Friday, November 2, 2007

Let them [the kids] eat lead.

Just a few days ago we learned that the head of the Bush administration's Consumer Products Safety Board was lobbying congress not to increase funding of the agency and expand its oversight capacity. This was stunning for many reasons, chief among them the long list of tainted consumer products that have been showing up on retailer's shelves these days (Halloween teeth made in China and colored with lead based paint being the most recent example) . Indeed, in an atmosphere of evident need for greater scrutiny and regulation, how could the agency in charge of regulation and inspection reject expanded funding?

The reasons, of course, are principally ideological. Nancy Nord, the head of the agency, was an industry lobbyist before taking the reins at the CPSB. She's just another example of this president appointing an agency head who is fundamentally opposed to carrying out that agency's core mission.

What's more interesting is that today it has been learned that Nord has accepted some 30 travel junkets (to places such as beach resort Hilton Head, SC) paid for by the industries she supposedly regulates. What's most amusing, however, is the explanation for accepting these dubious gifts:

Government-wide travel regulations state that officials from agencies such as the CPSC should not accept money for travel from nonfederal sources if the payments "would cause a reasonable person . . . to question the integrity of agency programs or operations."

But CPSC officials defend the industry-paid trips as a way for the agency to be in contact with manufacturing officials and hear their concerns despite a limited travel budget.

So a few days ago the agency was rejecting an proposed increase in funding as somehow detrimental to the agency's core function, whereas today the agency insists that agency heads were forced to accept travel gifts from industry lobbyists due to the agency's limited funds?

Pretty much what you'd expect to hear from a Bush appointee.

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