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Regulations: The gift that keeps on giving

The holidays have come again complete with flashing lights, crowded shopping mall parking lots, strange fruitcakes and brightly colored wrapping"holidays" "value of regulations" paper. However, the things most of us treasure about the season typically aren’t so visible. Seeing relatives pull into the driveway. Watching the smile on a young child’s face as they open their gifts.  The often unseen ways regulations intersect with our day-to-day lives, protecting us and those we love, is the subject of a recent report by the Coalition for Sensible Safegaurds, which Public Citizen coleads.

Sensible Safeguards: The Gift That Keeps on Giving,  Especially During the Holidays offers insights into:

As opponents gear up to push an agenda of deregulation in 2013, it’s important to note that if the 1966 fatality rate of 5.50 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled had continued, some 163,000 people would have been killed in traffic crashes in 2010. Thankfully though, the passage of the  National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act in September of 1966, along with a series of other regulations that forced the autoindustry to start installing airbags, for example, means countless roadtrips to ‘grandmothers’ houses’ have ended more happily.

In addition to saving lives, regulations are also saving consumers a lot of money! The newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has brought enforcement actions against major credit card companies for a range of abusive practices. The result: $425 million in refunds to 5 million Americans.

And then there’s food. Whether it’s at your home or the office, chances are  you or someone you know, has already indulged in some holiday ham or turkey. As Public Citizen’s worker safety expert Keith Wrightson blogged earlier this year, “During the Progressive Era, President Theodore Roosevelt sent a team of inspectors to Chicago’s meatpacking industry in response to Upton Sinclair’s graphic novel The Jungle. Sinclair’s famous account depicted the gruesome conditions inside of meatpacking facilitates. After the inspectors reported deplorable conditions, Congress passed the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) which Roosevelt signed into law on June 30, 1906. Strong regulations to implement the law and protect both workers and the public followed.”

However, while there are so many regulations to be thankful for this holiday, vigilance is needed. Budgetary cuts and deregulatory efforts, such as the proposed poultry rule that would increase the speed of inspection to 1/3 of a second per chicken, put our food safety system at great risk.  After a series of high profile toy recalls, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008. Among many other things, CPSIA has empowered regulators to quickly address high risk toys. This year alone, inspectors have prevented more than 2 million dangerous toys from reaching store shelves. And yet, Public Citizen and allies anticipate introduction of legislation in 2013 that could seriously undermine CPSIA and other critical regulatory efforts.

Whether it’s the car you drove to Grandma’s house, or the credit card you used to purchase that new electronic device, it’s likely regulations played a role in your holidays being safer and more joyful. So as you share the holidays with family and friends, please also take a moment to reflect on the often unseen role regulations. And be sure to stay tuned to this blog in the coming year for more on the fight for sensible safegaurds.

Rachel Lewis is Public Citizen’s new media strategist and online outreach coordinator. Follow @citvox and @RegsRock for more on the fight for commonsense regulations.