Thursday, April 8, 2010

CPSIA - Anyone Interested in Dialogue? Apparently not . . . .

The American Enterprise Institute's Center of Regulatory Studies invited me to participate in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on April 19th about the CPSIA. At least, I thought they did. . . . The purpose of this meeting was to debate the following statement: "Many argue this new law [the CPSIA] has unintended consequences and in some instances has done more harm than good. AEI will host a panel discussion of the impact of the law and needed changes."

For the panelists, all grizzled veterans of the CPSIA war, this is old hat. We could debate this in our sleep.

The composition of the AEI panel was in flux. At some point, the panel became packed with advocates for the law, so to achieve better balance, the AEI reconstituted the panel with two "pro" and two "con" speakers. The other panelists were to be CPSC Commissioner and former Acting Chairman Nancy Nord, Commissioner Bob Adler and Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America. I was the last addition. [I was penciled in as a "con" panelist, in case you haven't caught my drift yet.]

And when the Dems found out that I was to be the final panelist, well . . . first Bob Adler bailed out. And ten minutes later Rachel Weintraub withdrew. Ouch.

AEI was forced to cancel the event. And, believe me, I was ready to take on Nancy Nord, too!

Isn't that great? What do you suppose would make CPSIA advocates pull out of an unstaged open debate on the merits of their favorite law? The panel discussion was to be filmed, btw, and would have been available for any and all to watch, again and again. Get it yet? Do you think anyone in favor of the CPSIA wants to defend the exemption decision on brass or the rhinestones ban on camera in front of a room full of impartial policy experts? I was ready to stand for that test. The CPSIA'rs were not.

It's sad that it is apparently impossible to sit in a room and debate this law like civilized adults. The issues under this terrible law deserve discussion but the "have's" (those that favor the law) seem to consider the matter closed. Under those circumstances, a debate on neutral ground presents lots of downside but no upside for them. After all, they already won the game.

So what does this mean for you? Well, minds certainly seem to be made up, so let's hope you never need to plead your case. When the CPSIA saga began, I would have told you to trust the process and the agency. But as the meaning of the word "safety" became blurred over time and then lost all meaning, my feelings changed. Today I pine for the old days, when I believed the agency would listen and could be a partner in safety. Unfortunately, I feel they have become an angry police force now. The withdrawal of a Democrat Commissioner and a consumer advocate from the AEI debate after my appointment is just another signal that a true exchange of views is unwelcome.

Dialogue - it's overrated. Do you think that's the change we can believe in?


Connie said...

"a debate on neutral ground presents lots of downside but no upside for them. After all, they already won the game."

That says it all. Looks like they're not interested in anything resembling a 'fair fight'. Sad for Americans as this event had some promise as a way of bringing some true open debate but has now been squashed. The Democrats have developed a real nasty habit of trampling on open debate. What are they so afraid of? Is it you Rick or the facts and common sense that you bring with you?

Jim Woldenberg said...

Do we live in Pyongyang or Tehran?

This kind of behavior is meant to keep the entrenched powers free from having to explain themselves to the Great Unwashed that is the American Public.

It is nearly unfathomable (were it not for the consistent pattern of similar behavior) that they are so afraid of open and honest debate on real issues that they would bail out.

They must really be afraid that you will make them look like fools. Hmmmm.

Paul said...

AEI was forced to cancel the event… …?! Cancel? Why?

Rick, as you noted, without the so-and-so, you were still ready to take on Nancy Nord; the AEI event could have gone on. But I suspect it would then be more like a monologue than a dialogue

I think a dialogue would somewhat mean confrontation over the facts; a monologue would be more like presenting the facts. But either case of “Logue” would mean exposing some very unpleasant facts of this Waxman CPSIA joke to the academic community.

Could monologue be equally UN-welcome from the Dem’s standpoint?

In a way, I guess it makes sense for AEI to cancel the event. Quoting from AEI’s Organization and Purposes, “Competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society.”

Truly disappointing.

Anonymous said...

What do Bob Adler and Bart Stupak have in common? They demonstrate an increasingly common Democratic trait: they run and hide when asked to defend their positions!