In a cramped room of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), behind a door, is a small area of space. This space is the only place where toys are drop-tested to see if they break into pieces that could become choking hazards. The only space. To test all the toys. And only one full-time worker to do it.
When the CPSC was urged by many groups to ban sales of adult-size All Terrain Vehicles to children under sixteen (they were too big and fast for the children to control), the effort was thwarted by CPSC's director of compliance, John Gibson Mullan. Mr. Mullan used to be a lawyer for the ATV industry. And he's certainly not the only person in the Bush Administration whose job it is to oversee the products made by former employers. Some how, some way, this administration does not see this as a conflict of interest.
A report in The New York Times tells the story of how the CPSC is failing to keep Americans safe from poorly-made products and poisoned foods. One problem is budget cuts, usually resulting in fewer inspectors and fewer inspections. But the main culprit for your decrease in safety is that the Bush administration feels that businesses should not be burdoned with having to comply with safety regulations. They prefer that the standards remain voluntary. Yes, you read that right. Safety standards should be voluntary, not mandatory.
Friends, we have a serious problem in this country, and this story just points to the tip of it. There is a constant battle between those who want to see our nation's products and foods be made as safe as possible, and those who feel that this causes too much financial hardship on businesses and should not be pursued. (The man Bush brought in to head the CPSC, Harold Stratton, personally stopped a recall of ill-made Daisy air-powered BB guns because the manufacturer was in financial trouble. In the choice between your safety and some corporation's well-being, Bush's people chose the corporation over you.) The idea that any manufacturing industry would feel compelled to adhere to voluntary standards when there is no penalty for non-compliance is ludicrous. You can even ask the manufacturers in China (who make about 20% of the consumer products sold in the US) what they think of voluntary standards. They'll tell you, "As far as we are concerned, voluntary means we don’t have to."
And no one in the Bush administration is going to make them do it, either.