The government shutdown eclipsed an important letter that the agency received on October 1 from our congressional overseers asking us explain our failure to move forward on addressing the costs of CPSIA-mandated third-party testing. You will recall that Public Law 112-28 required us to address those costs and let the Congress know if we needed new authorities to do so. Congress asked for a response by October 21—today. No answer has yet gone back to the Hill, although the shutdown explains some brief delay.
But every day that we delay in reducing the costs of often-unnecessary testing we fail to perform our job to regulate rationally, opening the agency up to deserved criticism. And it is no wonder that Congress asks why we haven’t addressed this issue. To review: In November 2011, we asked the public for ideas on reducing testing costs and, based on some of those comments, our staff came up with a list of 16 recommendations. A year later, the Commissioners pared the list down to nine items, and then further shrunk it down to four ideas, none of which have been acted upon.
It has been said that there is a six-word formula for success: think things through, then follow through. Our regulations on third-party testing were not thought through, so Congress stepped in, asking us to try again and this time follow through by either addressing the problem or asking for authorities to do so. Our response? We kicked the can down the road. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I do hope this letter draws enough attention here to trigger real follow-through.
Like others, I will be most interested to read our response to the Congress, whenever it comes. One suspects we will point to the fact that we have gathered public comments on at three separate occasions. One further suspects we will plead poverty, saying we have no resources for doing this important work. But asking stakeholders to comment over and over again on the same issues does not advance the ball. And claiming lack of resources as preventing solutions to problems of our own making rings pretty hollow.
Ben Franklin said, “Never confuse motion with action.” We have had lots of motion. We need some action before those who would benefit just give up.