Update from Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack
Congressional Update | February 23, 2011 from Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack
Good afternoon. With last week’s course-changing vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington is finally turning the corner toward fiscal responsibility. Clearly, a lot more has to be done to prevent runaway deficits from robbing future generations of Americans at a shot at prosperity, but my vote to significantly reduce the federal budget sends a clear signal to the White House that the days of “tax and spend” are dead and gone.
The $61 billion in cuts to this year’s budget by the House represents the largest reduction in discretionary spending in our nation’s history. But this was just round one. Faced with a crushing $15 trillion deficit in the not-too-distant future, a radical course correction is needed to avert a looming financial catastrophe.
Making these difficult decisions is not easy, and many good programs are going to be cut or even eliminated in the months and years ahead. But tough times require tough choices. Like every American family, Washington must weigh “what we want” versus “what we need.” That debate is long overdue but will leave us better off as a nation.
For example, should Congress continue to fund public broadcasting? In an era of eye-popping budget deficits, I believe this is a luxury we can no longer afford.
While there are many worthwhile programs on both PBS and NPR, it’s time for public broadcasting to stand on its own two feet. Last year, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received more than $400 million in taxpayers’ money – about 15 percent of its budget. Last week, I voted to end funding. During these difficult economic times, federal subsidies are not warranted, nor appropriate.
Digital technology has opened up a world of new possibilities for all broadcasters, and CPB needs to be smart, creative and forward looking, instead of being stuck in a “black and white” era of financing.
Every single day, Americans make difficult choices. Many families are forced to pull the plug on their cable or satellite TV just to make ends meet. It’s important for Washington to finally make those same tough choices. Last week’s House vote puts the Senate and White House on notice: we need to close the book on the era of big government.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s own budget actually increases spending and adds to the deficit. What part of “we’re going broke” doesn’t the White House understand? The President is right about one thing: the world has changed. And if we don’t do something soon to drive down the deficit, as well as the unemployment rolls, things are going to keep changing – for the worse.
Call me an optimist, but I still believe in the American spirit. Through innovation and ingenuity, I believe we can grow our economy without bailouts, stimulus packages or burdensome new taxes. As the new Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, I unveiled my own plan recently for jumpstarting the economy. The way forward is clear: creating new jobs and preserving existing jobs here at home should be our top priority. If successful, we will strengthen our economy, reduce the deficit and enhance U.S. competiveness.
Our subcommittee, one of six under the umbrella of the Energy and Commerce Committee, got down to work last week. To provide a little history, the Energy and Commerce Committee is the oldest standing committee in the House of Representatives, dating back to 1795. Its original name was the Commerce and Manufacturing Committee—and our subcommittee continues to focus on that core of our original jurisdiction.
Our first hearing of the 112th Congress focused on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act or “CPSIA.” This legislation was truly a landmark in efforts to improve consumer product safety. It was the first reauthorization of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 17 years, and it modernized and strengthened the agency in many different and meaningful ways.
While CPSIA has many virtues, there are some unintended consequences of the law as well. We have a responsibility to the American public to review the specific provisions of the law that have proven to be problematic and to fix them. Admittedly, it’s a careful balancing act, and we have to be certain – as the old saying goes – not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Since it was first signed into law in 2008, CPSIA has consumed a great deal of the time and resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and its staff as they produced dozens of new regulations and standards, complying with a very demanding schedule.
And for thousands of responsible businesses – who strive to do what’s best for consumers – it has consumed an inordinate amount of their time trying to understand how each new regulation and standard will affect them. Unfortunately, many companies have gone out of business and even attributed their demise to the burdens of compliance with the many provisions of this law. We need to strike a careful balance. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to lose jobs or stifle innovation because of unnecessary regulations.
Frankly, many businesses never even heard about this law until well after it was enacted. Most were shocked to learn of the onerous requirements it would impose on them if they manufactured or sold any “children’s product” – even though they had never done anything wrong and never had a single product recall.
It began with the best of intentions. In 2007, the widely publicized toy recalls for violations of the existing lead paint standard gave way to a new prohibition on lead content in children’s products. As interpreted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, this category goes far beyond just toys to cover sporting goods, library books, all-terrain vehicles, educational products, CDs, clothing and many other items. Interestingly, we learned during last week’s hearing that all of the recalls actually involved Chinese products, not American products. And yet, because of the over-reaching nature of the new regulations, it’s U.S. companies that have suffered the consequences.
The goal was certainly a noble one: making products safer for our kids. But within just months of passage, both the Commission and the Congress realized that problems with the new law would need to be addressed. The Commission recently announced yet another stay of enforcement – at least five now by my count – that that it deems necessary to avert potentially disastrous results. What’s more, during the last Congress, numerous bills and legislative drafts were introduced to remedy some of the problems that have already surfaced.
My own goal is to try and come up with a common sense solution that’s a win-win for everyone. Democrat John Dingell, the former Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest-serving member in the House, publically stated at the hearing that the law is a “mess” and it needs to be fixed.
Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over literally thousands of different types of products. It’s critically important for the Commission to prioritize its resources to address the products that actually pose the greatest risk to consumers. Next month, I will introduce legislation giving CPSC the flexibility it needs to better protect Americans without resorting in every case to inflexible, suffocating regulations.
As a mother, I have very strong, passionate feelings about protecting all children. But as a former small business owner, I know all too well how unnecessary regulations – even well-intentioned ones – can destroy lives, too. This is a rare opportunity to put aside the differences that often divide Congress and put our heads together to make a good law even better. Our children deserve no less.
Mary Bono Mack