Political Wrangling Could Expose Nevada Families To Risk From Unsafe Food, Defective Products

This month the 112th Congress convenes for the first time, and the buzz around the Capitol is that Republicans are fired up and ready to flex their new-found political muscle by opposing new Democratic initiatives and obstructing many that are already in place. The best-known target of the new GOP is President Obama’s signature healthcare law, which Republicans are angling to repeal but will most likely substantively attack by trying to limit its funding. This “starve the beast” attitude is not new among the more anti-regulation of the two political parties, and while this is not the forum for an all-out political debate it is worth noting that excesses in defunding the nation’s regulatory agencies could have downstream effects that are dangerous for Nevada families exposed to defective products and unsafe food.

The healthcare law has already been caricatured by both sides of the political divide, and it is surely the most prominent target of this death-by-defunding approach seemingly at the ready for leaders in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Despite lingering public disease with the law in general terms, many of its specific aspects are popular among large swaths of Nevadans and other voters. Among these is the law’s aim to improve efficiency in the Medicare system by eliminating waste and fraud. Some of this is political sloganeering, but the large public health system would benefit by more closely monitoring contracts with private vendors. In a number of cases, Medicare patients have been harmed by using defective products issued by the government to address complex medical conditions. When mistakes like this occur, everyone loses except for the medical-device manufacturers; the public interest is clearly served by reducing the provision of defective products by public healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Other potential victims of defunding are the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As we have covered extensively on our Nevada defective products blog, both of these agencies play key roles in vetting the safety of products available in the marketplace from coast to coast. 2010 had more than its share of vehicle recalls due to a variety of problems including wayward accelerators, faulty tires, and a host of other defective products that affect automobiles. The NHTSA is responsible for issuing vehicle recalls to get these defective vehicles off the roads and into repair shops where the problems can be addressed, and by most accounts the agency did a good job in the past year. Where the agency seemed to fall short was where it relied upon appropriate reporting by automobile manufacturers; Toyota was allegedly less-than-forthcoming with early information about its vehicles “sudden acceleration” defects. These experiences are a warning to lawmakers who might restrict this agency’s ability to keep us safe by monitoring those omnipresent, multi-ton, sometimes-defective products we rely on daily.

In the recently ended holiday shopping season, the CPSC was also busy. As the U.S. dollar has strengthened and leery consumers have turned to bargain hunting, consumption of Chinese goods has risen. This trend has allowed American families to do more with less, but it has also exposed them to an increased risk of harmful exposure to defective products. China strikingly lacks the regulatory infrastructure of even the United States, and by and large U.S. agencies like the CPSC are solely responsible for investigating the threats posed by defective products imported from overseas. One recall followed another in recent months, yet many defective products were not pulled from shelves until several lives had been lost or changed forever. Incidents such as last year’s drop-side crib recall are grim reminders of the value of these regulatory agencies.

And currently on the “chopping block” is the money to back the new food safety bill passed by Congress at the tail end of the previous session. This law is generally celebrated by consumer-safety advocates who see it as a strong compromise between laissez-faire food mega-producers and a safety ethos that is increasingly focused on promoting small-scale, local food production. The past year was also a testament to the risks of too few regulators stretched too far — contamination sidelined a host of popular products due to diseases in eggs, cheese, leafy greens, fish, nuts, and various other unsafe foods. Items affected by food borne illness are defective products in their own right, and the same logic discussed above applies to possible de- or under-funding of the new food-safety regulations.

As you can see, the issue of Nevada defective products is not limited to items you buy at the Summerlin mall or which are distributed from a Henderson warehouse; the gourmet meal you enjoy in downtown Las Vegas or the mundane product you pick up at a Southern Nevada department store can be a defective product lying in wait. Whatever the issue, you can consult a Nevada defective product lawyer. If you or a loved one have been harmed by contaminated food, a faulty safety device, or any other kind of defective product, call us today for a free consultation with our Las Vegas defective product lawyers. BOLA TANGKAS