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A predictable industry response to Issa's anti-regulatory efforts

smokestacksAfter House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa sent letters to corporations, trade groups, and conservative think tanks requesting input on which regulations they would like to see halted or eliminated, we warned that “The purported rationale for such an effort is to spur growth, but in fact this is the cutting edge of a movement to trade away public health, clean air and a stable economy to gin up corporate profits already at record highs.” As the responses to Rep. Issa’s letter come in, we’re sorry to say that we were right.

A response by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a trade group for manufacturing interests, hits most of the corporate talking points, criticizing attempts by federal protection agencies like the CPSC to do their jobs and protect consumers from dangerous products. NAM claims that a product safety database that will allow consumers to quickly report dangerous products and find out about recalls will be flooded with “bogus reports” and may compromise trade secrets. Perhaps NAM forgets the million cribs with strangulation hazards, 175 million pieces of lead-laden children’s jewelry, and other dangerous goods that made 2007 the “Year of the Recall.” NAM probably also doesn’t remember a study that found that Christmas sales of children’s products that year declined regardless of whether a particular company’s products were subject to a recall. The negative impact on consumer confidence had industry-wide repercussions, hurting growth and causing layoffs. Now, NAM opposes making consumer products safer, restoring consumer confidence, and improving sales and growth.

NAM attacks the EPA, an agency endlessly criticized for trying to make our air and water less toxic, for its attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the obvious and catastrophic dangers that would be averted by addressing climate change, rethinking our energy production and consumption processes presents an opportunity to build entirely new industries and lower energy costs across the board, leading to cheaper production costs and economic and job growth. But NAM suggests that the EPA shelf its efforts to address climate change because of “onerous permitting requirements.”

NAM also opposes efforts by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve the rest requirements for truck drivers, a change that was spurred by a Public Citizen lawsuit. We sued because truck drivers have one of the deadliest jobs in the country, and routinely drive for dangerously long time periods—as much as 88 hours in eight days. About 5,000 people die in truck-involved crashes each year, including about 800 drivers. Tight timelines—the kind that NAM would prefer—force drivers to work while fatigued and stressed, endangering everyone on the highway.

We’ve seen what happens when we leave businesses to focus on NAM’s version of “investment and job retention and creation”: lead-filled toys, cars that accelerate themselves, deadly workplace disasters, and economic collapse. Let’s not forget record profits. U.S. corporations profited at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter of 2010. Corporations’ current failure to hire new employees has nothing to do with the public protections that regulations provide. It is caused by a lack of consumer demand. An under-regulated financial sector has devastated the economy, leaving millions of Americans jobless and burdened with debt, while their taxpayer dollars went to bail out Wall Street banks and NAM members like General Motors and General Electric.

We again urge Rep. Issa to reexamine his approach to oversight and work with federal agencies to protect the public, rather than work with companies seeking to undermine laws that protect American jobs and lives.

(Photo: quinn.anya)