Monday, October 25, 2010

CPSIA - Let's Keep Sucking Our Thumbs . . . .

803 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 7 days left until Election Day.

Seven days to go! Go, baby, go!

I just found this article documenting the pain of some Illinois toy craftsmen owing to the CPSIA. Imagine, these guys are being held up by the noxious CPSIA and are essentially shut down. I have been reading these articles for almost three years now. Ho-hum.

Have any of you heard of Mattel or Hasbro going out of business because of this law? Me, neither.

Articles of this type are discouraging on several levels, not least of which is the lack of comprehension of almost everyone who gives a quote. The scale of the problem for small business, even the very nature of the problem presented by the law is unclear, apparently. No one asks the right questions like - why are we doing this? What are we achieving? Is it worth the cost? Can we even measure what we have accomplished?

Of course, the answers to these questions are all negative. No one knows why we're doing this, other than a general love of children. Don't know about you but a "general love of children" is a rather flimsy justification for killing off an entire industry (other than mass market companies like Mattel). Given that we have many fine universities here and train the occasional engineer in this country (I am one of them), I would think we could be a just a little more "science-y" in our analysis. So, if we can put our "general love of children" on the shelf for just a moment, why indeed are we doing this? To improve the health of children, right? That sounds good to me.

To assess whether we have had any impact on the health of children, presumably we would need to be able to describe what is WRONG with the health of children now. The zealots assure us that there is no safe level of lead. They also assure us that lead harms children "silently", in other words, the harm cannot be measured accurately, but trust us, it's there. In other words, there is no way to differentiate between lead "poisoning" in children not presenting symptoms - and a purely imaginary condition in those same children. The "real" problem and the imaginary problem present exactly the same way - no symptoms. Contrast banning pixie dust with banning lead-in-substrate - the issues are the same.

[Ed. Note: Apparently there ARE safe levels of lead in musical instruments made of brass if they are full-sized, but not if they are under-sized. This is part of the new interpretative rule on the definition of "Children's Products". Therefore, if you had a small trumpet (dangerous, subject to regulation) and you stretched it, making it into a full-sized trumpet with thinner walls of brass, it would become safe (no regulation)! Hmmm. This is not magic, this is the CPSIA!]

And if you want to measure your impact on this dreaded problem, how would you do it? The health statistics are purely made up, because there are no symptoms. The reasoning goes - since there is "no safe level" for lead, then we must consider anything that could possibly cause a blip in blood lead levels as a causative agent, therefore, we must ban everything that COULD POSSIBLY make blood lead levels rise.

Given that blood lead levels are declining these days and are not considered a health risk by the EPA, FDA, NIH or CDC except in connection with certain specific hazards (leaded house paint, residual pollution from leaded gasoline, or other environmental factors like air pollution), we cannot measure any improvement in health. It's literally impossible (remember, the "real" problem and the purely imaginary problem present exactly the same way). Thus, it will be impossible to measure how much we have achieved for our investment. We must cling to our assertion that there is "no safe level" for lead to assure ourselves that we have accomplished something. This is a logical argument, but there's no evidence to support it.

So the entire exercise is speculative? The benefits cannot be measured. The problem can't be measured or even described accurately. There weren't any victims before, there aren't any victims now. Seems like nothing has changed. Uh-oh.

Ah, thumb suckers, THAT isn't true. Something fundamental has changed, thank you Congress. Safety hasn't improved . . . but a few things have changed substantially:

  1. Our regulator is no longer capable of exercising a judgment about what is and what is not safe. Consider the musical instrument example above. The CPSC has also become quite aggressive, perhaps to justify its existence and its new jumbo budget. Not pretty.
  2. The cost of compliance has already skyrocketed. Those dollars are coming out of activities that would otherwise be used to grow our businesses.
  3. You ain't seen nothing yet on costs - wait for the CPSC to approve the 15 Month Rule on testing frequency and reasonable testing programs. Costs will rise by 10-100x for many companies if the rule is adopted as presently drafted. I'm not kidding.
  4. Complexity and risk have skyrocketed. What do people do when they can't figure out the rules or they get scared about the consequences of failure? They exit.

    [Here's another pre-Xmas threat by the ever-lovable Inez Tenenbaum: "'We will continue to recall their products and it will damage the brand. There will be penalties, there will be lost customers,' she said in an interview." She's quite a charmer, isn't she? Does this sound good to you? Want to enter the Children's Product market? Want all your family's wealth dependent on the health of a business in this market, being regulated by Ms. Tenenbaum? Hmmm, the line's out the door, everyone wants in!!!]

  5. Products and markets are being dropped, or aren't being entered in the first place. Profits are being lost (profit prevention) and jobs are being shredded. Lots of jobs . . . .
  6. It's not fun anymore to be in this business.

As for the Illinois wood toymakers, it's a shame for them. We read about this kind of thing all the time. Maybe it will go away on its own. Maybe it's all their imagination. Small businessmen are often so unsophisticated, they probably don't know what they're talking about. The U.S. government is just too smart to get something this wrong. If they really screwed up, they'll fix it - the government's not the enemy, you know. Something this big and stupid can't be true. Somebody big and important, like a trade association, will save us. No, no, 60 Minutes or John Stossel will do an embarrassing story and that will break the logjam. [Ed. Note: been there, done that.] I'm too busy running my business to address this. You can't fight City Hall. It will get fixed, don't worry! Nothing this ridiculous lasts very long.

Boy, that thumb must be yummy! But at your age, thumb-sucking seems so inappropriate.

Don't forget to vote on November 2nd. Even if this scourge won't go away and has become entrenched, you can still strike a note for capitalism and for sanity by voting against the idiots and the venal people who want to destroy your businesses and deprive you of valuable products that you prize. You can defend yourself - and you MUST.


halojones-fan said...

"DuPage Woodworkers has been producing toys for this Christmas season under a temporary waiver that expires in February. Next year, the group will be barred from giving out toys without first having them tested."

And I'm sure that the regulatory bureaucrats involved think of this as leniency.

And there are still plenty of crafters and small manufacturers out there who have somehow got the idea that this won't apply to them. I've seen people who make toys say that they aren't affected since their toys have a "not for children under 14/15/12/8/whatever" label...

Paul said...

"It is the other guys' problem. Let them deal with it." This is such a comfortable mentality.

The other guys are going out of business, but the thing is, the perverted damaging effect of CPSIA has only been so far lightly touched or graced onto us. When the CPSIA comes to us at full strenght plus all the Attorney Generals from the 50 states, many of us are going to join the other guys at the unemployment office.

We’ve gotten to vote, success or not, we’ve gotten to send a message to our CONGRESSPERSON with our votes.