CPSIA Update: Risk, Labels, Politics, Economic Harm

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Friday conducted the best single interview we’ve heard on the topic of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a three-part segment with Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources, Inc. The interview features a timely focus on the permanent product label requirements that go into effect August 14.

The entire interview is available via an .mp3 file, starting at about 10:30 in. Hewitt also has a brief blog report here. (Thanks for the Shopfloor plug, Hugh.)

The strength of the interview is that Hewitt uses his lawyerly skills to build step-by-step the case against the CPSIA’s excesses, starting with the origins of the legislation.

The fundamental problem with the bill? Woldenberg:

The worse thing about the law is that under the guise of safety, they have taken all concepts of safety out of the law. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but the law has removed from the CPSC the ability to assess risk.

Hewitt asks about when the CPSC provided guidance on how to implement the new product tracking labels. Rick responds: Two days ago. (Wednesday). Woldenberg:

The mistake the agency I believe has made is not just admitting that it took too long and then slow the process down to allow for the kind of discussion for industry and the time for a smooth, reasonable implementation that a process like this would require.

The idea that you could put a six-page document out three weeks before it’s due and that would make everything OK just doesn’t make it any sense. It affects 60 percent of the economy.

The NAM has petitioned for a one-year extension of the labeling requirements, which remain overwhelming and unclear.

Why won’t anyone fix what’s obviously a disaster? Woldenberg:

I personally think it’s message control. Back in August of ’08, Congress was heading into a re-election campaign, they were three months from the polls, and they wanted to look tough on safety. They invented a crisis. The recalls in ’07 and ’08 did not result in injuries, but they were so hysterical about it they invented a crisis and then they solved it in order to look active.

Why has the media not picked up on the excesses of the law?

It’s hard to understand. I think that it has an air of unreality to it. How could anyone believe that the U.S. government would outlaw rhinestones on jeans? It doesn’t make any sense and when you say it to people, they look at you like something’s wrong with you. It’s just hard for people to get their arms around the fact that this could really be happening.

But the fact of the matter is that across this country, many, many resale shops – Salvation Army, Goodwill and so on – have discontinued selling children’s merchandise because of this law. So come winter it’s going to be tough to buy a used children’s coat. And that’s Congress’ fault.

Congress should rewrite the law to restore the ability of the CPSC to consider risk in implementing the law, Rick contends.

The entire interview is invaluable and should be widely disseminated.

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