Obama strikes sour note on consumer protection issues

By Martin Bosworth

I’ve been trying to embrace the idea of a Barack Obama presidency. The guy strikes a lot of the right notes–eloquent, charismatic, smart, persuasive, idealistic–and has a lot of the right positions (Against the Iraq war, against the bankruptcy bill, etc.), but sometimes that whole “inexperience” meme that gets tossed around where he’s concerned demonstrates a grain of truth.

Consider this August 25 article in which he talks about Republicans he’d work with. Most of the article is your typical Obama “above-the-fray” high-mindedness, but the very last paragraph stuck out at me like a fork in the eye:

“It’s one thing if China is producing our Barbie dolls, it’s another thing if China is producing our silicon chips,” Obama said. “We have to have some sense strategically of what are those things that are vital to our national interests and national security. Those need to be manufactured here.”

For Obama to say this right after Mattel agreed to recall thousands of Chinese-made toys due to lead paint contamination was just as tone-deaf as it comes. Since he made that statement, there have been even more recalls, threats of lawsuits, and a joint agreement between the U.S. and China to ban lead paint usage in toy manufacturing. All this happened under the aegis of the increasingly ineffective and budget-starved Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Let’s be honest–national security and spycraft may be sexier than product recalls, child safety, pet food recalls, and the like. But the idea of your child being harmed by a defective toy or your pet dying from badly made food is a lot more immediate to most people’s lives than the dangers from the espionage game. The fact that our families are at risk from bad product safety thanks to the Bush regime’s crushing of consumer protection resources is an egregious offense, not least because it plays up how the globalized economy has resulted in Chinese people working for pittance wages, in terrible conditions, producing dangerous products that are just rubber-stamped and put on the market to please Bush’s business allies.

If I were Obama, I’d be all over this as a major campaign topic and using it as a wedge issue to frame how our country is falling apart on an economic and social level. But apparently Obama doesn’t consider the safety and health of children and animals in the national public interest. Good thing that I can think of one other Democratic presidential candidate that does.

7 replies »

  1. “Enough is enough. It’s time to stop the delays and stop giving in to big agribusiness and food importers. We need to give Americans the information they need to choose the best, and safest, food for their families.”

  2. It’s refreshing to see you interested in someone besides Obama, being black yourself. I mean, Barack is almost guaranteed much of the black vote because he’s black, running for President, and not Al Sharpton. Then again, if a candidates stances speak to you then vote for them, no matter skin color, sex, age, or whatever.

    Personally, I don’t like any of the candidates all that much.

  3. Lol!!! I know how you feel brother. I wish more people had the ability to think critically and see what the REAL issues are, and look at the big picture, rahter than vote on emotion or political/religious/ethnic/(sex?) affiliation. I saw an article in the Rolling stones magazine that showcased him against Hillary and Obama, and to me he looked the most favorable. I’ll try and find the magazine and post a few excerpts from the article.

  4. I’m going to take umbrage with Obama’s comments, but for slightly different reasons.

    The fact that major product recalls are taking place speaks to the gut-level protectionism expressed here by commenters. Maybe your agencies responsible for evaluating products (both US and imported – let’s not assume that US stuff is beyond reproach) are letting you down.

    Companies, though, are still fearful of lawsuits and are – therefore – voluntarily whipping things off the shelves. They take a major financial knock doing this, but it’s better than the alternatives.

    Obama’s comments on Silicon chips are outright stupid. As it is the majority of your silicon chips are produced in Asia, mostly in Taiwan. You already (as the US) are entirely dependent on foreigners.

    Protectionism of any sort tends to result in inflation, parallel imports, increased political instability, and greater chance of warfare. Hello oil wells. Nice to know Obama would like to extend US sabre-rattling to China.