While food safety standards threaten to eliminate the local fruit stand, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, pushed through by Nancy Pelosi's Congress, threatens to close many small business across the country. Home schoolers have been all over this issue, since small curriculum suppliers and second hand books are the bread and butter of what they use.
CPSIA, as it is known among the companies it has greatly damaged, was Congress’ response to the stories over the past two years of products arriving from China with too much lead in them, products that genuinely endangered the children who played with them. Congress got its dander up and passed strict new standards on the amount of lead allowed in products intended for children. For good measure, Congress also added bans on certain levels of phthalates in select products.
Then Congress ordered all untested goods off the shelves by Feb. 19 and imposed criminal penalties for noncompliance. And, for good measure, it allowed for private plaintiffs’ attorneys to bring lawsuits. Finally, the understaffed and overwhelmed Consumer Product Safety Commission was assigned to enforce the law.
The safety testing is outrageously expensive for those small businesses that sell new materials intended for children and many will simply close up shop. And for gently used books, clothes, and toys? Forgetaboutit. It's an impossible situation. Goodwill and Salvation Army stores will simply have to stop offering gently used children's stuff. Second-hand stores (the saving grace of moms with a budget) will disappear. Libraries will be forced to take older books off their shelf. Tip. Iceburg.
Against this backdrop, it is hard to credit the Obama administration’s oft-repeated promise to “save or create” 3 million jobs in the years ahead. The easiest jobs to save in the country right now are those being rubbed out by the blunderbuss of posturing that was CPSIA. But almost no legislators — and zero Democrats — are moving to act.
CPSIA should become Exhibit 1 in the GOP’s efforts to slow down health care reform and cap and trade. If Congress can accidentally unleash such unintended and costly side effects when working in a fairly narrow area, imagine the consequences of their unintended sideswipes when it comes to health care or energy production.
Worse still, voters should take note of the lawmakers’ unwillingness to admit and correct their obvious errors. Not a single sponsor of CPSIA is defending the law or asserting that it was intended to work this way. But nor are any of them doing anything to introduce and push through the simple fixes that are necessary.
Moe Lane notes Henry Waxman's lack of concern for this onerous, job- and business-killing law. Of course, I suppose we must remember that it is for the children.