By Martin Bosworth
Safe products are one of those things it’s hard to create any kind of meaningful opposition against. You can argue (rightly or wrongly) about the Iraq war, or changing immigration law, or universal health insurance–but who can honestly say they oppose ensuring that our kids’ toys are safe to play with, that our food is safe to eat, and that our everyday products are safe to use?
Well, apparently, the Bush regime can, if the actions of current Consumer Product Safety Commission head Nancy Nord are any indication.
Nord is on record as opposing new legislation that would increase her agency’s budget, improve its oversight and enforcement powers, and strengthen penalties for companies that sell recalled or dangerous products. That’s such a Bizarro World stance that I have to say it again–Congress wants to beef up an agency that has been crippled by budget cuts and indolent, corrupt leadership, and the agency head is against it.
Thankfully, the Senate has chosen to ignore her opposition, and the Commerce Committee unanimously passed the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2007 yesterday, with the next step being a full vote in the Senate. Similar legislation is on its way in the House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday called for Nord to step down:
â€œIn a letter just last week, the chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Nord, said she was opposed to increasing the agencyâ€™s funding or authority. One person assigned to testing toys to ensure that they are safe, and the Chairman of the Commission saying she is opposed to expanding the authority or the funding.
â€œThat is not what American parents want to hear. They want to know that we are doing all we can to ensure that safe toys, safe food, and safe medicine are available for our children.”
Yesterday the Campaign For America’s Future published a new report tracing the parallel courses of American business’ increased reliance on overseas product manufacturing, and the evisceration of regulations and oversight to protect consumers and ensure product safety. The report paints a chilling picture of how the Reagan administration began killing the CPSC through the death of a thousand budget cuts, even as our country’s manufacturing base disappeared and was sent overseas in the name of low prices. The end result? Crappy, unsafe toys and products that endanger our kids and ourselves.
I covered the report’s release in a conference call that included Senator Sherrod Brown (co-sponsor of the Senate bill), Representative Rosa DeLauro (co-sponsor of the House legislation), David Sirota, CAF co-chair Robert Borosage, and Marilyn Furer, who provided a poignant “ordinary Jane” perspective on how unsafe toys and products can cause lasting harm to children. Furer told stories of how she tested her own grandchildren’s toys for lead contamination and how aghast she was that an important agency such as the CPSC was left to be run by political hacks appointed by the President, while Brown and DeLauro angrily reiterated calls for Nord’s resignation.
But the problem goes back further and deeper than Nord–Nord only stepped in because Bush’s original pick, Michael Baroody, was such an outspoken opponent of consumers’ rights that the Senate wouldn’t even touch him. And Baroody, in turn, was originally slotted to succeed Hal Stratton, who was largely keeping the seat warm while waiting to find a more lucrative private-sector job. And all of this is symptomatic of the Bush regime’s utter lack of concern for the safety and security of the people it’s spending billions in a pointless war to protect.
There’s nothing more immediate and looming in the minds of the middle class than ensuring their children are safe. And while we continue to foment hysteria about al-Qaeda lurking in the bushes or Iran suddenly nuking us all from orbit, our children are under assault from a barrage of dangerous, unsafe products that can harm or even kill–and that’s even before addressing the recalls of foods too dangerous for humans or pets to eat! Any smart Democrat will jump right on this issue and make it a wedge for a campaign–because just like Bush and the Republicans demonstrated with SCHIP, the war on consumer safety is a clear sign that in Bush’s America, you’re on your own, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And our families deserve better than that.