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Toxic Trade

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The Cub Scout Totem Badge is the latest toxic import recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It advised parents to rip the 1.6 million lead-poisoned awards off the uniforms of their seven- and eight-year-old Boy Scouts of America.

Here's what happened: Kahoot Products Inc. of Roswell, Ga. outsourced the manufacture of the Boy Scout badge to a Chinese firm that coated it with paint containing so much lead that it's poison to the American children who had earned the right to wear it.

The stripping of Cub Scout uniforms follows a summer of dogs and cats sickened and killed by melamine-laced pet food from China:

o a quarter million defective Chinese-made radial tires pulled off U.S. highways after they were linked to two deaths in crashes involving tread separations;
o toothpaste from China removed from discount shelves because it contained a poisonous antifreeze chemical that when used in a cough medicine killed 51 people in Panama earlier in the year;
o red-lead steel from China making its way into U.S. workplaces, endangering workers' health when it's welded or repaired;
o five types of Chinese fish banned after inspectors discovered cancer-causing chemicals and antibiotics;
o and, ultimately, parents forced to crawl around their closets and under their children's beds searching for 20 million toys made in China that were recalled because of toxic levels of lead paint.

Is this what it is to be an American now? Is this who we are? People forced to routinely search our freezers for toxic shrimp and our bedrooms for toxic toys? People who find Fido dead from tainted pet food? People who must test our toddlers' blood levels for lead because we tied Chinese-made bibs on them? People who must check the Consumer Product Safety Commission web site daily for the latest Mattel, Fisher-Price, Barbie Doll or Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway car recall?

Lawmakers have called for more regulation and inspection. Undoubtedly those are necessary steps, but that's a pretty weak response when we're talking about lethal and poisoned imports. And, really, is that the solution? We're going to keep looking for those toxic products after they've reached our shores, poisoned our children, killed our pets? We'll pay more taxes for more inspectors and more scrutiny, check the CPSC and the Food and Drug Administration web sites twice a day for updates, then ransack our refrigerators and medicine cabinets for banned products so we can package them up and return them, hopefully before they've maimed a loved one. That's our plan? That's the American solution to toxic trade?

And, really, how much further are we going to let this go? How much are we going to ignore? First we let the jobs go overseas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that we lost another 18,000 jobs in September, reducing the total U.S. manufacturing employment to 13,983,000. This was a momentous occasion, the first time since June 1950 when fewer than 14 million people have been employed in U.S. manufacturing.

In the mean time, manufacturing jobs in Asia, particularly in China, are skyrocketing, as American corporations move their factories there. Don't make those Boy Scout of America badges in the old U.S. of A. Make 'em in China, where the labor is cheap and without those meddling American protections against enslaving people, indenturing servants, and working children and where environmental standards are nearly nonexistent.

The pollution created by this Asian industrial explosion does not remain along the banks of the Yangtze River, which some scientists fear will be dead within five years from dumped agricultural and industrial waste. Nor does it remain in a fetid cloud above Beijing. It contributes greatly to global warming, and Chinese pollution has been found in the air in California.

This is the effect "globalization" has had on everyday Americans -- lost jobs, polluted air, global warming, dangerous products like tires and toothpaste, and toxic toys. By contrast, to corporations it has meant boundless profits and for their executives, obscene pay packages and bonuses. For them, there is no down side to globalization.

For too long, corporate America has completely controlled the globalization equitation, costing the average American dearly. It is time to put an end to their so-called "free trade" and create a world of "fair trade" in which the rights of workers to fair wages and decent conditions are respected, international environmental laws are obeyed and consumers' basic rights to safe products are protected.

You can read more about the United Steelworkers' campaign, "Protect Our Kids - Stop Toxic Imports," at www.stoptoxicimports.org or join us at www.fightbackamerica.net.