The temporary law powering the CPSC has expired, reducing our supposed watch-dog agency to a neutered shadow that can’t adopt new safety standards, order mandatory recalls, or enforce existing consumer protection laws. The Commission could get back to work with three small tweaks.
First, the CPSC must be allowed to work with its current slate of Commissioners. Businesses will continue to laugh at our dawdling Commission until it regains its limited powers to oversee the marketplace. Congress could allow the CPSC to act without a proper quorum as part of a reauthorization bill.
Second, Congress needs to reauthorize the Commission. S. 2045, the CPSC Reform Act, is currently stalled in the Senate, but if passed, it would:
- Fund a full slate of 5 Commissioners;
- Boost the CPSC budget from $62 million to $147 million by 2015;
- Add 80 new staffers;
- Repair the CPSC’s decrepit inspection facilities;
- Increase civil penalties from $8,000 per violation to $250,000;
- Increase the maximum penalty for a series of violations from $1.8 million to a staggering $100 million;
Finally, the Commission needs a powerful chairperson, not an industry shill like the two characters already nominated by the President. The New York Times editorial board coped with its sense of outrage by turning to snark, and they managed to come up with an outlandish suggestion:
We have an idea for breaking the logjam. How about if the administration names — oh, let’s see — an advocate for consumer product safety to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission.