Sunday, May 22, 2011

CPSIA - CPSIA Amendment (ECADA) Mark-up Expected This Week

Rumorville has it that the mark-up of the CPSIA Amendment (ECADA) is due to occur this week at the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce this week.  The Dems continue to play a game of poker with our livelihoods over the CPSIA, which is apparently how things are done in Washington.  The mark-up is where the bluffs will be called.  Fingers crossed . . . .

Despite our having made rational arguments for amendment of this law for almost three years now and presented bundles of data and evidence to support our pleas, the Dems continue to hold out, claiming that the meager changes to the CPSIA effected in ECADA will "endanger" children.  This pathetic reasoning is based on a "zero sum" analysis which holds that anything making life easier for businesses must necessarily endanger children.  In other words, safety is a "zero sum" game in which gains earned by one side must come out of the pocket of another.  Some kinds of negotiations are in fact "zero sum" games - like the negotiations over the price of a house.  If the buyer wins a $1,000 price concession, the seller gets $1,000 less.  Zero sum.

Not all negotiations are zero sum, however.  If a customer asks me to deliver 1,000 units in 30 days, and I can deliver the units today (because I have them in hand), I lose nothing but the buyer gains. This is NOT "zero sum". There are many such examples.  This kind of value-added change where one party gains but no one loses is known as a "Pareto Improvement".  Skilled negotiators look for opportunities for Pareto Improvements as a way to close gaps or to make any negotiation more valuable to the parties.  This option has been ruled out by smallmindedness among consumer groups who depends on favors from Dems to stay in this game.

The notion that easing up on the lead-in-substrate rules or the excessive testing rules will necessarily endanger children is both offensive and ignorant.  First of all, this argument depends on allocation of the moral higher ground exclusively to the consumer groups and CPSIA zealots.  Please, spare me.  We in the children's products industry have devoted our working lives to serving children and have as powerful a claim to making kids' lives better as any consumer group.  I do not accept that consumer groups have greater integrity or are more virtuous than companies spending their own money and devoting their days and nights creating products to make kids lives better.  They can't gain the higher ground simply by patting themselves on the back.  Consumer group claims of endangerment need more proof than their hearty self-congratulations.

Second, their assertions just don't make any sense.  The CPSIA rules are asphyxiatingly tight, far beyond what is required to make kids "safe" (whatever that means).  We all grew up without the benefit of the consumer groups' meddling "insights".  I believe a good percentage of you are able to read this blog without drooling all over your PC - perhaps we never needed all this protection in the first place.  Perhaps indeed.

Assume for the sake of argument that we could figure out EXACTLY what level of protection was needed to keep kids "safe".  Since there is room for doubt about the need for ANY of these protections (putting aside the Democrats' need to create a basis for reelection), we can posit that the "correct" level of protection is somewhere between where it was when we were growing up and the current levels of CPSIA strangulation.  This suggests that an easing would not come out of anyone's pocket but would in fact be a classic Pareto Improvement. 

To put things in sharper perspective, let me diverge for a moment to discuss the Cubs.  The Cubs triumphant return to Fenway Park this week resulted in a 15-5 drubbing by the Red Sox.  Ouch.  Let's say that the Red Sox took pity on the Cubs and stopped scoring runs at 13-5.  Would the Red Sox be any worse off for this "concession"?  No.  What if the score was reduce to 10-5 or 6-5?  The Red Sox still win the game.  The reduction in Red Sox runs does not affect the Red Sox adversely until they are reduced to 5 runs (tie game).  This is analogous to the changes proposed by the Republicans in ECADA.  Kids are kept safe but businesses are much less encumbered.  This is a win for our society. 

I should point out that Republicans have children and families and care about kids and families as much as anyone else.  They also voted en masse for the CPSIA in 2008.  I find the moral higher ground arguments by the Dems and consumer groups to be fallacious and manipulative.  Do they really think they can contend that Republicans used to care about kids and now just care about businesses?  That's akin to arguing that we are all idiots.

We're not.  I certainly hope Waxman and the Dems let this needed change pass with Dem support.  It's time to move on, guys.

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