November 13, 2007
Consumer Protection Anarchy (Bob Franken)
@ 10:41 am
I don’t normally offer advice to women, but I need to alert them to danger. So here goes:
If you are in a bar, and you see some guy playing with Aqua Dots, be very careful. In fact, if I were you, I would not let him buy you a drink.
Of course, I’m referring to the latest bizarre outrage where these beads, if swallowed, can turn into the infamous “date rape drug.”
It’s simply the latest in the endless parade of dangerous, even deadly products brought to us not only by amoral Chinese manufacturers, but by the U.S. executives who ignore the dangers to enhance their bottom line, and of course, their own obscene compensation.
The problem is they get away with it. The problem is that those who are supposed to regulate them don’t.
In this case, it’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission that resists any effort to give it the power to require that products are safe.
Wherever we turn, our government has been turned into an enabler for the big corporate bad guys. It has gotten so pervasive that we don’t even pay attention to the daily drip-drip-drip of bad news.
And yet, this should be one of the most significant campaign issues. Do we want to continue this movement so far away from meaningful regulation that business operates pretty much as it damn well pleases?
Or has the time come to realize that some government control is necessary as a protection against the dangers posed by these predators?
Oftentimes, those who advocate for government involvement do so in such clumsy ways that their proposals are consumed by ridicule. Maybe, as our candidates propose intervention, for instance, in areas like obesity, they should use some common sense and avoid heavy-handed ideas that end up being counterproductive.
It is easy for highly paid lobbyists, public-relations people and lawyers to distort proposed reforms with demagoguery. They can argue all they want that trusting the marketplace is the American way. But the truth is the marketplace is failing Americans. We have a lousy choice here, but more rules and tougher enforcement are the better ways to go.
Our leaders must choose that way no matter how big the bribes — excuse me, campaign contributions — they get from the fat cats, who are a danger to society. If we don’t do something the rest of this will continue to be raped by them.