What it has wrought is a near billion dollars in suddenly worthless goods, a vastly complicated and expensive testing regime, and a thousand unanswered questions. The number of businesses sideswiped or substantially damaged by this feel-good law is huge. I spent an hour interviewing a CPSIA expert on my program on Monday, Gary Wolensky of the law firm Snell & Wilmer, and since then the e-mails have been piling up from all sorts of business owners reeling from the law's incredibly destructive bite. One manufacturer of pens for back-to-school season has seen his entire business put on hold by retailers afraid to stock his products. The all-terrain vehicle industry which sells an incredible number of machines to the 12 and under market has been devastated as the CPSIA unknowingly reached out and forbade the sale of such vehicles since some of their components contain either lead or phthalates. Dozens of small manufacturers of baby products, from teething rings to quilts, are on the brink of ruin. A fast food franchisee is stuck with $30,000 of worthless childrens' meal toys. The list goes on and on.
Congress had no idea it was doing these things to these businesses and thousands of others when it passed the Act. Senator Amy Klobuchar, for example, still carries on her web site a declaration of her pride in pushing for the CPSIA. "I authored three provisions of the legislation," she wrote, "to eliminate lead in children's products; to establish mandatory federal safety standards for durable infant and toddler products such as high chairs and car safety seats; and to require toy manufacturers to stamp "batch numbers" on their products to help parents identify products if they have been recalled. The law also requires more vigorous testing of every children's product sold in our stores." There is no evidence that she is aware of the wreckage brought about by her high-mindedness.
And as the law only took effect on February 10, the first of the tidal wave of plaintiffs' law suits against manufacturers and retailers that haven't complied with the CPSIA's draconian provisions began to roll out just this week.
This wasn't a complicated statute --at least Congress and President Bush didn't think so. But the Congress and the president didn't think through the unintended consequences of the law. They were responding instead to the headlines about adulterated products from China, and rather than effectively push China to clean up its manufacturing processes, the CPSIA punishes innocent businesses across the land and destroys the values of hundreds of millions of dollars of safe, excellent products while creating incentives for lawsuits by strike-it-rich plaintiffs' lawyers acting in "the public interest."
If this is what the Congress does when it legislates on the very narrow issue of lead and phthalate levels in children's goods, just imagine the incredibly destructive impacts on the far more complicated world of American medicine.
The GOP, the AMA, every related industry and business, and health care consumers have to immediately begin to organize to bring pressure on Democrats in the House and the Senate to stop the rush towards ruinous "reform." Wasted money can always be made again. An economy can regrow, and surpluses reappear.
But a health care system once operated on by this Congress will be crippled beyond repair.