Friday, March 27, 2009

Letter to the Editor on Mike Simpson and CPSIA

A letter I wrote to my local paper criticizing Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho for voting for a law and then asking for a hearing afterwards and generally being un-Republican. The letter was printed in its entirety the week of March 22nd, 2009.

Dear Caribou County Sun,

While it is gratifying to see Representative Mike Simpson call for a hearing on the ban on OHV's for children, the article fails to explain the whole story. I have been following the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) very closely since December 2007. The law explicitly bans the sale or distribution by a “manufacturer of a product” intended for children 12 years and younger which may have a certain level of lead or pthalates. The law is extremely complex and contains fast deadlines and costly conformity requirements. The risk of lead poisoning from the use of an OHV is less than that found in tap water.

It is unbelievable that a government body can ban an element on the periodic table of elements with an Act of Congress. It is true that lead poisoning is a concern among children, but the primary source of lead poisoning is lead paint in older homes. As unbelievable as it may sound, the law as interpreted by the CPSC will force the removal of books off library shelves and clothing from thrift stores. It will ban the sale of ink pens and jewelry. It will force manufacturers to test 100% cotton t-shirts. The most egregious aspects of this law is that it is being applied retroactively and forcing the removal of product off shelves – not because the product was actually dangerous but because manufacturers can't afford to prove it is safe. It's easier to just pull it and ship it off to the landfill. The implications from this law is far reaching and it will have devastating affects on consumers over the next few years.

I have written to Representative Simpson several times about this law and my concerns about the law's overreach. If Simpson truly believes the law “has begun to overreach its stated intent,” then Simpson is just an example of the problem that is systemic in Congress. The truth is he voted for a law that he either didn't read or understand. The language of the law is very broad in application with very little wriggle room for exceptions to be granted. The law had very little debate and no hearings from affected industries so that a workable and sensible solution could be found.

The truth is he voted on a law which was written by Rachel Weintraub of US-PIRG, a consumer advocacy group with politically left leanings. This law was passed merely on the emotion of the moment in order to do “something to protect the children” with no thought as to its consequences. Simpson has joined his Democrat peers in blaming the CPSC in its interpretation, but the truth is that the CPSC is bound by the language of the law that Congress wrote. There is only one group to blame and it is idiot lawmakers who do not read the bills they vote on, nor listen to their constituents. In this case one is left wonder why Simpson is calling for a hearing after the fact? Why were there no hearings before the vote was taken?

The truth is Simpson voted for one of the most anti-business pieces of legislation in US history that has caused over $3 billion dollars in economic losses to date. This is in addition to the over $30 million dollars in earmarks that Simpson was proud to sponsor or co-sponsor in the recent federal budget. It has become clear to me that Simpson is a bit too cozy in Washington and it may be time to consider replacing him with someone who is not a Republican in name only.

Esther Melander

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