Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CPSIA Crashes Into Minibike Industry

Last August an economic time bomb called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was tossed into the struggling US economy, with little consideration for its eventual consequences. Legitimate concern about little children being poisoned by the made-in-China toys they put in their mouths has led to a law that threatens more businesses than you could imagine... certainly more than Congress, evidently, could imagine.

It's humbling to realize how unconnected we can all remain in this age of unprecedented communication and interaction; had you ever heard of this story, this legislation, before this week? I hadn't. As shocked as I was to read about the unforeseen damage it is doing to libraries, where books published before 1985 are now deemed "poisonous" due to the lead they contain in their ink, it seems that libraries and bookstores may be getting off easy compared to other businesses, such as the off-road vehicle industry:

The sport of off-highway recreation is seriously threatened by recent legislation that imposes strict lead content guidelines on children's everyday toys. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) has effectively banned the sale of youth off-highway vehicles (OHVs). The AMA is calling for action now to help reverse the potentially devastating effect this could have on the sport of OHV recreation.

"The unavailability of youth OHVs will devastate family OHV recreation and cripple amateur competition, creating a domino effect across all aspects of motorized recreation," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland.

A Rapid City, South Dakota newspaper interviewed baffled retailers who have to adapt to well-meaning Congressional legislation that threatens to destroy their livelihoods. The road to hell is paved with legislation like the CPSIA..:

The Safety Improvement Act prohibits children's products from having more than 600 parts per million of lead. The new regulations affect the sales of children's toys, cribs and even clothing, but dealers just recently learned that it also affects dirt bikes.

The American Motorcycle Association reports that engines, brakes, suspensions, batteries and other mechanical parts in such vehicles often contain small amounts of lead. Combined, however, the level reaches the restricted amount.

The regulations affect bikes up to 85cc in size, most designed for children younger than 12. An estimated 100,000 such bikes were sold last year. People who own such bikes will be allowed to keep them, but lead-free parts needed for future repair may be hard to come by, said Pete terHorst, a spokesman for the AMA.

TerHorst calls the restrictions on off-road vehicles for children "ridiculous," saying it's difficult to imagine how a child would ingest the lead found in the internal parts of a dirt bike.

He said the AMA also is bothered by the short notice given to manufacturers and dealers. "There was no practical time to react to this."

[Dick Schieffer, owner of Sturgis Yamaha, BMW, Suzuki] said he learned about 30 days ago that the law would affect his business. Last week, he removed at least 20 vehicles from his showroom. Schieffer said he isn't even sure where the lead is on the vehicles he removed. "I wish I could tell you," he said.


Wade Rice, general manager of Rice Honda in Rapid City, was forced to remove $60,000 in merchandise from his store. He also had only a month's notice.

"It's totally ridiculous," he said of the regulation. "A 12-year-old is not going to chew on a bike, ... and toddlers are not going to ride a bike."

[hat tip to Overlawyered]


Eowyn said...

Alice has just begun to go down the rabbit hole. We'll be seeing more insanity like this, I think. I'm having the growing suspicion that the Obama administration is, basically, winging it, with high-sounding rhetoric masquerading as action. And when action does start taking place, it's incompetent. Hence, the utter mish-mash that is the response to the financial crisis, and now this.

However, I do foresee a backlash in fairly short order against this particular bit of lunacy. Ordinary business people are already hard-pressed, obviously.

Yes, dear sports, as Col. Robert Neville would say, there's more fun and games to come.

Charles Henry said...

To be fair, Eowyn, this legislation was signed into law last August, by then-President George Bush.

It became operational now, in February, during Obama's administration... but the buck stops on another President's desk for this fiasco. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that!

I do agree with you that there is a comparison to be made about the government acting without sufficient (or, seemingly, any!) forethought, in crafting the CPSIA as with the stimulus bill.

Hugh Hewitt uses a good label for such laws: "legislation by headline". You see a headline in the newspaper, deigning to read the accompanying article, then go off and enact legislation, based on the most shallow and premature understandings of a given problem.

Our society's increasingly short attention span is starting to really hurt us...

Eowyn said...

Thanks for the correct, Charles Henry -- I was far too quick in assigning blame to Obama supporters or, indeed, Obama himself.

It is, perhaps, symptomatic of a cultural-at-large phenomenon. Former President Bush astonished and dismayed me by pandering to patently un-conservative ideas -- and the disillusionment has not sat well.

"Our society's increasingly short attention span is starting to really hurt us..."

Indeed. We are reaping the harvest of generational ideas, and emotionally driven constructs. We are, whether we choose to admit it or not and, however preconditioned by our parents, averse to controlling our own destiny. Jettisoning control leads to being controlled by outside forces, quantum-wise.

Interesting times we live in.

Dag said...

To pop in with something I hope is related to both Bush and Obama: I finished F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom recently, and I am still a'swoon. It is brilliant at any time, Bush or no; but Hayek is dead-on with his insights as we see in the Obama "administration." I urge everyone to read Hayek's book straight away. Thatcher's reading of it saved Britain for some time from the E.U. And then Blair, "New Labour, New Danger" got in, that pagan fool, that Gnostic idiot, fore-runner to Obama. Hayek saw it in the 40s, and he nails it for us now. Nothing changes. People are still limited to the same few kinds of thinking available to Humanness. Hayek is so right. You'll love it--while you pull your hair and weep.