CPSIA Update: Priorities and Perspectives at The Washington Post

By August 19, 2009General

The Washington Post today editorializes which recites the difficulties the Consumer Product Safety Commission faces in adequately overseeing the safety of imports from China. The editorial, “Teething Tiger — The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a ways to go to exercise its full power,” is OK, certainly not objectionable, and comes in response to last weeks GAO report, “Consumer Safety: Better Information and Planning Would Strengthen CPSC’s Oversight of Imported Products.” Agreed.

What’s striking is the concern the editorial shows toward the agency, as if the CPSC were the constituency the Post is most interested in. If only the opinion page would show as much solicitude toward the U.S. citizens harmed by the excesses of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

The Post had a good, informative article at the end of March, “Rough-and-Tumble Sales at Gymboree — but What’s to Blame?,” detailing the impact of the CPSIA’s anti-lead absolutism and phthalates restrictions on the children’s clothing retailer. The company took a $6 million write-off in the fourth quarter 2008 because of the impact on inventory, and consumers, too are affected.

Still, customers can’t help but notice that the glitter is gone at Gymboree. After pulling products and reworking styles, many of the remaining pieces lack the bling that Gymboree is known for and for which it can charge a higher price than competitors. Some of the merchandise that survived often had no mate and had to be marked down. For instance, moms might not have been able to find the matching top or purse that went along with detailed pants.

In March, in the Health Tab, “Book Dealers Told to Get The Lead Out; Libraries Resist Ban on Potentially Toxic Books.”
And there was the Dec. 21, 2008, article, “Toymakers Assail Costs of New Law; How Consumer Protections Will Be Implemented Is Onerous, Manufacturers Say.” But before that, there was mostly stories about safety threats leading to the legislation and some beating up on the CPSC for commissioners’ traveling on the industry’s dime. We give the Post credit for reporting on the problems, a task New York Times editors have yet to bother with.

Editorially? We find this one from February 29, 2008: “More Safeguards; The Senate should pass consumer product safety legislation,” and recall others of the sort.

But there’s been no editorial offering retrospective or corrective insights about the CPSIA’s terrible harm to small businesses and consumers around the country, or noting how the law has hurt thrift stores and the people who shop at them, or effectively banned on pre-1985 children’s books.

It’s as the Post considers its audience to the Congress that overwhelmingly passed the law and the government actors charged with implementing it.

Maybe if the GAO does a report on the CPSIA’s excesses, we’ll see something on the opinion page. Nothing along those lines, unfortunately.

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