Sunday, March 29, 2009

CPSIA - Contesting the Higher Ground

I find it tedious, and a little insulting, to have to assert my "devotion" to safety when discussing the CPSIA. As a professional in the education business since 1990, I believe our company's record of achievement in safety and corporate responsibility speaks for itself, and besides, who on Earth is not for "safety" and injury avoidance? I have yet to meet anyone who values money more than lives or health, and do not believe such people exist in any appreciable number in the United States. In fact, to love money over health and safety make you a psychopath. Consider this quote from the article on "Psychopathy" in Wikipedia: "Lack of a conscience in conjunction with a weak ability to defer gratification and/or control aggressive desires, often leads to antisocial behaviors. Psychopathy does not necessarily lead itself to criminal and violent behavior. Instead, psychopaths high in social cognitiion may be able to redirect their antisocial desires in a different, non-criminal manner." (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy). Can I ask your indulgence - let's assume I am not a psychopath. . . . With that established, you can perhaps appreciate the strangely irritating feeling that overcomes me when I periodically feel the need to reassert my sanity, that is, my concern over the safety of our products.

Nonetheless, the debate over the CPSIA seems to revolve around competitive virtue, over who occupies the High Ground of Caring The Most About Safety. The group staunchly defending the defective CPSIA implies that they alone value human life and health, and spares no effort to slam anyone who dares disagree with their views or, heaven forbid, criticize their sainted "groundbreaking" law. This has led to some rather shocking incivility by public officials. One example that relates to me personally was an attack by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) at the March 12 Consumer Federation of America conference. In her speech to the CFA group, she (apparently) referred to me by name, called into question my integrity for calling a Rally to protest the CPSIA and then wondered aloud if I have children (yes) or grandchildren (no) - as if that was the only possible explanation for my supposedly inexplicable view of the law. Of course, the implication is that she and her CFA supporters alone are capable of arbitrating good consumer protection. I find it shocking that attack dogs like Schakowsky have nothing more to offer than smears in defense of their law. What does that tell you about the Higher Ground?

A more recent example of stunning self-justifying discourtesy, also from a representative of my own Land of Lincoln, is the March 27 letter of Senator Dick Durbin shredding Acting Chairman Nancy Nord of the CPSC for having the nerve to not bow down to the CPSIA in her March 20 letter to Rep. John Dingell. See http://durbin.senate.gov/showRelease.cfm?releaseId=310660. How dare she! Durbin's letter, riddled with errors, is a new low water mark in the vicious attacks by the folks who brought you the CPSIA. These street brawling tactics are intended to work your emotions, and to skirt the legitimate issues raised by opponents to the law, presumably because the supporters of the CPSIA have no answers.

In his letter, Durbin chooses to attack Nord for a letter explicitly prepared by the CPSC staff (http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/dingell032009.pdf), and on one hand, tears into Ms. Nord for the letter's (inconvenient) view that the law takes away the authority of the CPSC to do its job ("You accused a law that significantly strengthens the Commission’s hand as having 'taken away our responsibility to look at the risks and make judgments about what is or isn’t safe for American consumers.'”) while complimenting the staff at the same time ("I commend the Commission for its hard work so far in implementing the law’s provisions, especially the job performed by the career staff who have responded heroically to the new workload. We can only hope that these career staffers will help make a clean break from failed policies of the past."). The purpose of Durbin's letter is quite clear - it is just a venal, personal attack on a Commissioner who chooses to disagree with the CPSIA to turn her into Public Enemy Number One. Obviously, this distraction works much better than actually reading the law and answering the chorus of complaints. Maybe if Durbin and his cohorts can convince the public that Ms. Nord is "the problem", they can claim that they solved the invisible national health crisis with a new Democrat-appointed Chairman who would break with the so-called "failed policies of the past."

Contesting possession of the Higher Ground is counter-productive. It doesn't matter who is most saintly, since the real object here is to create a workable legal mechanism for safety administration. If we must deal in emotions, rather than facts, there is no chance to create good law. Unfortunately, Mr. Durbin seemingly must resort to distortions and untruths to make his point: "Over the last two years, tens of millions of toys were recalled by your agency because they posed a serious threat to consumer safety. These recalls included wooden trains covered in lead paint and poorly produced magnetic toys. Ordinary families paid the price for weaknesses in the Commission’s oversight. Their children suffered life-threatening injuries or, in the most tragic cases, death. Yet you have referred to these problems which led to the law as 'what Congress perceived to be this hysteria over recalls.'" Having personally reviewed every single recall notice on the http://www.cpsc.gov/ website, I am not aware of any deaths from lead-in-paint since January 1, 2007. Of the 125 lead-in-paint recalls between January 1, 2007 and the end of January 2009, there was ONE claim of injury from lead-in-paint on a recalled item and no deaths reported. There was one documented death from a lead bangle on one bracelet in that time period - that's it. I do not discount the suffering of these families (there I go again . . .), but I have a simple question - is this enough of a problem for our society to turn over the entire economy? It takes little effort to come up with ten more urgent situations that we have choosen not to address. Frankly, it is hard to argue with the CPSC staff's assertion of "hysteria over [toy]recalls", given these FACTS.

As long as politicians debating the issues relating to the CPSIA place a priority on whipping up public emotions, presumably to cast themselves in a better light, we will have a hard time working out a proper and balanced solution to the obvious problems with the CPSIA. In the meantime, many good Americans will suffer breathtaking economic losses at the worst possible time. I hope it will not come as a shock to hear the OBVIOUS - the people who are taking the low road, the ones who will NOT listen and have a policy of asserting legislative infallibility, are DEMOCRATS. Safety is NOT a partisan issue, at least it wasn't until this group of Democratic legislators made it into a partisan issue. I can only hope that they will rise to a higher state of leadership, acknowledge the need for further FAIR, OPEN AND OPEN-MINDED INQUIRY, and stay this legislation long enough to allow for that deliberate consideration. If they persist in holding the line, we will all suffer from the awful impact of the shockingly misguided CPSIA. If the law persists unchanged, our company will have to reorganize to survive in a highly-distorted marketplace, consumers will have to do without many essential products (in our case, important educational products) - and with my new-found free time, I think I will work on getting new representation in Washington.

Have we had enough yet, America???

Rick

3 comments:

elysabeth said...

Yes, we have had enough. These idiots should listen to the voice of the people who put them up there (guess that makes us idiots for putting them up there in the first place). If you look beyond 2007 records, it has been proven that the lead-related items that have caused the problem have resulted in fewer deaths and serious injuries overall than other items in a year's time. It's clear that we need to oust Waxman and his little cohorts and put some real logical thinking people in their places.

Good posting - thanks - E :)

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Ted Casey said...

This just gets more shocking as it goes along. Cannot some common sense assert itself among some of these politicians?

Hope said...

Thanks--praying for you all at the rally--for safety and peace and for our voices to be heard . . . .