Our FY 2012 Budget: How Much and How to Spend

The President’s budget, submitted to Congress today, contains a request for $122 million to fund the CPSC.  I voted to support this funding request, but with reservations. In a statement posted today I outline some of my concerns over how the agency proposes to spend these requested funds. 

Congress gave the CPSC a huge task when it enacted the CPSIA.  Although the law gave the agency important needed enforcement tools, it also changed a regulatory system that was, for the most part, working well to assure that regulations, once issued, were based on science and with an eye to minimizing the economic impact on those being regulated while achieving a true safety goal.  The CPSIA changed that equation and we are now pushing out regulations with little knowledge of their economic or safety impact.  To the extent that the agency has any flexibility to change that result, we should.  Therefore, I am disappointed that the majority again this year rejected my request that the budget allocate resources to do cost benefit analysis when we are regulating under the CPSIA. 

The public database also requires a large allocation of funds under the 2012 budget.  As I have argued before, there is a real question as to the safety payback of this very expensive undertaking as it is currently structured.  In a time of scarce resources, we have an obligation to use public resources to assure that our safety mission is carried out in the most cost-effective manner possible.  I question whether using tax dollars to set up a competitor to “Yelp.com” with a government imprimatur is the best use of scarce resources.

I have other concerns with our budget.  However, my bottom line is that if Congress wishes us to undertake the activities they have given us, then they must provide appropriate resources.  Our obligation is to use these resources in the best possible way to carry out our mandate.

1 Response to “Our FY 2012 Budget: How Much and How to Spend”

  1. 1 Sarah Natividad February 15, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I remember watching your testimony at a Congressional hearing, back when you were acting CPSC chair. If I remember correctly, they asked you about your budget and whether CPSC needed more money, and I got the distinct impression that they’d asked you a question that you couldn’t answer directly within the scope of your duties. That was their fault for asking you something they should have known you couldn’t answer, so I don’t fault you for answering them with waffle words. I think you were trying to tell them, without telling your boss how to do his job, that you wouldn’t need more money from Congress if they’d just quit placing all these idiotic demands on your agency.

    This time, though, I think the public would be better served if you just came right out and said it, proper or not. The Commission, I’m afraid, was legally in the right to reject your request for cost-benefit analysis. CPSIA requires CPSC to ignore cost-benefit considerations, and it is the law. You have the moral high ground though; you’re right that CPSIA is a total waste of time and resources for everyone. But the CPSC doesn’t have the luxury of being able to ignore the law as long as it’s on the books. This is a mess that Congress made and it’s a mess that only Congress can clean up, and somebody needs to remind them, all their fragile egos be damned. And I don’t think you’ll get a better time to express that opinion than this time, when our mercurial Congress is open to hear these kinds of ideas and it is politically convenient to act on them.

    I say give ’em the bill. No exaggerations– just the truth. “You want a government-sponsored Yelp.com? Fine. Here’s how much it’ll cost to do it. You want us to make sure no product slips through the cracks? Fine. We’ll need [some very large number] field agents at a cost of $[some very very large number] and they’ll be inspecting everything at every port, invading every children’s store, and there’ll be a huge story about it on the evening news. We need $[some large number] to promote the development of all the testing labs we’d need. Oh, and since our good Chairman has decided to endorse the view that adult novelties are children’s items too, we’ll need $[some ungodly huge number] to make sure every adult novelty in the country meets CPSIA standards…. or you could just, you know, fix CPSIA.”

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