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.
Writing for AL.com, Heather Elliott calls on the Alabama Director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to resume holding parole hearings amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and to do so electronically, in light of the governor's order waiving face-to-face hearing requirements. She notes that an outbreak of coronavirus in a prison setting could lead to many unnecessary deaths.
Writing for The Regulatory Review, Rena Steinzor notes that in March 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine issued a memo offering businesses assurance that EPA would overlook certain regulatory violations for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Public interest groups roundly criticized the new policy, prompting EPA to cry "fake news."
Writing for Food Safety News, Rena Steinzor describes an effort by corporate heavyweights to scuttle the "responsible corporate officer" doctrine established by the Supreme Court, which seeks to hold to hold executives accountable for harm done by dangerous food or products, if the executives failed to take sufficient care to ensure safety.
Writing for Huffington Post: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reiterated its conclusion that EPA’s regulation of toxic chemicals is in crisis, unable to deliver badly needed protection to the American people. These benighted programs are among a couple of dozen of “high priority” failures that cause serious harm to public health, waste resources, or endanger national security, and Congress is giving the report red carpet treatment, with House and Senate hearings on the report scheduled the very day it was released.
David Driesen, writing in The Hill, discusses the implications of the Supreme Court's decision in the Seila Law case, over President Trump's firing of the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for political reasons. Driesen writes, "Astonishingly, Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion associates the president’s ability to use political firing to instill fear in government employees with the preservation of liberty."
In July 2020, a group of 136 law professors from across the United States, including 31 Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars, wrote to congressional leaders urging them to “ensure that our courthouse doors remain open to all Americans for injuries they suffer from negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.”