John Stossel

When the inspection program began, the government assumed visible signs of disease and discolorations in the skin meant that chicken would be a danger to people. But we've known better for years. It would make much more sense to do microbial testing: take samples off the line and put them in Petrie dishes to see what kind of bacteria grows. So has the government stopped dead-bird watching? No.

Government rarely stops anything.

The chicken industry likes things the way they are because it gets free employees. They have taxpayer-paid inspectors to make sure all the birds look good; the inspectors even stamp the bacteria-laden birds with a government label that promises they're wholesome.

Microbial testing of random samples would be cheaper. And scientists told us the best protection would be to treat poultry with cobalt irradiation, which kills virtually all disease-causing organisms and doesn't require paying government inspectors to watch dead birds go by.

But that's not what the union wanted reported.

Although the government now does some microbial testing, the USDA still pays inspectors to stare at every chicken. After all, that keeps all the players working. Businesses get free employees. Employees get jobs. Unions get dues. The government gets our money.

Imagine what would happen if you could watch your tax dollars as closely as the federal government watches dead chickens.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate