CPSIA: Part II at Forbes.com

by Walter Olson on January 22, 2009

Just as my earlier piece on CPSIA was going to press last Friday at Forbes there came a new development: Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who sponsored the law and have opposed efforts to revisit it, issued a letter that seemed to soften their stance a bit and hold out hope for more exemptions. The magazine asked me to analyze these new developments and the result is up now. Unfortunately, the news is bad: the letter’s suggestions for exemptions are piecemeal, narrow, and much too late. We are still on course for a calamity should the law’s provisions go into effect Feb. 10 and (later round) in August — a calamity that Waxman and other sponsors of the law had every reason to see coming when they passed the bill last year.

In the mean time, as I point out, the Waxman/Rush letter raises the question of whether our leaders on Capitol Hill realize that ordinary children’s books are often bound with metal staples, and that toddlers seldom convey to their mouths such objects as bicycle tires and dartboards. The piece, again, is here (& Matt Bandyk, U.S. News).

More: In comments on an earlier post, kids’ wear entrepreneur Amy Hoffman says the New York Times still has not covered this debacle — a crucial point, since it’s hard to get an issue truly onto the news agenda at other highly ranked media outlets if the Times refuses to notice it (though some are covering the story anyway, as with Bloomberg in a pretty good piece today). There’s something truly crazy here, given that the Times plays a conscious role as a key trend-spotter in both the design world and the apparel trade, as well as the world of law and governance.

In addition, Common Room provides some sorely needed guidance to protesters as to where their CPSIA outrage should be directed: the fact is that Henry Waxman, as chair of House Commerce, is by far the #1 decisionmaker in whether or not this law will be changed. (Next in importance? His counterparts over at the U.S. Senate.) Protests to other House members are significant mostly in creating pressure on Waxman; the ordinary course of business in the House is to leave these matters to the Committee chair, so protesters must hope to get across the message that the ordinary course of business won’t do this time. As for the incoming Obama administration, as Common Room explains, it has few if any ways of intervening directly to prevent a business calamity on Feb. 10 and a further calamity in August; its main power is the power of picking up the phone and jawboning Waxman with the message that he cannot expect cooperation on unrelated things he wants unless he un-bottles up legislation to fix CPSIA. Waxman is also known to listen to the lawyerly pressure groups like Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG, and to Consumers’ Union. My personal view is that while it’s pointless to try to change the minds of these three groups — they will remain utterly in the grip of their ideology or constituency, and unsympathetic to producers — they might be made to see the prudence of urging compromise on Waxman lest national attention to the issue damage their own images.

{ 5 trackbacks }

CPSIA Draws Mass-Media Criticism | angiemedia
01.25.09 at 4:46 am
Consumer Product Safety Law Backfires, Killing Thousands of Jobs | OpenMarket.org
01.25.09 at 12:11 pm
CPSIA links
01.26.09 at 11:45 am
CPSIA and the national press
02.03.09 at 2:37 am
Secular Right » On a hard-to-reach library shelf
02.21.09 at 1:01 pm

{ 11 comments }

1 Todd Rogers 01.22.09 at 10:32 pm

Absolutely beyond comprehension, except that it’s Washington and thus, it makes perfect sense.

2 danielle 01.23.09 at 12:14 am

Once again, great article & accurate information! Thanks for staying on top of this extremely important issue.

3 John Burgess 01.23.09 at 12:49 am

Anyone who has watched Waxman’s escapades in Washington can’t be surprised by this. Waxman is truly, truly dumb and fixated on an anti-business ideology, except when it comes to political donations, of course.

These silly book, toy, and textile makers must not have gotten the memo about where to route their political tribute contributions.

4 M 01.23.09 at 2:08 am

It’s amazing that they are not realzing what a time bomb this is.

Here is a quote taken from a new businessweek article:

“More than 46,000 businesses that have no paid employees made apparel or sold children’s toys or clothes in 2006, with average sales of $40,000, according to the latest Census data”

http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jan2009/sb20090121_173927.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index+-+temp_news+%2B+analysis

5 Matt 01.23.09 at 10:47 am

After the baseball debacle, nothing Waxman does surprises me. Unfortunately, his ascendency within the Democratic ranks indicates that the worst is yet to come: as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expect Waxman to continue pushing poorly thought-out legislation.

6 William Nuesslein 01.23.09 at 2:11 pm

I agree with John Burgess that Mr. Waxman is dumb. But bear in mind that only one guy, Ron Paul, voted against the bill. The monster problem is that the American People, almost every one of them, knows lead to be a great threat. There is no good evidence at all to support that belief. It is very much like, and even worse than, the breast implant hysteria.

There has been recent activity to put more emphasis on Science. Mr. Chau is a wonderful appointment. I hope that somebody will brief President Obama that Ralph Nader Groups and the various activist accepted by the Clintons are anti-scientific.

7 jolie_fay@gmail.com 01.23.09 at 8:04 pm

I have also spend the day calling everyone I could think of…Waxman, Rush, Nord, Moore…they seem to be getting worse and worse on this issue.

Yesterday I talked with someone from the Ombudsman’s office who was able to add some clarity for me.

1. Moore and Nord from the CPSC can MOVE BACK THE DEADLINE FOR TESTINGS (I am asking for 2 more years)
2. Moore and Nord CAN ALLOW COMPONENT TESTING

we need to bombard them with these two requests-Comments may be filed by email to Sec102ComponentPartsTesting@cpsc.gov. I was told to tell everyone to put these requests in to this e-mail address. There is also a mailing address on the web site, but he said they WILL be reading these. (he did admit that they do not have time to read every e-mail and every letter, but that they will be reading these-and they do not have very many of these email Comments at this time.)

Another point he made to me was that THERE MAY BE A PUBLIC MEETING ON THIS ISSUE SOON He told me he could be arrested for saying anything more on that subject, but he told me this 4 times in a row, and he kept saying it over and over-then he told me “the engagement is starting to work”, but do not think that you are finally being heard. You are only beginning to be heard. Do not let up. “This CRISIS is not over”

In addition to demanding the two above issues from Nord and Moore, we need to all call Waxman, Rush and our local district congress person. Waxman and Rush need to call a hearing on this matter, IMMEDIATELY and we need to ask our local person to write to Waxman and Rush to also call for a hearing on this matter.

Someone from the Department of Energy and Commerce told me today (she would not give me her name-weird) that they were waiting for someone in Obama’s office to appoint someone as the new Chairman. This person would replace Nord-who is “acting chairman” Right now we are all in limbo because of politics. Nancy Nord was appointed by Bush and they are waiting for a Democrat to take over her position.

8 Alicia Evans 01.24.09 at 11:04 am

Thank you for the clear statement of this impending crisis. As a small business owner, though not one directly affected, I know many who will be impacted by this law. Mothers who hand make beautiful toddler wear out of fabric that’s never posed a lead danger. College students paying tuition with the gorgeous stuffed creatures they make. And that’s only the beginning. Through this law, which started as a way to protect children from the few dangerous toys sold – toys that, almost always, come from a corner-cutting overseas manufacturer – soon the only toys parents can buy will be those mass produced overseas.

I’ve been trying to raise awareness in my small circle of the world and everywhere I’m met with utter disbelief. “There’s no way they’ll actually let this law go through!” Go through? It’s gone and went! “I would have heard about something this crazy!” You would think that, wouldn’t you? I feel like the lone person on the deck of a ship shouting “Iceburg!” as everyone else dismisses me as an alarmist. My own mother refused to believe until the American Library Association clearly spelled out just how this would impact her private school’s library.

I do hope that we see the major news agencies finally awake to this insanity and give the public at large the chance to see just how widespread this problem is.

9 Eric 01.24.09 at 6:01 pm

Please join me in asking Speaker Pelosi to update her “Pelosi Statement” on this issue and its impact to America. Our leaders are clearly trying to avoid the issue, which is totally unacceptable in this economic climate and considering the transparency supposedly offered by the new administration.

http://speaker.house.gov/contact/

You can find the initial “Pelosi Statement” in the Speaker’s press release archive: Pelosi Statement on President Bush Signing into Law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

10 ottova 01.27.09 at 1:25 am

This “nightmare” is a direct result of decades of incompetent supply-chain management. Legal thought production was controlling the production process and what went into it, and marketing punished production for causing disruptions to the supply chain. Marketing didn’t care who dealt with it as long as the schedule was not disrupted. Eventually, those who didn’t make waves were promoted and those who tried to increase the visibility of the problem were punished. Now people want to punish the Chinese, who never agreed to be responsible for the function in the first place. As a result, the problem everyone thought someone else was dealing with never got dealt with. The legislation is nothing but draconian blowback caused by suppliers not engaging in the most minimal amounts of risk management. Outsourcing became a chimera, whereby companies could opt-out of the shabby grubbiness of manufacturing and assign a NPV of zero to the risk of abandoning production controls to others. Now the tears flow as legal realizes it’s getting sucked deeper and deeper into the muck that is more appropriately handled by technical professionals. Too bad those professionals were mostly driven from the field as troublemakers. The CPSC never was and never will be capable of inspecting quality and safety into all the consumer goods consumed in this country. Also, dumping the problem on the Chinese is not a defensible strategy in the American courts since the Chinese government will do whatever it wants, including liberal application of the death penalty, to protect Brand China. Suppliers are delusional if they think their Chinese employees will place their a$$ on the line at the expense of their own skins. The Chinese refer to the manipulation of testing samples for compliance purposes as “The Golden Sample” and it is often a written requirement in job descriptions for engineers over there. In the USA it’s called “cherry picking” and it invalidates the results to be drawn from product sampling. Most organizations find it cheaper to just pull out the checkbook and settle rather than correct their production processes. Now that the checkbook is going to be much larger, the caterwauling begins.

11 Eric 01.31.09 at 3:48 am

The CPSIA testing requirement is unreasonable.

Product testing as specified by CPSIA requires separate testing of each of the component parts of a children’s product. Yet the language of the law does not permit testing of the separate components before assembly to qualify as testing of the product.

This is inherently illogical, unreasonable, and unsupportable. The public does not benefit from this requirement. Public safety is not improved. But laboratory income is increased.

Given that each separate test incurs significant cost, one wonders whether the authors and sponsors of the bill receive direct or indirect benefit from the few labs included on the short list of accredited testing laboratories.

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