Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CPSIA - Consumers Union is Hazardous to Your Health

Lies, innuendos, misstatements, twists - which is it this time?

Today Ami Gadhia, one of the Consumers Union CPSIA hacks (a.k.a. "Policy Counsel") weighed in with her usual bunk about the lurking "dangers" in children's products.  In particular, today's tripe is a protest against modifying the CPSIA.  Her writings and utterances are invariably infuriating for their lack of perspective, tall tales and general fear mongering.  In her article "Turning Back the Clock on Child Safety Protections", Ms. Gadhia continues her fine tradition of twisting and obfuscating the facts.  Considering her background in the subject matter and her law degree, one must assume ill-intent.  This can't be accidental.

Let me debunk her junk one-by-one:

a.  "Turning Back the Clock on Child Safety Protections":  The Op-Ed's title is absurd in light of the actual bill's wording.  The CPSIA Amendment (ECADA) is a mild and surgical bill intended to offer minimal but effective relief from over-regulation while preserving the structure of the CPSIA.  Killing the CPSIA is politically impossible, it appears, so this is the best that can be offered at this time.  Ms. Gadhia must be asserting that ANY change in the CPSIA is a setback.  This argument is always left unproven - but no one ever holds her accountable so why not tell the tall tale?  The consumer groups rely on the appeal of the "zero sum" argument which also goes unchallenged.  It goes like this:  ANY change in the CPSIA which might benefit a business is THEREFORE a setback for children's safety.  If the Cubs lose 15-5, they are somehow better off if they instead lose 13-5.  Right. . . .

b.  Ms. Gadhia, like her fellow manipulators in the consumer "advocacy" field, relies on an emotional appeal to kick off her crock - the story of a child who swallowed magnets, leading to gory injury.  A few notes on this line of reasoning:
  • The CPSIA is NOT a toy law.  Despite Ms. Gadhia's relentlessly repetitive references to toy safety, the law applies equally to ALL children's products, from shoes and t-shirts to pens to rhinestones to ATVs and bikes to books to educational products to carpet to what-have-you.  By focusing on toy gore, Ms. Gadhia lulls her reader into overlooking the awesome overreach of this bill.  We don't want kids injured by magnets . . . ergo, we should ban all hazards in all things.  Huh?
  • The magnet hazard she refers to had never been seen by the agency previously.  It was a classic latent hazard, unregulated specifically because it was unrecognized.  You can see Gib Mullan, the current General Counsel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and former General Counsel and Director of Compliance at the CPSC say ON VIDEOTAPE (at the CPSC Tracking Labels hearing) that the agency first thought the problem was a small parts issue, not a strong magnets issue.  No law can effectively regulate UNKNOWN hazards.  Claiming that the CPSIA "solves" this safety issue is pure baloney.
  • The magnet hazard was addressed promptly and effectively by the agency without the need for changes implemented by the CPSIA. The agency had this power under its 1972 enabling legislation and following laws.
  • Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
c.  Ms. Gadhia intones ominously about banned phthalates and their links to "a variety of health risks".  As has been well-documented here, that provision was placed in the law at the last minute by Diane Feinstein, true to her San Francisco roots.  This is the same place that worked for years to ban circumcision.  Yes, they are really scientific in that community.  For a discussion of phthalates, please watch the 60 Minutes segment in which I appeared.

d.  Ms. Gadhia trots out yet another misleading but longstanding justification for not changing the CPSIA - namely that it passed by an overwhelming majority of Congress.  I fail to grasp the intellectual power of this "infallibility of Congress" argument, and further note that dozens of members of Congress have been trying to change the law ever since.  There has been more than a dozen bills floated to amend this "perfect" law since August 2008.  In addition, the timing of passage of this law (three months ahead of the 2008 Presidential poll electing Mr. Obama) made it very dangerous politically to vote against this terrible law if you wanted to keep your job in Congress.  Even Mr. Bush had to sign it for political reasons.  The political and media frenzy in 2008 made rationality impossible, and minds were made up.  Have you ever made a bad call when you were furious?  'Nuf said . . . by everyone except the dangerous Ms. Gadhia.

e.  The Consumers Union storyteller informs us that ECADA "would poke some serious holes in the product safety net".  What a dream if Ms. Gadhia were actually right that this amendment would actually dent the CPSIA that I hate.  It doesn't, regrettably.  To "prove" her points, she lists four lies:
  • "The bill undermines safety testing for children's products".  The bill eliminates MANDATORY testing as required by the CPSIA.  It does not ban testing, nor does it discourage or remove the incentive to test.  Excessive testing is one of the original problems cited in the bill, and has cost our company well in excess of $1 million since the passage of the bill - all without making even one product in our product range safer, even a little bit.  This term is the brainchild of the consumer groups (Rachel Weintraub?), reasoning that if the government didn't require mandatory testing, no testing would be done.  This misconception overlooks the enforcement of the new standards.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to assess whether you comply with the standard without testing.  Enforcement of the standard, as is anticipated, means that everyone WILL test.  What is being eliminated is the role of Mother Government "helping" us by telling us how to run our businesses.  If the standard is enforced, people will HAVE TO test.  If they don't enforce the standard, they won't enforce mandatory testing either. What's the big deal here?  Just the opportunity for Ms. Gadhia to mindlessly bang her drum.
  • "The bill undermines lead protections".   Ms. Gadhia informs us that consumer confidence would "erode" if the current one-size-fits-all standard is replaced with "a variety of standards that will be different depending on when the product was manufactured, the age of the child for whom the product is designed, whether it contains small parts, and other factors."  OMG - standards that are reasonably tailored to the individual hazard and individual product!  NO - please tell me we still live in a world where books, t-shirts, diamonds and rubies, ATVs, bicycles, appliances, pens, carpets, DVDs and toys are ALL subject to exactly the same rules. What is the world coming to???  I presume Ms. Gadhia thinks we are idiots, or else this is all she has, which ain't much.  Anyone surprised?
  • "The bill undermines the effectiveness of the new crib safety standard".  I have previously addressed this issue - the three Dem Commissioners made this same baseless accusation a few days ago.  See my reply in this space.
  • "The bill undermines the new public database for people to report and read about product safety problems".  Ms. Gadhia warns "the provisions in this legislation would place onerous burdens on the person making the complaint, thereby discouraging parties with valuable safety information from reporting."  Whoa - you mean we won't get to see stuff like this, this and this again???
Ms. Gadhia needs to get one last jab in:  "The Leisy family's experience shouldn't happen to another child."  Okay, I don't want to see any child injured ever again for any reason . . . but does Ms. Gadhia even make a coherent argument here?  Does one thing have ANYTHING to do with another?

It's time to turn back the clock on irrationality and lowest common denominator government.  Who should set the tone for us - the Anthony Weiners of the world (did you hear that his wife is pregnant?) or people that are interested in children's safety AND the viability of American businesses that provide jobs to your neighbors and valued products to your kids?  I think it's time that our representatives in Congress, especially those in Congress calling themselves Democrats, to stand up for WHAT'S RIGHT rather than what's easy or what's safe (for their job security).  We pay them to lead, not to cower.  PASS ECADA AND END THE CPSIA CHARADE!

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