Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Burn the house to avoid a cockroach equals CPSIA

Whizbang had an interesting post "Who would want to poison our children?" posted January 19. The entry begins with

A good rule of thumb is that when everyone in Washington agrees on something it's either inane or you better hide your wallet. Of course, there's nothing that will rally together Congress faster than a law written "for the children". So it should come as no surprise that the innocuously named Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) proposed following the lead-paint-in-childrens'-toys-from-China scare last year received almost unanimous support. It passed by a vote of 89-3 in the Senate and 424-1 in the House.

What should also come as no surprise are the unintended consequences CPSIA will have on everyone from toy manufacturers to public libraries.

The post continues with Yet another classic case of razing the house because someone saw a cockroach. The blame here is obviously bi-partisan, and this abomination was signed into law by President Bush. Clearly, no politician (other than Ron Paul) will stand up when they might be shouted down as wanting to poison the children. But either large numbers of Congress-critters supported this law without fully reading and understanding its impact or their intention all along was to saddle makers of kid's goods with an exasperating suite of regulations that will yield no significant improvement on children's health.

Commentary from Forbes, "Scrap the Consumer Product Improvement Act" (by Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The Rule of Lawyers and other books. He edits Overlawyered.com), is quoted in the above post. One section of the commentary by Olson needs to be emphasized:

As CPSIA opponents mobilize, the phrase "unintended consequences" is often heard. Part of the irony, after all, is that the Hasbros and Targets, with their standardization and economies of scale, can afford to adapt to such rules as part of their business plan, while the sorts of enterprises that initially looked to benefit most from the Chinese toy scare--local, organic and so forth--are also the ones who find it hardest to comply.

But the failure here runs deeper. This was not some enactment slipped through in the dead of night: It was one of the most highly publicized pieces of legislation to pass Congress last year.

And yet now it appears precious few lawmakers took the time to check what was in the bill, while precious few in the press (which ran countless let's-pass-a-law articles) cared to raise even the most basic questions about what the law was going to require.

Yes, something's being exposed as systematically defective here. But it's not the contents of our kids' toy chests. It's the way we make public policy.

Hopefully, someone will do something before our house is burned to the ground.



Morgan Mandel said...

Good analogy. Too bad people get on the band wagon without fully investigating what they're supporting.

Morgan Mandel

Rena said...

I'm still laughing at the comment about Ron Paul!

Makes you wonder if anyone read the fine print at all.

Vivian Zabel said...

Now, as extolled in one post about the Forbes article on cpsia-central.ning.com, the writers of the bill are complaining that voters, who are "misinformed" and "confused," maybe even "misunderstanding," are overburdening them with complaints.

Imagine that.

Hey, let's burden them some more.