James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Patriot Act all over again

Have you heard about the ban on lead in children's products?

I'll have more to say about it in a week or two. Briefly, every producer of anything marketed for children will have to go through rigorous third-party testing to ensure each component of the product is lead-free. The testing of each component will run to hundreds of dollars; of the entire product, perhaps many thousands (depending on the number of components). And no distinction is made between products with some history of lead and those with none; all must be tested.

It will bankrupt almost every small business and hobbyist who makes toys or children's clothes. Here's an example.

It is the ultimate war on small business. Even though it was a big business, Mattel, which was the source of the lead-recall hysteria of 1-2 years ago.

It reminds me of the Patriot Act:

  • This "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act" sailed through Congress with votes of 422-1 (guess who?). With the Patriot Act, just 66 voted against it in the House and 1 in the Senate.
  • Congress's reaction was one of grandstanding. Despite Sept 11, terrorism never was a threat to the United States and the authorities know it. This is demonstrated by the very fact that no government would be able to stop car bombers and mass shooters. There hasn't been anything like that before or since 9-11 in America. Likewise, a few minutes searching the Centers for Disease Control website would reveal that lead poisoning is no longer a serious public health threat, and when it is, paint in older houses is the culprit, not toys. But almost nobody in Congress could be bothered to do even this much homework.
  • Americans are being punished for the sins of non-Americans. The Patriot Act, with its unprecedented invasions of privacy, didn't apply only to foreign visitors (as were those who pulled off 9-11), but to American citizens as well. Similarly, the lead scare could be traced to sub-contractors in China, yet American businesses will have to go to the expense of proving they're innocent of contaminating their products with lead.
What is infuriating about Congress, and President Bush, who signed the bill (Obama was too busy campaigning to vote) is not that they are corrupt. Not that they listen to "special interests" and lobbyists. No, what is disgusting is their sheer contempt for the rest of us. They think they have the right to make laws like this.

It will no longer do to say, "They had good intentions, but the bill had unintended consequences." If they were so lazy and so full of themselves to vote for this bill, they can't get credit even for good intentions. Each one who voted for it is presumably guilty of wanting to destroy small business, weaken competition, raise prices on the poor, and deepen the recession.

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