GOP concludes consumer safety is overrated

In 2007, following a series of scandalous incidents, federal officials created an on online consumer-product-safety database, allowing Americans to access free information about the safety records of household products. It passed the House unanimously, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law by George W. Bush.

And why wouldn’t it? Why would even the most unhinged Republican reject giving Americans free access to such materials? Or as Rachel Maddow asked a few months ago, “Dear Lord, who is going to object to consumer product safety information being put online?”

David Lazarus has an interesting answer to that question.

What is it about consumer protection that Republican lawmakers don’t like? Is it that they want to see their constituents fleeced and flimflammed by businesses? Is it that they don’t care?

Or is it something as craven as carrying water for corporate interests simply because that’s where the money is?

Whatever the reason, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee has approved a spending bill that not only slashes the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission but also cuts off all funding for a recently launched database of product-safety complaints.

The online database is one of the most important consumer tools to emerge from Washington in years. It enables people to report potentially faulty or harmful products, as well as to research goods before making a purchase.

Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri took the lead on this, and has struggled to explain why. There’s no great mystery here: “She raised more than $2 million in contributions in the 2009-10 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In February, Emerson received an Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence from the National Assn. of Manufacturers for her ‘consistent support of manufacturers and their employees across the United States.'”

The other crusader on this is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who just happens to be the congressman from Koch Industries.

The point of the database couldn’t be any more of a no-brainer. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has valuable information, but faces challenges in reaching the public. For very little money, the government has created an online resource that will help families make more informed choices, and create a new incentive for manufacturers to put safe products on the market. As Michael Lipsky explained recently, “One would think it hard to find a politician who opposes reducing preventable dangers to children.”

Meet the Republican Party of 2011.