Consumer Protection

Is our food safe? What about the drugs we take? The cars we drive and the products we buy? Are the banks, credit card companies and lenders dealing fairly with us? In each case, federal agencies are charged with making sure the answer is “yes.” But examples of unsafe products and unfair practices abound in the marketplace.

For years, General Motors hid from regulators evidence that an ignition switch the company used in its Cobalts, Opels, Pontiacs, and Saturns had such a hair trigger that a light brush by the driver’s hand or knee would shut down the engine, disabling air bags and power steering. The resulting loss of control caused at least 13 fatal accidents. GM's ability to avoid detection for so many years says as much about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's weak enforcement record as anything.

Other examples abound. From tainted peanut butter to toxic drywall, to lead-laden imported toys, such instances of unsafe food, drugs, automobiles and products are all too dangerous evidence of a failed system of regulation and enforcement. Often the failure is the result of neglect – a lack of political will to spend the money required to conduct meaningful research and enforcement. Sometimes the cause is ideological: a conviction that safeguards interfere unduly with industry profits. Either way, the result is that industry is spared the costs of being accountable for unsafe production practices, shifting those costs instead to consumers in the form of injuries, illness and worse.

Below, see what CPR Members Scholars and staff have had to say about it in reports, testimony, op-eds and more. Use the search box to narrow the list.

Mad Cow 'Firewalls' Just a Smokescreen

Writing on the Center for American Progress website, Tom McGarity observes that seven months into the discovery of Mad Cow disease in a Washington state cattle herd, it's time for the Bush Department of Agriculture to have a comprehensive plan. But the so-called "firewalls" it touts are more about public relations than food safety.

Type: Op-Eds (July 22, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment

Over the last quarter century, much of the focus of federal regulatory policy in the areas of health, safety, and the environment has been gradually redirected away from protecting Americans against various harms and toward protecting corporate interests from the plain meaning of protective statutes. This book delivers precisely what its title promises, a re-imagining of federal policy in these areas, with particular focus on the regulatory process. It identifies the failings of the current approach to regulation and proposes innovative, straightforward, and practical solutions for the 21st Century. The 2004, A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment, was a seminal collaboration among the Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform (then called the Center for Progressive Regulation).

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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Christopher Schroeder
Flimsy Firewalls: The Continuing Triumph of Efficiency over Safety in Regulating Mad Cow Disease Risks

Flimsy Firewalls: The Continuing Triumph of Efficiency over Safety in Regulating Mad Cow Disease Risks, by Thomas O. McGarity with Frank Ackerman. White Paper 402, July 2004.

Type: Reports (July 7, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Frank Ackerman
Only an Independent Agency Can Safeguard Beef

Only an Independent Agency Can Safeguard Beef, op-ed by Thomas McGarity

Type: Op-Eds (June 5, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
Talk till cows come home, but beef safety takes action

Talk till cows come home, but beef safety takes action, op-ed by Thomas McGarity

Type: Op-Eds (Feb. 12, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
January 14, 2004. CPR Raps USDA’s Veneman for Mad Cow Regs

Letter to Ann Veneman re Mad Cow Disease

Type: News Releases (Jan. 14, 2004)
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Letter to Secretary Ann Veneman re Mad Cow

Letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman asking her to "correct the public record with respect to misleading statements contained in USDA’s December 30 press release on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and to ask [her]to take more effective action to protect U.S. consumers from the risk of contracting variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease."

Type: Letters to Agencies (Jan. 13, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
CPR Perspective: The Trade-off Myth of Livestock Grazing on Public Lands: Protecting Public Lands from Overgrazing

CPR Perspective: The Trade-off Myth of Livestock Grazing on Public Lands: Protecting Public Lands from Overgrazing, by Joe Feller. CPR's Perspectives Series is a set of monographs by CPR Member Scholars on timely and important health, safety, and environmental topics. Each Perspective provides a thumbnail sketch of the competing arguments concerning a substantive or procedural principle for developing appropriate health, safety and environmental policies, and closes with the Member Scholar-author's proposed approach to the issue.

Type: Reports (March 1, 2003)
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Author(s): Joe Feller

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