Nancy Nord Must Resign
October 31, 2007 - 8:44pm ET
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Readers of this blog first met Nancy Nord in this post from two and a half months ago. I had woken up to NPR's "Morning Edition," and heard a toy industry spokesman spinning the recent massive recall of Mattel toys for lead contamination—was admiring her skill at obfuscation, throwing sand in the face of the facts, serenely and sweetly muddying the waters to deny there was really much of a problem at all, but that good folks had the problem entirely under control.
I listened on, and soon learned that this was no toy industry spokesman. She was the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She just talked like a toy industry spokesman—which, I soon learned, was no surprise: a typical revolving-door conservative crony, her relevant experience in protecting consumers was as a corporate lobbyist fighting to keep the government from protecting consumers.
That, in itself, is not a firing offense. It's just disgusting, and an all-too-typical example of the ideology of E. coli conservatism at work.
As Campaign for America's Future has documented in its most recent report, "Toxic Trade", the Consumer Product Safety Commission is a badly broken agency. When it began in 1974 (under that flaming pinko Richard Nixon), its budget was $146.6 million in today's dollars. It had a staff of 786. Over the next six years of Democratic congresses and a Democratic president, that staff increased to nearly 1000 in 1980.
Then came the E. coli conservatives.
587 staffers in 1985.
487 staffers in 1995.
Now their budget is but $62.3 million, and they host only 471 staffers, responsible for the safety of every consumer product manufactured in the United States—and more importantly, imported into the United States. Like from China, from where (according to toy industry figures; one of the things the CPSC is too underfunded and understaffed to do is keep an accurate count for the public) 80 percent of the toys America's children play with now come. The CSPC only has one employee who tests toys (he drops them on the floor, and sees if they break). They only have 15 inspectors working at America's ports. Some of their testing facilities are in buildings that aren't even up to code.
And we all know what that's meant. As Seantor Sherrod Brown says, “When we import their products, we're importing their lax safety standards."
In our "Toxic Trade" report, we list recalls of 18 different toys from store shelves for lead violations between October 1 and October 17 alone. That's not counting, as I noted here, all the lead-poisoned toys Consumer Union keeps finding in their own, independent testing. Nor the ones Ashland University's Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer has found in his own independent testing—including a set of gag Halloween teeth with 100 times the legal standard of lead. (Not to worry; it's not like kids will put the teeth in their mouths or anything.)
Now, it's not Nancy Nord's fault she's saddled with running an underfunded agency. And in fact, conscientious legislators are out to help her: they've introduced a bill to more than double the CPSC's budget, to $141 million, increase its staff by 20 percent, increase penalties it can levy on malefactors, and extend whistleblower protection to employees.
Which brings us to Nancy's firing offense.
In a New York Times article yesterday that shocked everyone, Nord simply thundered: No. I don't want more authority to protect American consumers. She said it would be "unecessarily burdensome." To corporations, she means. Who it is she actually works for.
It's not that she can't protect America's children from lead-contaminated toys. It's that she literally doesn't want to.
Yesterday morning, on a Campaign for America's Future conference call with 60 reporters, Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura called for Nord to step down. Later in the day, House speaker Nancy Pelosi joined their call: "Any commission chair who [says] ... we don't need any more authority or any more resources to do our job, does not understand the gravity of the situation. I call on the president of the United States to ask for the resignation."
I join that call. Nancy Nord should be embarrassed to call herself a public servant. She should retreat, tail between her legs, back to the dark satanic greed-mills where she truly belongs.
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