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Reagan consumer chief blasts the Obama Administration.

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Obama Panel’s Irresponsibility

Reagan consumer chief blasts the Obama Administration.

It’s becoming a cliché to say that the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats “just don’t get it.”

After receiving a sound “shellacking,” in the President’s own words, at the polls, liberal policy makers insist on moving forward with big-government plans that the American people vociferously reject.  It’s as if the midterm elections didn’t even happen weeks ago.

One scheme to irresponsibly dump potentially misleading documents on the public is particularly worthy of ridicule.

The proposal to give the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)  unprecedented new powers to create a public database of raw, unvetted, possibly erroneous complaints about consumer products is a great idea—if the goal is to enrich America’s legions of hungry trial lawyers.

The commission is supposed to protect the public from “unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.”

Enriching Trial Lawyers

The proposal to move forward with a new government website at SaferProducts.gov in March is scheduled for a commission vote on December 1.  The website itself isn’t the problem.  The problem is that, as proposed, there will be almost no quality control.

The database could easily turn into a government-sanctioned version of a graffiti-laden bathroom wall because its supporters’ goals have little to do with consumer safety.

Field Day for Naderites

The objective of the Naderites who back this plan is to use raw consumer complaints to embarrass consumer product manufacturers, which in turn will serve as an aphrodisiac for the plaintiffs’ bar.  The taxpayer-funded website would allow people to smear companies and disparage their products with impunity.  Some corporations could also encourage misinformation campaigns in order to damage their competitors.

Currently, CPSC staff members investigate consumer complaints, assessing their accuracy.

But the Obama commissioners’ proposal would short-circuit the investigative process by requiring that mountains of raw data sent in by anyone who can log on to a computer be placed in a new online database soon after receipt.  So-called consumer advocacy groups like Public Citizen, which was founded by Ralph Nader, could use the Internet to organize frivolous website-swamping campaigns, filing vast numbers of complaints in order to advance the cause of the day.

“The commission’s proposal allows anything from anybody to go up on the public database, Republican commission member Nancy Nord told the New York Times.  Having just a grab bag of junk that has not been investigated seems to not be in the consumer’s interest.”

Supporters of the new plan want to make the database a free-for-all.  According to Nord, too many people too far removed from a problem will be allowed to file complaints that will go online in a matter of days.

“Complaint makers may include “users of consumer products, family members, relatives, parents, guardians, friends, attorneys, investigators, professional engineers, agents of a user of a consumer product and observers of the consumer products being used,” Nord said.

Why not just write a blank check to the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America)?  At least that might be a more efficient government-sponsored redistribution of wealth.

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Written By

Mr. Scanlon is president of the Capital Research Center. He previously was vice president for corporate relations at The Heritage Foundation and was a Reagan appointee to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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