Friday, January 16, 2009

The Wench Who Stole Christmas

[Christmas 2009]

Little Cindy Lou: Daddy, why didn't Sandy Claus leave us any presents this year? I've been a good little girl.

Daddy: Well Cindy Lou, times are tough at the North Pole and Santa couldn't afford to build any of the big name, brand new toys this year. He did have a sack full of hand-crafted and second-hand toys and books to give out to all the good little girls and boys but then...

Little Cindy Lou: But what Daddy?

Daddy: But then the Wench came along.

Little Cindy Lou: The Wench?

Daddy: Yes Cindy Lou, the Wench who stole Christmas.

Remember last year when we kept hearing those news stories about "unsafe toys"? You know, those toys that those heartless multi-national conglomerates, in their mindless pursuit of profit, were bringing in from China. Yes, those toys that were endangering the health of our children and threatening our very way of life.

Well, once the media stoked up the outrage and the people gathered up their torches and pitchforks and marched on Washington screaming "What about the children? Think of the children!" our brave public servants gathered in the hallowed halls of Congress and acted to protect us from the horrors of tainted toys. Finally our elected representatives heard the voice of the people and did something positive for a change. Who says the good guys never win?

An editorial in Wednesday's WSJ looked at the unintended consequences that this "victory" has wrought:

In the tale of "The Velveteen Rabbit," a child's stuffed toy can only become "real" once all its fur has been loved off, and it's missing a button or two. If only. Under a new law set to go into effect February 10, unsold toys, along with bikes, books and even children's clothing are destined for the scrap heap due to an overzealous law to increase toy safety.

The damage comes from new rules governing lead in children's products. After last year's scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.

Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe. When Congress passed the legislation in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boasted that "With this legislation, we will not only be recalling, we will be removing those products from the shelves." Yeehaw. While large retailers may ask manufacturers to take back uncertified products, independent stores may be stuck with inventory that is suddenly illegal to sell. One Web site, NationalBankruptcyDay.com, is cataloging the costs faced by small businesses.

Small batch toymakers, many of whom make old-fashioned wood and sustainable products, say the testing requirements -- which can cost thousands of dollars -- are unaffordable. At Etsy.com, a Web site where entrepreneurs can sell their handmade items, many expect the new law to put them out of business. Also ensnared are companies that make products like bikes or childrens books. Because they aren't toy companies, many were caught by surprise when it became clear the law would apply to them. The only lead that can be found on childrens bikes is on the tire, where it poses no risk to a child not in the daily habit of licking the wheels. And while childrens books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it.


So let's recap. The Democratic Congress, acting to protect the children and the little guy, passed a law that will likely result in small, American-based toymakers going out of business and second-hand stores no longer accepting or selling used toys. Which will mean that more of the new toys will be made in China and sold by big corporate retailers and that economically challenged families will be able to afford fewer toys for their children than in years past. Well done Speaker Pelosi.

Every Prol
Down in Prol-ville
Liked Freedom a lot...

But the Wench,
Who lived just Left of Prol-ville,
Did NOT!

The Wench hated Freedom! The whole Freedom from laws!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the real cause.
It could be the color that her hair was dyed.
It could be, perhaps, that her eyes were too wide.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that her brain was two sizes too small.

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