Where have you gone, Upton Sinclair?

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Policy wonks, journalists, and consumer activists all hail Upton Sinclair as their own hero and role model since his muckraking expose of the American meat-packing industry, “The Jungle.” But how much has really changed since the inspirational (if nauseating) book was published 94 years ago?

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Not much, according to the GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT’s new report, which slams new federal rules on meat inspection implemented last year by the Clinton administration. The new guidelines set up what amounts to an honor system, moving accountability for meat safety out of government inspectors’ hands and to the meat-processing companies themselves. Now, according to a press release from PUBLIC CITIZEN and the GAP, agribusiness is pushing to privatize meat inspection entirely, with the presumption (on which all privatization theories usually rest) that private monitoring will work because what’s good for the consumer is good for business.

But that’s just not true: Inspectors interviewed for the report said they allow more meat contaminated with vomit and feces to pass by under the new dictates than they had under the previous guidelines, and that company-employed inspectors were sometimes threatened with firing if they acted on violations which could expose the company to legal problems.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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