Monday, December 24, 2007

Special Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers' Bulletin: Rest easy, folks--many, many of those toys won't cause the kiddies serious permanent harm


I'm going to be trying to catch up on some items I've noted recently but never got around to writing about, starting with this special bulletin for DWT readers still frenziedly finishing work on your holiday shoppping list.

On Dec. 19, Public Citizen released an in-depth look at the current safety crisis in the U.S. toy market, "Santa's Sweatshop: Made in D.C., With Bad Trade Policy," prepared by its Global Trade Watch division. As division director Lori Wallach summed it up:
"Our children’s safety has been the price for soaring profits and CEO pay of major U.S. toy companies that have chosen to relocate their production to venues in which they cannot ensure the safety of their products.”

The Public Citizen press release about the report contains some eye-popping numbers:
In 1970, 86 percent of U.S. toys were produced domestically, employing 60,000 American workers; average U.S. toy firm profits were $50 million; CEOs made 58 times what their production workers made; and annual recalls never exceeded 12 per year. Today, 87 percent of U.S. toys are produced overseas, toy firm profits have soared 1,750 percent to $930 million annually, and CEOs make 500 times what the remaining 9,000 U.S. toy production workers make and more than 21,000 times the average 36 cent hourly wages earned by Chinese production workers, who produce 74 percent of U.S. toys while recalls have skyrocketed with 120 recalls in 2007 alone.

I was tempted to highlight some of those numbers, but then I realized I would have wound up boldfacing the entire paragraph. Which maybe wouldn't have been such a bad idea. Perhaps the most dramatic number, though, is 21,000, as in the multiple of U.S. toymaker CEO wages to those of their surrogate Chinese workers. Yes, twenty-one thousand!

Meanwhile, as the report points out, the ideologues and profiteers of the far right have enforced a loud "F.U." to America's children by effectively dismantling our product safety regulatory apparatus:
Despite non-stop media exposes about dangerous toy imports, little attention has been given to the underlying cause of the crisis. Nor have recent attempts by Congress to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) focused on import safety. While imports have soared more than 400 percent since 1980, pro-corporate legislators pushed by anti-government ideologues have cut the CPSC’s budget by a third in real terms. Meanwhile, the agency that is supposed to ensure our nation’s product safety has authorities and a structure that are based on the 1970s premise that U.S. toys are produced domestically. Recent CPSC bills fail to remedy this mismatch.

“It is outrageous that in the midst of this imported toy safety scandal, Congress is producing legislation that fails to deal with import safety while simultaneously passing more trade pacts that promote offshoring of production and expose U.S. safety standards and inspection improvements to attack as illegal trade barriers,” said [Global Trade Watch division director Lori] Wallach.

Presumably the industry calculation is that not enough children will be killed or disabled to seriously shrink the U.S. toy market and eat into those soaring profits.



At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to send this to Keith Olberman but MSNBC website no longer has a place to email directly to Countdown.

This is an important comment and deserves a lot of publicity.

At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Keni and yes sing4peace don't stop. There are important diary rescues and news tips at Kos, Huffington, FDL and many more I am sure.

AND for angry Progressives, you don't have to dig very deep on this to find older attempts to erase country of origin (particularly on food product) that I believe Mitch My Kentucky Bitch (female canine) was spearheading years ago. I think in 2006 Santorum (ewwww) was also on the bottom of that, but now he truly is a waste product. Can you imagine trying to track ANY of this down if they had been successful? Mitch my Bitch is next.


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