Thursday, July 7, 2011

CPSIA - The Axis of Misinformation

CPSC Spokesman Scott Wolfson wants you to read an article:

Scott_Wolfson: If #opengov #gov20 are important to u, pls read this LATimes column: #cpsc  [From Scott Wolfson's Twitter feed]

Wolfson refers you to a hatchet job by David Lazarus of the LA Times on the CPSIA Product Database. I have taken issue with the blather emitted from Lazarus' PC in the past.  In his latest example of irresponsible journalism, endorsed by the CPSC, Lazarus displays his studied ignorance of the issues relating to the database. His lack of research certainly didn't prevent him from making declarative statements. Wolfson wanted to be sure you didn't miss it.

Lazarus ponders what the issues could possibly be with the controversial database:  "You've got to wonder why businesses are fighting so hard to keep this resource away from consumers. Is it because their fears are justified that we'll misuse this tool (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding)? Or is it because the last thing they want is a consuming public armed with the latest and most thorough information on the safety of their goods? And if it's the latter, you might now ask, what are they trying to hide?"

I cannot think of any objections to the database other than self-interest, can you?  It's all a conspiracy, as anyone on the Left can tell you.  Businesses have so much to hide!  And did you know that evil billionaires are against the database?  Lazarus sorts it all out:  "Koch Industries — run by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who are active in conservative causes — also reported spending more than $200,000 lobbying against creation of the database."  Lazarus asserts that it is significant that Members of Congress aligned against the database also received campaign contributions from businesses.  [Can you find a single member of Congress who has NOT taken contributions from businesses or business people?  Just curious.]  Lazarus notes that both Reps. Emerson and Pompeo received contributions from business people who are ALSO against the database.  It's all making sense now . . . .

Perhaps it was an oversight, but Lazarus fails to mention that the folks on the Left who so vigorously defend the database as implemented have been richly financed by TRIAL LAWYERS.  Rep. Henry Waxman raised more than $165,000 in 2010 from lawyers (11% of his total raise).  In fact, his top PAC contributor was the American Association for Justice, a group of plaintiff's attorneys actively opposing tort reform.  He also received individual contributions from AAJ lobbyists.  Rep. Jan Schakowsky raised a mere $224,000 from lawyers in 2010 (about 15% of her raise).  Ditto for AAJ support.  Poke around on to check out your other favorites in Congress.  It goes without saying that the support Waxman, Schakowsky and their ilk lavish on the database has NOTHING to do with campaign contributions by trial lawyers.   It all comes from the heart, cloaked in white.  Any idea who pays the bill for all the litigation initiated by the AAJ and its members?  Hint:  it's not Waxmn or Schakowsky.

No Lazarus article would be complete without the quotes of Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America.  The strangely influential Weintraub is the Left's favorite mouthpiece on the CPSIA.  Here she tries a new angle to preserve the database, the "sunk cost" argument:  "The thing that's so insidious is that the database is already up and running,  This would basically waste all the money and resources that have gone into creating the database."  Insidious! That thrifty Rachel, she literally weeps over government waste.  Of course, the database is not controversial simply because it exists; the principal reason the issue lingers on is that Lefties like Weintraub and Bob Adler insisted on unfair administrative procedures that create unreasonable risks for manufacturers unrelated to actual product hazards, like brand slander, misidentified products, lack of accountability by complaint filers, manipulation of civil disputes and unbalanced data creating misleading commercial impressions. These problems are well-documented but have apparently escaped Lazarus' beady-eyed (in)attention.

The Axis of Misinformation is at work here.  You have the ignorant journalist (perhaps intentionally so or at a minimum, biased against manufacturers and disinterested in their POV), the shrill consumer "advocate" and the self-serving agency spokesman whose job is to manipulate how we feel about the CPSC (irrespective of reality or the "truth").  CPSC as PR agency is offensive to me.  That's not its function and besides, I think it's dangerous to me as a consumer.  As a practitioner noted this week in private correspondence:  "CPSC stacks the deck by creating alarming recall notices that do not really put hazards in perspective for readers, nor does the agency give consumers enough information to determine whether the amounts that they wind up indirectly paying for the costs of recalls are justified, especially when those costs are spread out to affect products that have not been recalled and present no risk. Hazards and risks are generally overstated, and you will never see any mention of costs to the public even though, as we all know, there is, after all, no free lunch."

It is worth noting that I hear complaints from the CPSC through various channels when they object to the portrayals in this space.  It's so unfair that we have freedom of speech in this country.  No doubt that makes the job of regulating all of us idiots so much more difficult.  Still, if I get to exercise my freedom of speech, so does Wolfson.  Go ahead and read Lazarus.  It is informative in a way.  It will take you less than 30 seconds to recognize the shoddy journalism and the slanted, biased presentation of a one-sided story.  Consider the source of this lead - Scott Wolfson and the CPSC.  As I said, it's informative.


Ben S said...

Because it's been paid for, we should keep using it? Such brilliant business-sense from the "advocates".

Ben said...

Reuters has their take too.

Anonymous said...

It's time to create an actual puppet show. The characters here are too rich not to offer them that full moment in the sun of pure entertainment value!