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January 08, 2009

Bad Laws and Unintended Consequences

I've been a parent for almost three years now. Being the father of two girls has taught me many things: girls are really sensitive to the tone of your voice, kids don't really smell until you introduce them to solid food, sleep is optional, and when your little girl asks you to wear pink hats, bracelets and necklaces it's best to just do what she asks and let go of your misguided sense of dignity.

The most potentially troubling realization, though, is how expensive it is to raise a kid. Being a parent has diversified what I spend money on. Instead of buying movies, books, and meals at restaurants, I'm shelling out cash for diapers, clothes, car seats, diapers, toys, added food costs and did I mention diapers? Don't get me wrong, I love being a dad more than anything in the world, but it does lead to considerably less disposable income. One of the more costly items is clothing, which makes our local secondhand store a frequent stop. Kids get bigger when you feed them. Who knew?

So imagine my surprise when my co-worker told me today that Congress, in its infinite wisdom, recently made being a parent more expensive, at least for those who don't want to break the bank on kid's clothes.

Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children’s clothing.

The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger — including clothing — be tested for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. Those that haven’t been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead.

“They’ll all have to go to the landfill,” said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale and Thrift Shops.

As Ed Morrissey points out at Hot Air, the law was intended to protect American consumers from poorly-made Chinese products, but is so badly written that it threatens the livelihood of American thrift shops and charities.

This blog does a good job pointing out the far-reaching effects of this law.

If the Consumer Products Safety Commission has its way, this law will close thrift shops that sell kids clothing and artists who make and sell homemade toys. In the name of "protecting the children," Congress has harmed numerous small businesses and made it more expensive to be a parent. Heckuva job, guys!

Although the law has been passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president, there is still a way you can affect how broadly it is interpreted. Like any federal agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has rule-making authority. Those rule-makers can be influenced by Congressional offices. So I encourage you to call your senators and representatives to get the focus of this law narrowed to cover the foreign goods that were supposed to be the original intent. The CPSC has already made some changes, so they're open to re-interpreting this statute.

Or better yet, encourage them to repeal or rewrite this portion of the law entirely. This website has some good talking points to use when talking to your Congressional offices.

Here is the website to contact your representatives. Here's the site for the Senate.

The intention of this law is good, but the current confusion over its reach was entirely preventable. It should not have been rushed into the Congress during a panic over shoddy foreign goods. High emotion makes for bad law.

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posted by Slublog at 09:21 AM

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