EDITORIAL: Bureaucrats way out of tune

Government imposes regulations on children’s CDs and DVDs

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The government wants to regulate Hannah Montana CDs and DVDs. The bureaucrats at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) insist that the discs marketed to children be tested for lead, but when the same young starlet churns out raunchier material under her real name, Miley Cyrus, they will escape scrutiny. Never mind that the same 10-year-olds will likely end up buying both products.

This is the absurd consequence of the “Children’s Product” rule adopted by the CPSC on Sept. 29, under which any product “intended” for use by children must undergo third-party lab testing to determine whether it meets regulatory standards for lead content and like requirements. Never mind that Hannah Montana’s fans aren’t likely to eat their DVDs, the latest red tape makes no distinction between products where lead is likely to be consumed and those where it isn’t.

The regulation follows from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, a measure enacted in the wake of the lead scare from imported Chinese products. The hastily drafted law created “safety” standards so onerous that they are endangering American mom-and-pop shops and hobbling charitable rummage sales nationwide. CPSC Commissioner Anne M. Northup is calling for a less intrusive set of rules. She sees the 2008 statute as “a regulatory morass … that corrals too many products that pose too little risk” and also “fails to provide clarity to manufacturers.”

The children’s product ruling’s treatment of “DVDs, video games and computers” illustrates the mess of red tape involved. DVDs marketed for children so small that they couldn’t possibly operate a DVD player “would not be considered children’s products because they are not used ‘by’ children.” In contrast, “DVDs and CDs and other digital media that may be handled by older children could be considered children’s products.” Never mind that it is younger children, not older ones, who are more likely to munch on a random disc. What matters, for the older children, is “if such movies, video games or music were specifically aimed at and marketed to children 12 years of age or younger.”

Thus is born the Miley Cyrus standard, in which what’s trashy is far less regulated than what’s wholesome, but neither is regulated if the listening children will be so young that only their parents can operate the equipment. It matters not that the products all have the same component parts. If you’re confused, so too will be the manufacturers subject to this random bureaucratic dictate. Such are the discordant effects of big government that apparently can’t be tamed.

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