Yesterday's edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight included a report from Kitty Pilgrim on product recalls from China and the administration's efforts to reduce importation of unsafe products. "Bush administration officials are going through the charade of tougher enforcement with few results," according to correspondent Pilgrim. Using the term "charade" prepared viewers for where this segment was going:
KITTY PILGRIM, reporter: HHS Secretary Leavitt says he is optimistic the Chinese government will approve the opening of three FDA offices in China some time soon. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if recalls continue at the current rate, it will be a 70 percent increase over last year. Lou?
LOU DOBBS, host: Secretary Leavitt says he's optimistic.
PILGRIM: That's what he said. And it's been an ongoing discussion, but there's no approval...
DOBBS: Three offices in China...
PILGRIM: In China.
DOBBS: ... for 11 inspectors for $300 billion worth of products.
PILGRIM: The numbers don't quite work, do they?
DOBBS: They don't seem to work maybe just for all of us. I'm sure they work for Washington because they think we're a bunch of idiots. How big a fool do you suppose Secretary Leavitt is to think that we're this stupid?
PILGRIM: He says that the Chinese manufacturers should be held more accountable and he would like them to put the FDA certification, the Chinese government to put the FDA certification on to say they meet FDA standards which is his general approach to the problem.
DOBBS: That's brilliant. That goes along with this administration's request that Wall Street regulate itself. When does George Bush leave office?
PILGRIM: The good news is that there is legislation coming through that may tighten up standards for American manufacturers.
DOBBS: I heard this nonsense before. Thanks for trying to boost my spirits any way. We all appreciate it. The American consumer, you're on your own. We're on our own in this country. This government is completely indifferent to the welfare and people and safety of the consumer. It's disgusting.
What's disgusting is that Dobbs, Pilgrim and many of their cohorts in the mainstream media apparently believe that the government can protect everybody from everything. Setting aside the not insignificant question of what constitutes legitimate federal functions, it should be apparent to even the most ardent statist that no matter how big Big Brother is, he can't handle the job.
Created in 1972, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was mandated to, among other charges, 'protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury from consumer products." Unsurprisingly, "unreasonable" wasn't defined.
A 1977 Washington Post news article reported it took the CPSC two and one half years to come up with a safety standard for matchbook covers. Two years for standards and 15 pages in the Federal Register on swimming pool slides. Three years for standards for the glass used in doors, windows and walls.
It's obvious that the government cannot guarantee the safety of millions, perhaps billions, of individual products ranging from power tools to toys, cribs to household chemicals, bicycle helmets to water heaters. Tossing a few million more at the CPSC or opening new FDA offices in China will accomplish little if anything. And it might lull citizens into a false sense of security, believing that the products they use are safe when the truth may be far different.
The seductive promise of the nanny state never loses its allure. At least for people like Lou Dobbs and Kitty Pilgrim. Insofar as unsafe imports go, it really doesn't make a difference when George Bush leaves office. Then again, just asking the question does give the mainstream media something to look forward to.