CPSIA Update: A Cautionary Tale for Health Care Reform

From the blog of Hugh Hewitt, the only national radio host we know of who has paid consistent attention to the excesses of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, “What’s In The Bill We Don’t Know About? What Glass Beads Tell You About Obamacare.” The glass beads he refers to are the beads and crystals the CPSIA banned for children’s products, a prohibition reaffirmed regulatorily last week by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (Statements by Chairman Tenenbaum [PDF], Commissioner Moore [PDF], Commissioner Nord [PDF].)

Hugh’s argument, and we find it a compelling one, is that the CPSIA demonstrates all the unintended consequences and economic destruction that can result from big pieces of legislation.

And the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was just 63 pages long. The House health care bill, 1,000-plus pages.

[The] CPSIA is a perfect example of Congress’s inability to write reasonable, coherent legislation free of devastating though unintended side-effects even in a relatively simple area of legislative endeavor.

Imagine what havoc it will unleash when Congress turns to the massive and massively complicated area of health care and begins to mandate that all or almost all businesses in America adopt certain policies and make obligatory choices.  It has done so in the past with regard to important matters such as retirement savings programs and union elections, and always the roll-out of such undertakings has been difficult and marked by uncertainty and difficult questions of legislative intent.

Never has Congress rushed into anything as remotely as important as health care and begun dictating to the employers of America what they must do vis-a-vis every employee.  The upheaval will be enormous, which is why the example of CPSIA should be in front of every senator and congressman considering whether to rush this process in order to provide the president with a symbolic political victory.  Six key senators have sent a letter urging a slow down, and this is clearly the prudent course.  As the CPSC’s series of rulings on the CPSIA have shown, there is no ability for an agency to fix or soften Congressional mandates no matter how poorly written or obviously ridiculous. The refusal of Congress to move to clean up the mess it made with CPSIA also announces what will happen after Congress passes its magic wand over health care and blows up who knows what: nothing.  Tough luck.  Deal with it.  They will all have campaigns to run which won’t want to focus on the new laws failures and shortfalls. 

Unfortunately, he’s right. Chairman Waxman of the House Ways and Means Committee recently said his committee would hold a hearing on the implementation of the CPSIA, a hearing originally planned for this week. Now, it will be September, if then.

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