Western Walkabout

I believe that one of regulators’ most important responsibilities is to assess the impact of the regulations they issue. A great way to do that is to get out of Washington and talk with the folks who have to live and work under the regulations we put out. I always welcome the opportunity to do that.

Recently I was in California and Arizona talking with various groups about how we are doing—both what we are doing right and what needs to be improved. In the “what we are doing right” column, there was appreciation that people in Washington would actually listen to concerns and talk candidly about how best to address them. In the “room for improvement” column, I heard strong concerns about the high costs of complying with regulations that are confusing or do not necessarily address real safety issues.

Here is an example. I visited an apparel manufacturer who has never had any safety violations or issues. They told me that, over the past 10 years, the average wholesale cost of a garment has decreased by about 50% and that costs increased by over 15% during the same time . The testing costs mandated by the CPSC under the CPSIA over the past three years have increased costs by an additional 3.5%. That added cost is an average: it’s much higher for small production runs. In fact, I was told that the testing costs for small runs “are killing us” and that this company has stopped doing small runs of products. In this case, the consumer loses: less choice and not necessarily any additional safety.

I also had the opportunity to visit with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, doing more listening than speaking. The message I got was that businesses will support regulations that are based on sound science, are cost effective, and that advance a real safety goal. Unfortunately, some recent regulations do not meet these criteria so it is no wonder that we hear growing concern.

To me, this growing concern points to a system that is not operating in the public interest—that is, providing the appropriate level of safety in the most cost-effective manner. We need to fix this.

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