Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Lead-footed Safety Issues"

Carter Wood's article in The Washington Times is much better put.

You can tell right from the start that Carter understands the law better than Congress does: "It's a safe bet that no member of Congress has ever given a speech proudly endorsing a bill to close mom-and-pop businesses, hurt low-income shoppers, cause libraries to discard children's books and ban products ranging from dirt bikes to ballpoint pens."

It's a well written article, summarizing many of the issues with CPSIA and ending with a comment about the work ahead for the new chairperson of the CPSC, Ms. Tenenbaum. "Her tasks ahead include not just regulation and enforcement, but persuasion. She must convince Congress of what is already painfully clear to businesses large and small: It's time to fix the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act."

Now, if we can just get Congress to listen...

July 2009 Good Housekeeping Comments on CPSIA

Wow, has it really been 3 weeks since I blogged about CPSIA?!? Hard to imagine. Well unfortunately, there is still no good news to report in this department and coverage of it remains spotty at best.

Good Housekeeping's recent edition has a short reference to it this month in the "On Your Side" feature. Unfortunately, it is not particularly accurate. The entire column can be read on Etsy. It starts out with these unfortunate words: ""Good news: Congress has passed the CPSIA, which started going into effect this year..."

My response to the Good Housekeeping editor was:

"I'm afraid I have to disagree with Stacy's response to the concerns about safe products for children. This is NOT good news. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was not needed -- at least not in the form that Congress voted for it last summer. Unsafe products were already being recalled at a very acceptable rate, it did not take this law to do that. Additionally, CPSIA has many unintended consequences, including the very unacceptable loss of many children's products that were perfectly safe -- but that cannot meet the outrageous new requirements of this toxic law. Additionally, some products, like bicycles and ATV's will become less safe for children as a result of this overarching law, not more safe!

There is much misinformation circulating about CPSIA, please do not add to it.

Thank you.
Catherine Jaime
Mother of 12

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Video: Menendez on CPSC Amendment

Senator Menendez is speaking to the Senate about an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety bill. He is proud of the work they have done that will now prohibit members of the CPSC from taking trips paid for by agencies they regulate ("toxic travel" as he later calls it!) In fact he goes to great lengths in this 5 1/2 minute speech last June to tie the problems we were supposedly having with all these toxic toys being recalled to the unethical behavior of members of the CPSC traveling on the dimes of business big wigs.

In fact, Senator Menendez brags about the fact that Congress has recently outlawed travel paid for by lobbyists, and obviously the CPSC should be held to that high standard as well. (I found it highly ironic that the Congress has only recently met this standard themselves, but they are "shocked" and "appalled" that the CPSC isn't already meeting this standard?!?

Senator Menendez of course has to point out the outstanding (as in high) "number of items that were recalled last year because they were deemed unsafe for American Consumers to use -- after they were placed in our stores, bought by our families and used by our children...And the most common victims of these regulatory failures were children..." And he went on to ominously announce that "this year is shaping up to be just as tragic...Isn't somebody supposed to be watching out to make sure doesn't happen?"..."But the CPSC is busy doing other things..."

As a mother of many children for many, many years, I found his comments to be insulting and demeaning, both to myself as a parent and to those in the CPSC who are being asked to do an impossible job. Do we require every toy to be sold in this country to be stamped with the approval of our government agencies to be able to determine its appropriateness for our children? Absolutely not! As a parent, I can handle that job just fine. I do not want my options in toys (let alone clothes, books, etc.) to be limited to the very small number of items that can make their way through whatever legislative tunnel the Congress can dream up!

The problems we are facing here are not due to toxic toys or toxic travel but to toxic legislators! I would like to see our Congressmen reread their pocket Constitutions, and go back to passing laws on the very limited number of things they are supposed to be legislating!

Video: Harry Reid on Product Safety, Dem Primary and more

This 2 minute interview w/ Harry Reid on CapNews.Net in March 2008 actually only contains a minute or so at the beginning about CPSIA before he goes into other political topics.

Senator Reid is asked "What are some of the key aspects of the Consumer Product Safety legislation passed by the Senate yesterday?"

He responds with typical fear mongering: "First of all it covers a wide range of important products and products generally. Now we focused on toys because it was so terrible what happened right before Christmas."

Mr. Reid then goes on to badmouth the Bush administration for shrinking the CPSC (wasn't that a bipartisan effort that had been going on before Bush too?) He mocked the single tester for toys at the CPSC's ability to test the millions of toys that are imported.

We've changed that now: We've increased the budget for CPSC by some 50%, we've put penalties, and now its possible to get these things off the market quickly. We have third party reviews of these products..."

If this was all I knew about CPSIA, I would think it dealt with dangerous toys imported from overseas...And I would be so, so wrong!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Video: This Week in Washington

This short and sweet video was done by the Heritage Foundation in March 2008. It is just over 2 minutes long, and the first 1 1/2 minutes are actually about the surge in Iraq and the Budget Defect and Bush Tax Cuts.

It is not until the 1:30 point that CPSIA comes up. Right away you see the difference between the attitude of this speaker, Brian Darling, and Lou Dobbs in the other video -- here the sign says "Expanding Bureaucracy will not Increase Consumer Safety"...which pretty much summarizes the next 40 seconds.

Brian mentions that the Senate is debating a bill in Congress that will expand the CPSC and empower state Attorney Generals to sue companies. He also talks of the ability under this law to imprison business owners for unknowing violations of the CPSC rules.

He ends strong with "Conservatives do not want to criminalize capitalism, further empower trial lawyers, and double the size of yet another federal entity." The only question that was left in my mind after this brief video was: If only 3 senators voted against this bill, what does that say about the number of Conservatives in the Senate in 2008???

Video: Dobbs Rants About Product Safety Chief's Comments

This video is aptly named, it is 1 1/2 minutes of Lou Dobbs ranting against Nancy Nord in February 2008. (Difference between what he is doing here and what Congress did in some of the previous videos, he is talking about her, they were talking to her...)

Sign behind Dobbs says "Who's Protecting You?"

Dobbs starts right in on her, asking, "Nord, is she as imbecilic as she appears to be, as absolutely insensitive to American consumers, as lacking the judgment to run a federal agency designed and created to protect the American consumer...This woman is beyond belief." (No, I'm sorry, as I was watching this video, I couldn't help thinking that Dobbs was beyond belief!)

Then Christine Romans (don't know who she is, sorry) pointed out that Nord is saying that "all the recalls show that the system is working..."

That's as far as she gets before Dobbs cuts her off and says, "That its working?" "How many did her agency initiate?" And then he goes off on her not being willing to answer that question, as if somehow that proves his point of how incompetent she is.

Then he brings up trade, "How can she say it isn't a trade issue...Toys that aren't being inspected...

Romans interjects, "Trade Policy and Safety are 2 separate issues" (presumably quoting Nord's position on it.

And then Dobbs starts again, "We're overwhelmed with imports, how can it be anything but a trade issue as well?" And then he starts insulting her intelligence. Funny, it was his I kept wondering about during the video.

I'm not sure what Nancy Nord did to bring on Dobb's ire, but I can't help watching this and thinking that this is way, way out of line!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Video: Stop Toxic Toy Import Campaign

This 20-minute video is from January 2008.

This video is about 1 of 100 events held across the U.S. on January 16, 2008 on the "National Day of Action on Toxic Trade". It was organized by the United Steelworkers, who were protesting the import of "toxic toys". (But as I watched the video, I felt like I had finally found the money trail for CPSIA -- this Union group was using the "toxic toys" as an excuse; what they were really fighting was what they were calling "toxic trade". The irony is that because of the CPSIA that they fought so hard for, more jobs will be lost here!)

Signs displayed included "Get the Lead Out -- Stop Toxic Imports" and "Protect our Kids -- Save American Jobs"

There were numerous speakers out for this event on this cold January day. The first was from the Portland Jobs with Justice. She lost no time in talking about the need to "fight for workers' rights" and the "effects on our families' health and safety... but also on jobs". She made it very clear that her real complaint was with increased globalization.

The next speaker was from Sweat Free NW Campaign. She spoke of the "devastating impact of trade policies" reflected in 6 million toys recalled...and "declining working conditions". She pointed out that "cheap goods should not come at the expense of our communities".

Next was the gentleman from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. He complained that 30 or 40 years ago 90% of toys sold in U.S. were made here, versus 90% imported today. He also stated that Congress needs to fund the CPSC and the FDA. And he pointed out that "cheap products have big costs".

The speaker from Oregon Public Interest Research Group was adamant that "we need to ban lead completely in children's products". (Of course he offered no evidence for his claims, it just seemed to fit right in with everything else being said there that day.) He was followed by a speaker from Working America in Oregon.

The final speaker, from the Oregon AFL-CIO, blamed President Bush for much, and then claimed that 6 million toy recalls allow us to look into the souls of the multinational corporations who clearly only care about profit. He ended by leading a chant of "America first, not corporations".

All in all, an interesting 20 minute look at why we are not getting anywhere with Congress on fixing the real problem here -- this toxic law!

Video: Rep. Schakowsky On Protecting Children

I'm expecting more of the same with this CPSIA video. Let's see if I'm right...

Another hard to hear video. Congresswoman Scharowsky renews the attack on the CPSC, and especially Acting Chairwoman Nord, who she complains is "content with the status quo". (If there was some true evidence of the status quo having been a problem, these complaints may have been worth listening to, but Congress has done a lot of attacking of Nord and the CPSC, and shown very little to substantiate their claims.)

Ms. Scharowsky also complains about the large number of dangerous toys tested by the Chicago Tribune -- so many that tested so far about the "reasonable limits" that Congress was going to impose with CPSIA. Problem is, those were toys that had already been in the market for many years -- and yet there was no evidence that they had hurt anyone! Where was/is the support for her claim that these toys are so harmful? It doesn't exist.

Video: Rep. DeGette On Protecting Children

Oh boy, we get to hear Representative DeGette again. Video available, like the others, at and on you tube.

This is a very badly recorded section, the audio and video don't match up. But through the distortion, there is really just more of the same. Congresswoman DeGette complains of the rising number of product recalls of late, and applauds the move in the CPSIA bill to "almost double the funding for the CPSC". She is also excited at the idea that they will be "requiring independent, third-party testing" under CPSIA and she congratulates Congress on this "crucial step in making sure kids are safe from dangerous products."

One has to wonder, watching these types of "shows" repeatedly, whether these Congressmen actually believed their own rhetoric, or whether they were just confident that they could pull a fast one on wary consumers.

So much is made here, and in so many other speeches, of the unsafe products on the market, and Congress' responsibility to save us from those products. But aren't the increasing number of recalls an indication that the laws that existed prior to CPSIA were doing their jobs -- as well as the CPSC itself, who also take a constant hit of criticism from Congress.

This video falls in the category of "don't bother with" in my humble opinion. (Of course, I would have said the same about this bill, before it became a law, but I didn't get a chance!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Video: Rep. Rush on Protecting Children

Ok, let's see what fun tonight's CPSIA videos bring us!

This video could actually serve as an introduction to someone who had missed much of what got us to this point with Congress.

Representative Rush applauds the 4 members of Congress that brought us H.R.4040: Dingell, Barton, Stearns, and Rush. He proudly points out that this bill dramatically rewrites the Consumer Product Safety Act (a gross understatement to say the least) and the Hazardous Substance Act (considering what has suddenly become declared as hazardous substances, I would say so.)

He mentions that the bill "finally restores the CPSC to its rightful place of prominence and gives it the necessary tools to grapple with the global marketplace and to protect American consumers, particularly our children." But everything we've seen and heard from the CPSC since at least January of 2009 seems to say otherwise. The CPSIA has not restored CPSC to that place, and given it the necessary tools. CPSIA has put Congress in the place of the CPSC, and taken away tools from it.

Mr. Rush then goes on to mention the 8 months of work that had gotten them to this point (I think the House as a whole was about to vote on it for the 1st time). We might all wish that they would put as much energy into fixing the mess they've made as they did into making the mess in the first place!

He then brags that the CPSIA gives us the "strictest lead standards in the world...requiring certification and testing". If the lack of those standards, and those certification and testing requirements had made our children unsafe, that would be something to brag about indeed. But almost 4 months into a major portion of this law's requirements, and it safe to say that children are less safe as a result of it, not more safe. And Congress' rhetoric aside, children were not getting killed or seriously injured because of all the toxic toys that it would take Congress to protect them from!

Mr. Rush ends by saying he "cannot emphasize enough the bipartisan nature of this bill". There we would have to agree with him, to a point. Getting the bill passed was indeed bi-partisan, since almost no one from either party understood the problems this bill would cause when they voted on it last year. But now, almost a year later, the problems have surfaced, Congress has been notified (100s of 1000s of times in fact), and the problem is no longer truly bi-partisan. Almost without exception, the only Congressmen and Senators writing and supporting amendments to this law are Republican. The Democrats, almost without fail, are refusing to fix this toxic law!