Just days before the Presidential Elections in 2008, George W. Bush’s Administration pushed to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states. A year later Ed O’Keefe reported in the Washington Post about the performance of the Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. What becomes clear in the article is the CPSC’s poor performance record. They way I see it, this is one area which requires the role of government in our lives. I’m all for government creating a level playing field in order to allow our free market capitalist society to thrive but it must be done with the knowledge that corporations who manufacture and sell products which are unsafe must be held to a higher level of accountability.
In the United States corporate executives routinely get away with shoddy management. In China, they get executed. Granted, China’s reaction may be extreme but when it comes to the safety and well being of consumers, what punishment is appropriate when corporate executives turn a blind eye to safety issues? Consumer product safety was not in the cross-hairs of the Bush Administration because they were too busy using scare tactics concerning domestic security. Is not the safety of products sold in the marketplace an integral part of domestic security? While Congress gears up to put on a Broadway-style production featuring indignant politicians and contrite Toyota executives, we Americans need to look beyond the hype at the bigger picture. The automotive industry is about to get hit with a loss of Toyota’s making. And somehow consumers around the globe will pay the price. The Japanese government has summoned Mr. Toyota himself — short of falling on his sword, I don’t see him worming his way out of this in Japan.