Monday, April 19, 2010

CPSIA - "Anchoring" in the Waxman Amendment

The concept of "anchoring" is well-known to experienced negotiators. Make an outlandish initial proposal, and afterwards, all further negotiation is relative to that initial offer. The context of the negotiation is reset by its starting point notwithstanding the nature of the problem being negotiated. This clever technique is a great way to engineer a favorable outcome in a negotiation by "compromise", all while leaving your negotiating partner totally in the dark that they have been snookered.

Mr. Waxman wasn't born yesterday and is playing the disorganized corporate community like a maestro. The Waxman Amendment 2.0 is a classic case of anchoring. As his staff slowly compromises away most (but not all) of the legislation's obnoxious provisions, the corporate community seems to be forgetting what is really at stake and how low a price it would be accepting to go away.

Rumors are that this amendment could go to a vote as soon as this week. Forget the idea of a hearing - that was just another head fake by Waxman staffers trying to lull us all to sleep. We hold our fate in our hands as this amendment may essentially kill off resistance to the CPSIA.

The Waxman Amendment offers slight and attenuated relief on some relatively insignificant provisions of the underlying bill, namely elimination of the cost of testing internal components for phthalates and prospective application of the proposed August 2011 100 ppm lead-in-substrate limit (which must first clear OTHER hurdles before it becomes law). The total cost of the internal component phthalates testing is trivial in the context of testing costs imposed by the law. The impact of prospective application of the 100 ppm limit, with its long lead time, seems to be virtually nil in reality. What did Warren Buffett say about picking up nickels in front of a steamroller???

By selling out for the measly offerings of the Waxman Amendment, we would be setting quite a low price for the misery and years of pain that the CPSIA is certain inflict. Is that all it takes to buy us off?

Don't bite at Mr. Waxman's bait. Stand strong, demand real hearings, and if he won't act, wait him out. What price for your kingdom? The Waxman Amendment isn't that price, whatever it is.

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