Opinion

Confirm Buerkle As Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Only the most obstinate of President Donald Trump’s critics nowadays refuse to give him credit for his record of shattering records on the economy. Despite October’s correction in the stock market — which is only a temporary setback — the impact of Trump’s tax- and regulation-slashing policies have given us the best economy in 50 years.

Even Vox and CNN have been forced to admit he deserved “some credit.” Even students on college campuses have admitted the same — they’re probably much less worried about the job market after graduation than their peers under President Barack Obama were. The only one who really seems to think Obama deserves credit for Trump’s economic wins is Obama, and even he doesn’t really sound convinced himself. Critics trying to find a black lining in Trump’s silver cloud strain to insist it will all be “downhill from here.”

But it doesn’t have to be.

Trump has set out a pattern of empowering the private sector by eliminating prohibitive red tape. This trend can continue, but Congress needs to approve his appointment of Ann Marie Buerkle as chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

By addressing “unreasonable risks” in consumer goods, the CPSC promotes safety: coordinating recalls, developing standards and carrying out research into product-related illness and injury. When established in 1972, it was mandated the five-member commission always be bipartisan, and for the first time in recent memory, it has become majority Republican (3-2), when the Senate won a cloture vote and Peter Feldman became the fifth commissioner.

But this majority might be temporary, since Buerkle — the acting chairman — has not been confirmed by the Senate, despite having been appointed by Trump in July 2017. Her term expires this month.

Buerkle has one of the most interesting resumes in Washington, having worked as a nurse and attorney, plus she was an assistant New York state attorney general and a member of Congress. Her attitude is that industry has an important role to play in collaborating to find solutions and that rules from on-high are just one of the “arrows in our quiver when that doesn’t work.”

Critics may think that too much deregulation will lead us to a Wild West-style world of lawlessness and corruption, where babies drink lead paint, school buses explode, and oil tycoons shoot endangered birds from helicopters.

That kind of fearmongering is, of course, preposterous. (Yes, Democrats fearmonger, too.)

The entire leftist attitude of the need for an adversarial government is trapped in the past, where companies hid their misdeeds. Nowadays, companies bend themselves out of shape to brag about how responsible they are being. Corporate responsibility has gone from something we had to force to something companies fold into their marketing strategy.

Buerkle’s more collaborative approach is much more fitting for the times and indeed is long overdue.

As President Bill Clinton’s director of the agency told The Wall Street Journal: “The advocates always wanted me to regulate. Regulation took a long time and you ended up in court at the end of the day. I much preferred to work with the industry if possible.”

Partners make better partners than bullies. (But don’t tell that to the social justice warriors, or they’ll accuse you of hate speech.)

Indeed, Buerkle’s first priority is consumers, not harassing industry. This year she voted to fine ATV-maker Polaris $27 million, the commission’s highest-ever penalty, after 150 of them caught on fire. One fire killed a 15-year-old.

Civil libertarians should cheer her attitude toward government overreach. As a member of Congress, she described the Transportation Security Administration as “a flawed agency [that] is wasting the taxpayers’ money.” She continued: “TSA has repeatedly failed to effectively procure and deploy screening equipment that actually detects threats. Making matters worse is that as complaints about the invasiveness of TSA searches continue to increase, significant amounts of state-of-the-art technology is sitting, unused in warehouses in Texas.”

The election has overwhelmed the news, not just political news but all of it. Despite this, Buerkle’s nomination deserves attention during a lame-duck session. No matter who controls Congress, everyone has benefited under Trump’s economy.

 

Jared Whitley is a former Senate and White House staffer, and he founded Whitley Political Media LLC after graduating from business school in Dubai.

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