My new nationally syndicated newspaper column is out today, and it focuses on the Toxic Trade report the Campaign for America's Future (where I am a senior fellow at) put out this week. Read the column here or go listen to the replay of my regular Friday morning interview about the column with 760AM Denver radio host Jay Marvin (I do this interview about my column every Friday morning with Jay, who is really one of the best progressive radio hosts in the country).
As the column notes, there has been some pretty significant progress on this issue following the report. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) passed legislation through a Senate committee that would significantly strengthen the Consumer Products Safety Commission (The Project on Government Oversight unfortunately notes that a big whistleblower protection from the Senate bill has been taken out of the House version). The Progressive States Network (which I am on the board of) sent out a Stateside Dispatch to thousands of state legislators letting them know what they can do in their states to address the problem with toxic imports.
Calls for the resignation of CPSC head Nancy Nord -- formerly with the Chamber of Commerce -- are increasing. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) both called for her resignation on CAF's press conference call on Tuesday. Then, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Nord's resignation, and labor leaders like Leo Gerard have chimed in with strong arguments explaining precisely why Nord is such a problem. The Washington Post this morning added fuel to the fire, running a front-page story about how Nord is taking lavish junkets paid for by the industries she's supposed to be regulating. No wonder she is actually opposing more resources and authority for her own commission -- from the golf courses in Hilton Head, she probably thinks everything is A.O.K.
Just this week's pressure alone has had real-world effects. Check out the New York Times today:
"Chinese regulators said Thursday that they had suspended the export licenses of more than 750 toy companies because of quality control problems, according to the state-controlled media. The government said an additional 690 toy factories in southern China, the world's largest toy manufacturing region, had been ordered to renovate or improve their facilities. The move was announced just days after American legislators moved to strengthen consumer protections and impose tougher penalties on companies that sell tainted or hazardous goods, including goods imported from China." (emphasis added)
Two question now remain:
1. Will the bills strengthening the CPSC ultimately passes Congress or will they get gutted by corporate lobbyists?
2. Will Congress move forward with the package of new NAFTA-style trade agreements that are free of product safety standards? Or will Congress bow down to K Street and pass those new NAFTAs regardless of the threats this kind of trade policy poses to American families? Frankly, it looks at this moment that Congress is going to sell out on this one - but you never know.
Go read the full column here -- and stay tuned in the coming weeks to see what happens. And if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site.