|Consumer Reports, in an investigation available only to subscribers, describes the Bush administration’s evisceration of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the organization instituted to protect consumers from unsafe products from unscrupulous and negligent corporations. As part of the Bush agenda to deregulate all restrictions whatsoever on their big corporate friends, and hamstring consumers and citizens from fighting back, the budget of the CPSC has been held at $18 million per year, less than half what it was in the 1970s when it was formed. Not only has its budget and manpower been slashed (they now have only 470 staff responsible for inspecting 22,000 lines of products), but its authority has also been reduced, and the amount of assistance it gets from customs officials in detecting and reporting hazardous imports and exports has also been slashed. All it can do now is negotiate with suppliers of hazardous products, relying on them to voluntarily stop selling and recall such products. ‘Self-enforcement’, which, like similar Bush administration schemes really means ‘no enforcement’, is now the standard for hazardous products. Their manpower is only sufficient to check a tiny fraction of goods produced and imported.
Not surprisingly, the quantity of dangerous and hazardous goods on the market, being reported to Consumer Reports and other agencies by outraged consumers, mostly crap manufactured in China and other third world countries and mostly sold in discount stores, is skyrocketing. What’s worse, even when especially shoddy and dangerous goods are ‘voluntarily’ recalled for fear of litigation in the US resulting from user injury and death, this crap is simply resold, completely legally, to unsuspecting third world countries that have no consumer regulations or protections.
And the CPSC also lacks transparency, says CR, with no public disclosure of over 11,000 recent citations of products for various safety violations, which, because the standards are voluntary, the cited companies are free to ignore.
Some examples from CR’s lengthy litany:
This epidemic of corporate negligence, which poses a direct threat to the health and safety of consumers and citizens worldwide, is a perfect illustration of what happens when the corporatist mantra of profit at any cost is unchecked. This is why we need government regulation, and why “deregulation” is not, as the corporatists would have you believe, the removal of red tape, but is in fact the removal of protections of public health and safety, and the removal of standards of ethical conduct. The re-export of known dangerous products, especially for children, to third world countries is heinous and contemptible behaviour. We should be ashamed that our governments openly condone it. Another legacy of untrammelled ‘free’ trade, and the lack of checks on greedy, disgraceful corporatist conduct.
The warning in the illustration above is from an actual product label.