Do Presidential Candidates Care About Consumer Issues?

Most Presidential candidates could not care less about consumer protection, but several have taken a stand on one of the sexier consumer issues: toy safety. Let’s break down where they stand.

For starters, consumer rights attorney and friend of the blog Sam Glover looked to see which candidates supported bills on our list of noteworthy legislation from the 110th Congress.

Dennis Kucinich co-sponsored the Arbitration Fairness Act and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. John McCain co-sponsored the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Barack Obama co-sponsored the Industrial Bank Holding Company Act (whatever that is). And Hillary Clinton co-sponsored the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act. If co-sponsoring is an expression of a legislator’s interest in and desire to be identified with a particular piece of legislation, then this is a pretty disinterested showing, although Kucinich does seem to have a passing interest.

Only the College Cost Reduction and Access Act actually got a roll-call vote in both chambers, and the candidates apparently voted the party line, assuming Democrats favored the act and the Republicans opposed it.

Some legislators are cosponsor whores, willing to do anything to get their name on moving legislation, but Presidential candidates pick their legislation carefully, often preferring to write their own bills—which usually go nowhere but look good on paper.

Since not all Presidential candidates are sitting legislators, we decided to look at their websites to see who cares about toy safety, one of the more press-worthy consumer issues of 2007.

Candidate’s websites are a good barometer of interest. Unlike debates or impromptu Q&A sessions, candidates have exclusive control over the issues discussed on their sites. Staffers don’t add material without approval, and the positions presented are the idealized version of what the candidate would enact into policy, if elected.

Our methodology was simple. We attacked each website with our google ninja skills. Here is what we uncovered.

Democrats

Barack Obama: Obama went so far as to call for a complete ban on lead-ridden toys from China, though his aides quickly corrected his statement, but not before Beijing could lambast his plan as “unobjective, unreasonable and unfair.”

In 2005, Obama introduced the Lead-Free Toys Act, which would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban children’s products containing more than a trace amount of lead. Following news reports that millions of Chinese-made toys were being recalled because of lead paint, he has also directly pressured toy manufacturers and Bush administration officials to do a better job protecting American children from the threat of imported toys, especially those manufactured in China.

As President, Obama will enact a plan to protect Americans from unsafe products. In addition to banning lead-tainted toys and increasing fines for companies that fail to disclose known safety hazards with their products, Obama will:

  • Double the funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and make sure it has the inspectors it needs to ensure that the goods we’re buying are safe.
  • Expand the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s regulatory powers, and help the agency respond quickly and efficiently when it’s alerted to a problem.
  • Increase fines for companies that fail to disclose known safety hazards with the products they’re making.
  • Appoint a chairman with a proven record of standing up for consumer safety.

Hillary Clinton: Hillary agrees that the CPSC needs to be improved, but also endorses the industry’s sham proposal for third-party testing.

“In America in 2007, the products Americans buy should be safe and secure. As President, I would:
  • Immediately require independent third-party testing for at-risk imported toys to ensure they are safe before they can be put on our shelves and sold.
  • Dramatically increase the number of product inspectors and deploy them as part of a strategy to meet the threat posed by imported toys.
  • Establish a complete ban on lead in children’s products.
  • Increase and enforce both civil and criminal penalties for violators.
  • Require selected companies to pay a bond pending completion of third party testing to protect consumers and taxpayers from fly-by-night foreign importers.
  • Improve our system of toy recalls so that parents get swift notification and companies face swift sanctions if they don’t remove recalled products from their shelves.”

John Edwards: Populist ex-Senator John Edwards takes a little from both Obama and Clinton.

Ban Lead in Children’s Products: The ingestion of any amount of lead is harmful. As president, Edwards will ask the CPSC to prohibit lead at any level above the most minute trace amounts in children’s products including toys and jewelry. [CU, 2007; Best, 2007; Best, 2004]

Require Independent Testing: Edwards will require manufacturers and private-label resellers to certify that the children’s products they sell have been tested to meet U.S. safety standards. Testing must be conducted by an independent third-party organization accredited by CPSC, and products that have not have been certified should be banned.

Stop Risky Products at the Border: Until effective independent testing of all toys is in place, Edwards will give the Customs Service and the CPSC the authority to detain shipments of toys containing paint or magnets without independent safety certification – just like the Food and Drug Administration temporarily detained Chinese seafood – and hold them until testing of a random sample demonstrates that they are safe.

Provide the CPSC with the Power and Resources it Needs: To deter even large companies from marketing dangerous products, Edwards will increase the maximum civil fine to $100 million. He will give CPSC authority to act far more quickly, rather than giving manufacturers 30 days notice while children’s safety is at stake. Finally, he will double resources for the CPSC.

All the Democrats agree: lead is bad and the CPSC is woefully underfunded. Are there any meaningful differences between the proposals?

No.

Republicans

Things became more difficult here. We don’t want to say Republicans don’t care about toy safety, but if their websites are any indication, the Republican Presidential candidates don’t think the federal government has any responsibility for toy safety. Of the six potentially viable Republicans candidates, we found only one passing mention addressing toy safety.

Mike Huckabee: During an in-depth three paragraph look at our relationship with China, Governor Huckabee acknowledged that our children’s toys are “not safe.”

Looking forward we’ve got to do a better job to balance our trade relationships, especially with China. We have not challenged them enough on intellectual property rights Nor have we challenged them enough on the regulatory front. That’s why we see products coming into this country, particularly food, whether it’s ours or our pets that is not safe. Even our children’s toys have recently been recalled because they’re not safe. The result is what I think ought to be considered an alarm sounding off that something isn’t quite right in what now is becoming a very unbalanced relationship, specifically with the Chinese.

That’s it. Romney, Thompson, and Giuliani all focus on China’s growing economic dominance without addressing the quality of products coming from the east.

We can infer Ron Paul’s position because he is one of the few candidates with a clearly defined political ideology. A quick glance at Article 1 Section 8 doesn’t seem to mention toys, lead, or the CPSC. Paul would likely scrap the Consumer Product Safety Commission and let the market fix the industry’s defective toy addiction.

Senator John McCain’s failure to mention toy safety is especially egregious. The Senator chaired the powerful Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that handles most consumer issues for six years, but apparently doesn’t think consumer protection should be part of his Presidential campaign.

The Bush Administration has trashed the CPSC. Congress put the ailing agency on life support with plans to infuse staffers and funds, but it will take a renewed commitment from the next Administration to empower the agency to keep Americans safe. Toy safety is just one of many consumer issues the next President will face. Candidates who are not willing to mention toy safety during the campaign are sending a clear signal that neither the CPSC nor consumer protections will matter much in their Administrations.

Presidential candidates’ votes on 2007 consumer legislation [Consumer Law & Policy Blog]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. freshyill says:

    Ut oh. You said those two magic words. The paultards will be here any second now…

  2. smitty1123 says:

    Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich
    /fortunately, my unibomber styled shack in the woods is near completion…

  3. Rando says:

    There is only one man that cares about anything any of us have to say;

    Ron Paul

  4. girly says:

    “Paul would likely scrap the Consumer Product Safety Commission and let the market fix the industry’s defective toy addiction.”

    Would that really work? Seems like the market would merely settle for the appearance of being fixed, unfortunately.

  5. Tzepish says:

    Good one, Rando.

  6. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    We don’t want to say the Republicans don’t care…so we’ll let them say it themselves: They don’t.

  7. RandomHookup says:

    This is a litmus test for me. Give me a good solid candidate opposed to toy safety and he/she has my vote.

  8. snoop-blog says:

    whew- what a perfet day (slow) for this post. i was worried this would turn ugly.

  9. forgottenpassword says:

    I dont think ANY of them care about anything but power, influence & lining their own pockets (and that of their cronies).

    The problem is that the whole system is flawed to where you prettymuch HAVE to be a slimy POS to even get the chance/support to run.

  10. canerican says:

    The rewrite is much better. It doesn’t sound like a DNC press release anymore ;-)

    I kind of think that the Republicans need to clarify their position, I have read many GOPers positions, and most feel the same way I do: That Chinese stuff need to be more carefully tested and that we should punish China. However since China is our 3rd largest trade partner we need to be careful, as they actually hold alot on our economy.
    Also the free market will take care of this, if Chinese toys become too dangerous.
    I’m not sure if I am supposed to repeat this or not, but I know the President a certain department of Fisher-Price and he said that production is shifting from China to Mexico because of the lead issue. No need for a bunch of bureaucracy with the Republican way. Of course companies who aren’t so responsible need to be dealt with according to Republicans.

  11. Buran says:

    How the hell is safety “sexy”? “Oh yeah, that toy’s lead free, now come screw me NOW!”

  12. Infe says:

    It always annoys me when candidates jump on the hot thing of the moment, whether it be lead in toys, pedophiles on the internet, video game violence, or what have you.

    But why actually care about what Kucinich’s stance is? I mean, seriously…

  13. ClayS says:

    @Infe:

    Good points. In every presidential election, it seems that there are some people running that have virtually zero chance of being elected. This time around, its Kucinich and Ru Paul. Why do they do it? Do they benefit from the publicity in some way?

  14. DrGirlfriend says:

    sexy is the new trendy

  15. chili_dog says:

    We should elect a dead president, preferably Reagan. That would scare the shit out of every other nation, and NOBODY would fuck with us. –Lewis Black.

  16. @ClayS: “Why do they do it?”

    I’m sure they have many reasons, and that they differ from candidate to candidate, but one reason is that by running, you can insist that your voice and your issues be heard on the national stage. Without Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, do you really think libertarian and true-liberal issues would be getting a hearing this election cycle?

  17. canerican says:

    @Infe: Health care…

  18. freshyill says:

    I wouldn’t say Ron Paul has *zero* chance of winning. But I think a lot of his supporters hear “against the war” and then tune out all of the batshit insane stuff he has to say.

  19. ClayS says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Probably not, but that’s ok with me. Right or wrong, I have an aversion to fringe candidates, and prefer people with mainstream positions on the issues of the day. Both major political parties offer solid presidental candidates every election cycle. Others I’m sure will disagree, but that’s fine too.

  20. topgun says:

    Dennis Kuchinich IS PRO CONSUMER. He has always supported the greeters at Wal-Mart. Perhaps because that is the job he is best qualified for.

  21. econobiker says:

    If someone could test the toys owned by the children or grandchildren of the candidates /politicians then suddenly you’d see the CSPC funded to the max if lead turned up on/in the toys or other similar issues. These folks exist in such a freakin’ vacuum from the real world or at least give appearance of that…

    Maybe the insurance industry needs to get on board with this to force toy manufactures/importers to cover their butts and test the toys…

  22. econobiker says:

    @ClayS:

    How about the candidates the mainstream media doesn’t even mention?
    [thirdpartywatch.com]

  23. Buran says:

    @ClayS: If no one ever ran other than a few major candidates, would we ever have a chance of getting rid of this awful two-party system?

  24. spinachdip says:

    @ClayS: The thing is, the mainstream American opinions on most issues are actually to the left of center, no wait, I’m not finished, of the Democratic Party.

    Unfortunately, both sets of primaries are about appealing to the party’s base, rather than its major constituents. A Democratic candidate’s challenge is to be “electable”, while a Repulican candidate’s challenge is to espouse the GOP orthodoxy without getting too far off-handle (see: Keyes, Alan).

    Which is to say, the Democratic base will nver consider Kucinich to be “electable”, not because necessarily because he’s too far left, but because he’s short and his name is too ethnic for a white guy, while Paul deviates too far from the orthodoxy – he’s too much of a pragmatist for the Republican base.

    But in reality, Paul and Kucinich are closer to mainstream than most people think, and probably more than the eventual GOP candidate. And Bloomberg, potentially another “fringe” candidate, is probably the most mainstream of them all.

  25. ClayS says:

    @Buran:

    I like the two party system. The socialists and fascist parties are not what America is about. If there were to emerge a serious third party, I think we would need to mandate run-off elections. Meaning, if the leading candidate doesn’t get 45% of the vote, the top two candidates go head to head.

    Look at the list of parties on the right pane of the site that econobiker mentions and tell me if you like the likes of them.

  26. Hans_Auff says:

    Two parties has never been enough. Why there was a day when I’d be through with the second party well before 2 a.m. and looking for a third.

  27. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    @Hans_Auff: That’s scary. By that logic, one party is more than enough for me.

  28. msmoneypenny says:

    @ClayS: have you ever experienced anything else than the two-party system?

  29. timmus says:

    The only relevant campaign issues are tots, tears, tits, pets, and vets, same as the local news.

  30. ClayS says:

    @msmoneypenny:

    No, I’ve just heard what third party candidates have had to say during election campaigns. What third party candidates have been elected? Let’s see..there was Hitler.

  31. EtherealStrife says:

    @ClayS: Your first two sentences seem to be conflicting.
    I’m an advocate for instant run off. Just rank the candidates in order of preference and be done with it. 2 party run off is pretty much what the US already has.

  32. spinachdip says:

    @ClayS: GODWINNED!!!!

  33. Cowboys_fan says:

    The two party system is an absolute joke and yes, I have lived in alternate systems and they work a whole lot better. Its like the south park episode when they had to choose between a douche and a turd.
    Ralph nader would have been a far better president then anything we’ve seen in decades. George Bush falls probably arount 100 000 000th on my list of people I want to be prez. The whole electoral system needs to be changed. This is supposed to be democracy. Where I lived, there was a socialist party, communist party, even a marijuana party, but the population still does not vote them in office. I would rather more choice then 2 equally incompetent candidates.

  34. mac-phisto says:

    @spinachdip: yes, bloomberg. mayor of the city he owns. definitely mainstream (/sarcasm). i do like what he (& others) have to say. i’m just not so sure i want a media magnate wagging the tail from the oval office. wish they could have come up with someone more…mainstream…in oklahoma city.

    personally, i’m disappointed that john mccain tucked tail 8 years ago. he was so outspoken until the boys in the back room told him to hush up & wait his turn. he’s been quietly walking in line since.

    imho, the biggest problem is that 2 parties are actually 4. on the far right we have the christian crazies (no, not all christians are crazy…just the type that expel people from their parish for voting for kerry), on the far left we have the neo-trotskies & the anarchists (incidentally, i <3 anarchists – so many willing to blindly follow the “we” without ever asking who “we” actually are).

    & then we have the madisonians & the clintonians (him, not necessarily her) who are most alike in ideology & receive a great deal of funding from the same sources, but receive them through different channels.

    these folks could do great things if only they could shed their respective monkeys.

    who knows. in a world where a candidate needs to raise 1/2 billion dollars just to run in the primaries, maybe the 34th richest man is mainstream enough to pull the parties away from the radicals & reactionaries.

  35. Bladefist says:

    if the dems win we’ll have lead free toys to play with during our nuclear winter.

  36. Daniel-Bham says:

    I always hear that Ron Paul is “crazy” yet nobody ever offers any proof beyond that generally seemingly agreed upon statement.

    If anything is crazy about his ideas, it is that they are so far outside of the norm of Washington D.C. With a mid 20% rating of Congress and a mid 30% rating of the president, you would think that would be a good thing.

    Most Americans just love voting for “their side” so much though that they end up being fleeced willingly.

    Yes, Ron Paulista checking in. Paleo-conservative who is sick and tired of the neocon platform of shoot first, avoid questions later.

  37. ClayS says:
  38. ClayS says:
  39. newspapersaredead says:

    The only problem with this article is that it only describes what the candidates have proposed. How affective will they actually be at getting the proposals enacted? Or do they even believe what they have proposed, or just think it will help them get elected? I think we have a better chance of effecting consumer issues on this website than we do by electing any one of the nonsensical presidential candidates.

    Speaking of which, someone said they wouldn’t say Ron Paul has a zero percent chance of getting elected, so I will. Ron Paul has a zero percent chance of getting elected. I smile in pity when I see someone putting up a Ron Paul sign or defacing a public sign with a Ron Paul sticker. It’s so cute of you to care so much, but you’re wasting your time. I actually agree with some of what he says but he would be the most disastrous, ineffective president of our lifetime. Congress and foreign leaders would run roughshod over him and people would be pining for the “good ole days” when George W. Bush was president.

  40. Daniel-Bham says:

    @CLAYS

    You do realize that this is a smear-campaign regurgitating long-ago debunked trash that someone using Ron Paul’s name was doing without his knowledge?

    Back in 1992 some jerk writing for a publication used it to push his sick ideas.

    He was fired.

    Look at Ron Paul’s record and public statements/real quotes over the past 30 years and tell me what you can find.

    Otherwise, enjoy reading crap pushed on the eve of a primary in the hopes of smearing a popular NH candidate.

  41. Daniel-Bham says:

    @NEWSPAPERSAREDEAD

    My vote isn’t based on who is electable. It is based on principle. Ron Paul is consistently outvoted 534-1 on fleecing the taxpayers for unnecessary spending.

    Does that mean that he is wrong?