Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CPSIA - Washington Post Notes Zealous CPSC Enforcement Actions

In today's Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton wrote an article entitled "A Vigorous Push From Federal Regulators" in which the current enforcement approach of the CPSC is given considerable space. The Post notes the decision by the CPSC to make rhinestones illegal as an example of "getting tough" on the law. [Btw, for those of you playing along at home, the CPSC has yet to deign to call me or answer my letter on rhinestones dated September 17. I shouldn't be surprised, after all they have thousands of similar unanswered questions on their desks - what's so special about me?!]

The Post sums up the problem as follows: "'It's "shoot first and ask who we shot later,"' said Gary L. Yingling, a lawyer and pharmacist who worked for a decade in the FDA general counsel's office and now represents companies regulated by the agency. 'My concern is whether they've dotted their i's, crossed the t's, understand the statutory regulations and understand what the agency did yesterday. That's a real concern.'"

Ms. Tenenbaum, from the same article: "We are enforcing the law; that's what we do."

Of course, the obvious problem here is that these regulators refuse to exercise judgment. They tend to hide behind their claimed responsibility to enforce the law (implying that this process must proceed without an exercise of judgment) and fail to explain or justify their use of force on any grounds rationally related to safety. Perhaps they feel this cleanses them of responsibility for their actions, as they didn't write the law. It's a classic bureaucrat's excuse - don't talk to me, I am just following orders. There is historical precedent for fearing government officials with this attitude.

Perhaps he CPSC will go on its merry way and put us all out of business, hobble a great industry and harm millions of kids by depriving them of essential products necessary to their development or preservation of their standard of living - but only YOU can stop them. The agency (which used to brag about its broad "enforcement discretion" back in the olde days at the beginning of the year) will respond to its Congressional overlords. You need to carpetbomb them with emails, calls and letters expressing your concern. Make sure to let them know how you have been victimized by the law and how it is harming kids in your community. We need to raise a holy stink if we want any chance to stopping the vigorous enforcers.

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