thing I asked for was a recorded vote. They refused to take a recorded vote.
I don’t care if you’re for this bill or against this bill. You should go on the record. That’s your one duty. You haven’t given me enough time to talk about what’s wrong with the bill, but we’re sending checks to dead people! Electronic transfers to any dead person that still has a shared account with the survivor.
But it’s not the $1,200 checks to the dead people that concerns me. It’s the $10 million checks to “small businesses” that are publicly traded companies that pay their executives a million dollars a year. They are in such a rush to get this money out of the Treasury even though there’s no money in the Treasury to get virtual money out and into the hands of the people. All the normal checks and balances have been suspended. We’re going to look back at this and the waste, fraud, and abuse of this program and it is going to dwarf all the waste fraud and abuse that preceded it.
It’s just a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to this super wealthy. Your average family might get $3,000 but if you do the math, the average family’s on the hook for $60,000 in this bill. Take the $6 trillion and divide it by a hundred million families. That’s $60,000 a piece. You all are getting 5% of your money back. I’m not talking about 105% like a 401k, I’m talking 5%. They are taking 95% of your money and distributing it to corporations and bankers. That’s my problem with the bill.
Bob Zadek: I hate to interrupt, but we’ve got to run out of time. I would like to close by saying you have about the world’s worst job, but please don’t ever quit and don’t ever resign. Please sacrifice yourself and your happiness because we all are profound beneficiaries. Thank you so much for giving us an hour of your time.
I urge our friends out there to do all they can to help you to get your legislation passed and keep you in Congress. You are essential to the freedom and the liberty of all of us.
Thomas Massie: It’s been an honor to be on your show. Bob, I’m going to go back to raising some beef cattle here.
“Remember when the AAA killed 1 million hogs a day? Instead of hogs it’s men today. Plow the fourth one under.” – The Almanac Singers
During the Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Agency — one of the forerunners to the USDA — paid farmers to euthanize and “plow under” millions of livestock to prevent a price drop. This was ostensibly to support farmers and balance supply and demand, but historians of the Depression view this one of the greatest policy errors of the time.
Today, we see the same senseless, wholesale killing of millions of perfectly healthy chickens and pigs. Cattle are next in line. This time, the livestock are being prevented from reaching the market by a bottleneck in the heavily-regulated, crony-controlled meat processing industry.
Since 1967, Federal government has required all meat raised for “public consumption” to go through a small number of central facilities, which must be overseen by a full-time USDA inspector.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a small-scale cattle farmer himself, has a plan to avert the looming shortage by simply allowing smaller state-regulated-and-inspected facilities — such as the ones he uses to process and sell his cows locally — to make up for the demand shortfall within each state. These small-scale processors are still inspected regularly by the USDA, but are not large enough to warrant a full-time inspector. While the current regulation is justified in the name of consumer protection, in reality it smothers competition from smaller producers who can’t afford to comply with the high regulatory barriers — effectively creating an oligopoly.
The “cartelization” of Big Agricultural dates back to the Depression, when lobbyists and federal regulators formed an unholy alliance that gave rise to agencies like the AAA. Even local food production got swept up in the dragnet of New Deal-era laws under the guise of interstate commerce regulation. This continued with the 1967 passage of the Wholesome Meat Act. Back then there were still 10,000 slaughterhouses nationwide. Today there are less than 3,000 — many of which are now closing due to COVID-19.
In this classic example of “regulatory capture,” multinational companies (under the aegis of the powerful meat lobby) have authored the inspection requirements to favor big firms. Under the status quo, small-scale processing plants can only sell to the farmers’ family and employees. Massie’s bill would expand these sales to the local community — exempting them from the federal inspection requirements so long as sales remain within the state, hence the “intrastate meat exemption” in the fitting PRIME Act acronym.
Safety Concerns and Food Federalism
So far, the PRIME Act has gained support from both Democrats and Republicans. Small-scale production is often more environmentally friendly and safer for the consumer, since it depends on localized knowledge and trust within the community rather than bureaucracy and red tape.
Naturally, the powerful National Pork Producers Council opposes the bill, since it threatens to break up their monopoly.
While the old Rahm Emmanuel line about “never letting a crisis go to waste” has mostly been used to ram through unconstitutional laws that erode personal liberties, Massie’s bill flips this mantra on its head and is using this time as an opportunity to restore “Food Federalism” — where regulation would come mainly from the states and the reputational checks and balances provided by the market.
Farmers who sell bad food won’t survive in a free market. Besides, they are still liable for injuring consumers under existing law, as Massie noted in a recent interview, explaining the PRIME Act to Liz Reitzig, founder of Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC).
The market’s built-in consumer protection is the natural extension of a decentralized federalist system, where states innovate different regulatory frameworks. Even the current army of federal inspectors hasn’t been able to prevent tens of thousands of violations in the existing facilities. Outbreaks of food-borne illness like E. coli also become far more widespread when production is centralized.
Freedom for small, custom slaughterhouses is just a part of the necessary reform that President Trump promised when he spoke of returning power from Washington D.C. to the states, and ultimately to the People of those states.
As Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports, rumors that Trump is compelling the large plants to stay open despite employee illness have been exaggerated. However, Massie’s solution is vastly superior to the recent executive order declaring meat processing plants “critical infrastructure.”
The Executive Order on Meat Processing Doesn't Compel Companies With Sick Workers to Stay Open
Reason Roundup No forced slaughterhouse openings. Early reports about President Donald Trump and meat processing plants…
Unfortunately, Massie’s stalwart defense of constitutionalist, limited government principles has hurt him politically in some ways. His recent invocation of Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the Constitution to convene Congress in person to pass an emergency coronavirus stimulus package earned him the title of a “third-rate grandstander” from the President (Massie jokes he is at least second-rate). He is now being “primaried” by Republicans in Kentucky’s 4th district, where has has served since 2012.
Despite this, the Kentucky Congressman and leading member of the Republican Liberty Caucus is still seeking common ground with the Trump administration and doing more than his part to uphold the federalist balance of powers.
A genuine conservative and small-r republican, Massie is calling all Americans to contact their representatives and urge them to vote for the PRIME Act.
Find Your Representative
There is no central listing of member office public e-mail addresses. Each member of Congress establishes their…
If we don’t seize the current opportunity and support Massie’s effort, we may find ourselves hungering for fresh pork, chicken, and beef as soon as this Summer or Fall. Further down the road, our children will hunger even more for the lost essential liberties that we failed to protect against special interests and their cronies in Washington D.C.
Help Massie’s re-election to keep a voice for Liberty in Congress:
Thomas Massie - U.S. Congressman
U.S. Representative Thomas Massie entered Congress in November 2012 after serving as Lewis County Judge Executive. He…
Organizations working for Food Freedom:
• Institute for Justice — IJ.org
Food Freedom - Institute for Justice
. IJ's Food Freedom Initiative Do you own a food-related business that is facing problems or is even under threat of…
• Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund — farmtoconsumer.org
• Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) — realfoodcc.org
• Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance — farmandranchfreedom.org
Meet Thomas in person at the Rogue Food Conference:
Sponsors and Vendors - Rogue Food Conference
First, we are very excited that you want to be a part of the Rogue Food event. Joel Salatin and I have dreamed for many…