OK, OK – I’m actually in a chair, thinkin’ ’bout the government. More specifically, I’m thinking about a couple of stubborn jackasses, and the incredible brokenness of a system in which everybody knows that the people voting on our laws rarely have or take time to read them, and that they’re basically incomprehensible anyway, which is why we have so many lawyers; a system where a law theoretically intended to protect children from poisonous mass-produced junk from overseas will, if not fixed, quite possibly ensure that all we’re allowed to buy is (hopefully at least not still poisonous) mass-produced junk from overseas. (Forbes.com has a couple of good articles about it, here and here, from Walter Olson of Overlawyered.com.)
As you may know (unless you rely on the New York Times for all your news – they haven’t said a word about this in five months), a law was passed back in August that requires that *all* products that are aimed at children under12 be tested for lead and a few other toxins. This is a great idea – until you read the actual legislation and realize that ALL products have to be tested. Every snap, every button, every bolt, every skein of yarn – a sample from every batch of every product. Make sweaters in more than one size? Guess what – that’s more than one batch – and more than one test. More than one multi-hundred-dollar test.
Who can afford that? The giant multinational co-owners of Congress that make, import and sell the aforementioned mass-produced junk from overseas. Plus, there’s only a few companies in the country certified to do the testing, and they don’t want to handle small businesses because they rely on economies of scale to make their business profitable – they do business with the Mattels and Wal-Marts of the world.
Now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been trying to reassure people that small businesses won’t generally be worth their time to prosecute… which means absolutely nothing. As of Feb. 10th, crafters and companies who can’t afford to test every batch of their products – even if they use only natural, certified organic products sourced entirely from American resources – will still be felons, they’ll just be uncaught felons. Uncaught, that is, until some clever, just-large-enough-to-afford-testing business owner realizes he can thin out the competition by turning them in on the CPSC website. And handcrafters, who produce one-of-a-kind items? They’ll basically have to pay several hundred dollars for the privilege of having everything they make dissolved in acid.
And then, of course, there’s the libraries, and thrift stores, and used book stores, all of whom are quite likely going to be affected… because this law doesn’t just apply to new manufacturing, nosiree – it’s retroactive! It applies to all products that have EVER BEEN produced for children under 12. As of February 10th, it will be ILLEGAL to sell, donate or give away products for children that you know or suspect have not been tested.
If you make things that you sell or give away that might possibly be of interest to a child under 12, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act affects you. If you buy things for a child under 12, this law affects you. If you happen to like libraries, or thrift stores, or used book stores, or shopping at Goodwill – this law affects you.
So what can you do? Talk about it. Blog about it. (Wednesday’s a good day.)
Contact Rep. Henry Waxman (who, in addition to being the co-sponsor of the law, is also chair of the House Commerce Committee… which means if he doesn’t want to allow amendments – which he doesn’t – it isn’t gonna happen. And nobody can make him.)
Contact Rep. Bobby Rush, the other co-sponsor. Contact your Representative and Senators, to ask them to pressure Waxman into allowing discussion on the bill. Contact industry lobbying groups – they don’t actually want to help, but if enough people contact them they may decide it’s in their best interest not to tick off a bunch of consumers.