Sunday, November 18, 2007

U.S. Consumer Protection Board -- Failing on Purpose

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission—it’s the epitome of the approach taken by the Bush administration to public health and safety.
The “Caveat Emptor Commission”—is what the New York Times recently called the commission.
With a staff of 401, half of what it had been just a few years ago, the commission has been “hollowed out,” as the Times put it, hardly the federal watchdog to protect consumers it should be.
The flood of dangerous toys from China became a flood because the Consumer Product Safety Commission just wasn’t there. It has but one inspector charged with inspecting toys. One inspector. For millions upon millions of toys being imported into the United States and produced here.
As shocking, when Congress recently developed a measure that would strengthen the agency, its acting chairman, Nancy Nord, urged Congress not to OK most of the legislation.
As the Times, in a news story, reported: “Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistleblowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.”
“The measure,” the article went on, “is an effort to buttress an agency that has been under siege because of a raft of tainted and dangerous products manufactured both domestically and abroad.”
But, noted the Times story, that opposition of Nord “is consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration. In a variety of areas, from anti-trust to trucking and working safety, officials appointed by President Bush have sought to reduce the role of regulation and government in the marketplace.”
And it’s all not some sort of anti-government ideology.
As the Washington Post recently reported, the chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission—Nord—and her predecessor “have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children’s furniture industries and others they regulate.”
The Times editorial said that “when greed or inefficiency trumps safety, consumers need a muscular Consumer Product Safety Commission to fight back” and it praised Congress for having “finally begun to recognize” that the present commission “is yet another federal agency that has been stripped of its powers to protect the public.”
Government’s primary role is to protect the citizenry.
In the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it has dismally failed—on purpose.

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