Attention Shoppers: The Consumer Product Safety Commission Has Run Out Of Power

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.

Buyers Beware: Headless Body to Protect Consumers [NYT]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Eac_o_System says:

    I feel like I have E. Coli already!!!

  2. Is this Ben/Meg/Carey’s “subtle” way of mentioning their availability.

  3. bohemian says:

    Nader needs something to do other than running for President occasionally.

    I still think this is more of the intended neutering and drowning in a bathtub that Bush and his cronies want for any government service that doesn’t match their corporate interests.

    I think the VA would completely be like the CPSC if they thought they could get away with it.

  4. laserjobs says:

    Lead is tasty

  5. thatgirlinnewyork says:

    Unfortunately the VA takes so many of its cues from the FDA, which is a different sort of ineffectual/corrupt government body, so they are, in effect, getting away with it.

  6. joe714 says:

    Does this mean I can buy lawndarts and fireworks ([]) again?

    If the CPSC spent more effort actually going after safe products with design flaws in them and less effort on things that are inherently dangerous but designed for adults, I’d maybe care a bit more about their budget.

  7. clevershark says:

    Bush really should nominate Nader, as a way to thank him for running in 2000. But then he can’t take a chance that the next head of the CPSC, when asked by industry to jump, would say anything but “how high?”.

  8. Half Beast says:

    Wait…so the provision that was keeping the CPSC running (sic) was only temporary? Sad…to say the least.

  9. bohemian says:

    @clevershark: With a bit of a net effort we could get this on the news.

  10. Rachacha says:

    @half-beast: Yep…Just a little history on the past 18 months at the CPSC. Former Chairman Hal Stratton resigned in June 2006. The Commission operated with 2 commissioners for the maximum allowed by law (6 months) until January 2007, at which point the CPSC could not pass any new regulations, could not assess fines, and could not force a mandatory recall (one where the CPSC feels the product is unsafe, but the manufacturer chooses not to voluntarily recall the product). CPSC could still announce voluntary recalls (where the manufacturer is cooperating with CPSC and recalls the product based on their own findings, or the findings of CPSC).

    In July 2007, congress passed a measure that would temporarily reinstate the powers (for 6 months) that the CPSC lost to allow them to push out some new regulations and force recalls as necessary, and hopefully allow President Bush time to nominate another person for Chairman.

    Congress can (and probably will) reinstate the temporary measure for another 6 months, but CPSC is approaching 2 years without a full 3 member quorum, a shrinking staff and a diminishing budget. Congress is simply putting band-aids over a large gash in CPSC’s carotid artery (caused by a lead tainted lawn dart of course).

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Can’t we simply divvy up the toys, food additives and sushi and cram them down Republicans’ throats to see if they die agonizing, crippling deaths? Start with shrub and work our way down to the local Republican school board member. Then back up again.

    Much preferable to the current method: letting normal citizens “test” goods.

  12. Half Beast says:

    @Rachacha: Wow. Unbelievable that a gov’t agency that many would consider necessary would have such a sketchy history and apathetic legaslative support…or perhaps I’m not being corporate-minded enough.

  13. benh57 says:

    Trai, the secret service has been known to call people after they have threatened the president on online forums. Even anonymous forums.
    So i’d be careful when threatening to kill the president.

  14. Mr. Gunn says:

    War is peace
    Lead is freedom

  15. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    Unbelievable that a gov’t agency that many would consider necessary would have such a sketchy history and apathetic legaslative support

    There problem has almost nothing to do with legislative support. It began when Reagan did everything in his power to abolish the CPSC, folowed by eight years of neglect at the hands of Clinton. But the lion’s share of the blame falls squarely on the current administration.

    The appointment of Hal Stratton – an incompetent partisan hack whose only experience was as chairman of a George Bush election committee, was as disgraceful as it was shameless. Heckuva job, Stratty.

    He did, however, have a refreshing openness when it came to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from the folks he was supposed to be regulating – trade associations and manufacturers. These gift included numerous trips to China funded by… wait for it… TOY MANUFACTURERS. Hooray for consumer protection.

    And now that he has finally resigned, Bush nominates Baroody. And so we discover that the administration is no longer appointing incompetent partisan hacks to head government regulatory agencies. Instead, they’ve simply begun appointing lobbyists directly into the chairmanships of the agencies that oversee their respective industries. I wonder how the coal miners are feeling about that.

    The Commission could get back to work with three small tweaks.

    Three? No. Only one tweak is necessary. The Times’ commentary may have been snarky, but it was absolutelty correct.

  16. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Yeah, seriously, let’s get Nader in there.

    Also, does anyone else think that the economy might be better helped by an CPSC-inspired rise in consumer confidence than by a bunch of $600 checks? Money gets spent quickly, but a solid foundation of consumers who feel safe spending money would last a lot longer.

  17. Half Beast says:

    @TinyBug: Interesting indeed. I now realize my use of the word “sad” to describe the CPSC situation was a gross understatement…

  18. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    More interesting observations:

    About that bill that is currently “stalled” in Congress:
    Senate Republicans and the Bush administration oppose several of the Senate proposals, including a transparency provision, which a CPSC spokesman said could open up consumers to “needless concerns.” Other congressional Republicans worry the provision could expose toymakers to intellectual property theft if it allowed public access to safety information.

    That’s right, kids. The President of the Unites States and his rubber stamp Republican buddies in the Senate are concerned that too much transparency might expose consumers to “needless worry.” Good thing they’re protecting us from something, because they’re sure as hell not protecting us against:

    Lead Tainted toy trains.
    Lead tainted babies bibs.
    Lead tainted dinner plates, dolls, blocks, toothpaste, bracelets.
    In all, almost 12 million items recalled for lead contamination in the last year alone.

    And that’s just lead contamination

    Deadly cribs.
    kids pajamas with wildly unsafe levels of formaldehyde
    Poisonous toothpaste laced with antifreeze
    Rat poison laced pet food

    A toy for young children that has small, easily swallowed parts. Lots and lots of small easily swallowed parts. And they’re all filled with GHB – the DATE RAPE DRUG.

    Next time you’re in the voting booth, remember how concerned they are about the intellectual property rights of their corporate contributers. And remember where consumer safety falls in comparison.

  19. Nicholai says:

    @joe714: “Does this mean I can buy lawndarts and fireworks again?”

    I hope you don’t live near me…..

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    @benh57: How can suggesting that someone play with toys, eat food that’s approved for the US food supply or eat fish available across the United States be seen as threatening?

    If it’s safe for America, for the childrenâ„¢, surely it’s safe for Republicans of all stripes, from the local dog-catcher, all the way up. So, let’s see them put their money where their – sorry, our – mouths are. Nothing more fair than that.


    It would actually be amusing – quite newsworthy, in fact – if any government entity contacted anyone saying that playing with childrens’ toys constitutes a prosecutable threat. Hee. I’d be the new Macaca.

    So on your end: are you for hypocrisy, or poisoning children? For the record.

  21. Hans_Auff says:

    Given the Bush approved increased levels of toxins including lead in the water, I’m not sure what all the concern is about. In LA their skimming the feces off the water and putting it in bottles for the grocery shelf.

  22. SexCpotatoes says:

    @Hans_Auff: Wait, so people in LA buy bottles full of poo?

  23. Hans_Auff says:
  24. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, technically, it’s Newport Beach’s Eau de Merde, at $80/bottle.

  25. liquiddaddy says:

    I guess I need to throw out my “White Rabbit” mercury pops if I can’t rely on Uncle Sam to protect me.

  26. Feminist Whore says:

    @benh57: The secret service must be really busy.

  27. groverexploder says:

    Fourth Small Tweak: Sign up Chuck Norris as Commisioner (of roundhouse kicks)