Here is Jon Carroll's column for today. It does boggle the mind. Lead poisoning. Isn't that what led to the downfall of Rome? Hello.
As you may have heard, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has been begging lawmakers not to approve several pieces of legislation that would (a) increase her department's budget substantially, and (b) increase maximum penalties for violators of health and safety regulations.
It's unusual when a bureaucrat actively lobbies for less funding, so I suppose we should take a moment and thank her for trying to save the taxpayers' money. OK, done that? Now let's spend the rest of the column ridiculing her.
Her opposition to the increased funding is ideological, and is in line with the Bush administration's belief that less government is better government - unless you're talking about domestic surveillance or covert foreign operations, in which case, more government is better government, and government we don't even tell you about is best government.
But consumer product safety? It's an insult to the American people.
Nord specifically objected to a provision that would ban lead from all toys, saying that it was impractical. "Impractical," in this case, appears to mean "would cause corporations to spend money." Perhaps Nord believes in a form of passive eugenics. Leaving lead in children's toys would result, within 50 years, in a generation of stronger children who had built up a natural immunity to lead.
If kids die, they die. The ones who come through will be the citizens of a better tomorrow, members of (dare we say it?) a master race.
(Is that unfair? Probably. On the other hand, we're talking about an administrator who does not want to administer, a person in charge of consumer safety who is utterly indifferent to consumer safety. Maybe a little overheated invective is precisely what's called for.)
Parents must be vigilant! Neglectful and undereducated parents are not the problem of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Indeed, the only problem currently faced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission is the continued existence of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Imagine how much money could be saved if it just disappeared!
There was a wonderful circularity to her arguments. For instance, Nord objected to a provision that would grant protection to whistle-blowers at private companies. Such protection would, she said, "dramatically drain the limited resources of the commission, to the direct detriment of public safety."
But of course, she strenuously opposes any attempt to increase the limited resources of the commission. She can't do her job because she doesn't have enough money, and she doesn't want any more money, because then she'd have to do her job. It's like, "We don't much like whistle-blowers, and we don't want any money that would force us cozy up to whistle-blowers. We would, on the other hand, like some money to take away their whistles."
Many times in her remarks, Nord complained that the proposed regulations would be "unnecessarily burdensome." But isn't that the point? Aren't regulations suppose to place a burden on companies to improve their products? If the regulations are unnecessary, they're not burdensome, because the companies are already doing everything right. On the other hand, if they are burdensome, they're also necessary.
But "unnecessarily burdensome" is the mantra of big business, the "om mani padme hum" of the Republican Party. The faithful repeat it regularly to stave off do-gooders. The trouble with do-gooders is that they force good down the throats of the American people. Suppose the American people want bad? They should have a choice.
Nord also complained about the suggestion to raise the penalties for failure to comply with commission directives. Such a law, she said, would "flood the agency with every consumer complaint." The one thing the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not want is consumer complaints. So time-consuming. So labor-intensive. So, what's the word, burdensome.
According to the New York Times, the commission has been losing staff since its peak in the 1980s. Today it has about 420 employees, about half of what it had two decades ago. It has exactly one employee in charge of toy safety. It has 15 inspectors assigned to cover all imports. That's all imports. Most of what we buy was made in China, no matter what it says on the label. In fact, the labels were made in China too. So what we have here is a failure to regulate.
It can, of course, be argued that Nord is merely following orders. Had she supported the proposed laws, she would have been shuffled off to the twilight world occupied by former Bush administration employees who disagreed with the dictates of the inner circle. It's a very large twilight world right now, and filled with interesting people. Nord could do worse.
Sorry about the tainted tuna, but really, you shouldn't be eating tuna anyway. Your death will serve as a warning to others. Have a great afterlife!