New administration, new shot at consumer protection?
Here's to a New Year filled w/ safe products, effective government regulation, and corporate accountability! Hip hip!
Okay, so that might not exactly have the pizzazz of other New Years toasts, but wouldn't it be nice to know that government agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration actually operated with the best interests and safety of consumers in mind? Raise your glasses, folks.
In this article in the LA Times, David Lazarus observes the air of optimism among consumer advocates who believe that with a new administration and a new year may also come a new, and long overdue, commitment to consumer rights:
You'll be safer in 2009. At least that's the expectation of consumer watchdogs who believe the changing of the guard at the White House in a few weeks will mark the beginning of a new era in protecting people from stuff that can hurt you.
"It may not be a golden age," said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington. "But it's definitely going to be an opportunity for consumer advocates to be heard for the first time in years and for there to be meaningful change." [Read full article]
According to the article, Pam Gilbert, who worked in the CPSC under Clinton, might fill the CPSC Chair position for the Obama administration. The position has been empty since 2006, in part due to Bush's insistence on filling the seat with a tort deformer or no one at all. Former Chair Hal Stratton, an ardent preemption supporter, left the CPSC to join a corporate lawfirm that, according to Lazarus, "specializes in shooting down class-action lawsuits filed by consumers." Bush's next pick, Michael Baroody, didn't come through because he had some sketchy ties to the National Association of Manufacturers. All the while Pam Gilbert and Ann Brown were quite vocal about insisting that Bush make better picks.
The article also reflects upon what changes are needed to make the FDA more effective in regulating the safety of things like our foods, drugs, and cosmetics. One thing that can be said of both agencies is that they need a serious overhaul and significant shift in priorities. The safety is too expensive model has gotten out of hand and it is time for a change. To begin, the new administration must take steps to fix the preemption problem, which has seriously undermined our safety when it comes to the foods, drugs, and products we use. That should be the first item on both agencies' New Years resolution list.