A bizarre twist has overtaken National Consumer Week (April 23-29) which is announced each year by the White House. During the Reagan years it was merely a mockery as his alleged consumer advisor, Virginia Knauer, went through the charade and the genuine consumer groups avoided or ridiculed this phony public relations ploy.
This year, however, a band of perpetrators and their minions are masquerading as consumer advocates apparently in the belief that Halloween comes in April. Led by a business front group named Consumer Alert, this motley crew held news conferences in Washington each day. Here is a sampling of their urgings:
1. Stop the Department of Transportation from requiring the auto maker to make their cars and vans more fuel efficient. Otherwise, say the perpetrators, fewer larger cars will be produced and thousands of casualties will occur because cars will be smaller. Seems that their sudden and touching concern for auto safety is not informed by the Department’s innovative vehicle program of the Seventies. A number of mid-sized cars were produced 13 years ago, suited to mass production as a sales price of $8000 (in 1980 dollars) which were tar safer than the largest cars now on the road and operated at an average fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon. The present government standard is 26.5 mpg, 13 years later. With rising oil imports, intense urban air pollution, the Greenhouse effect on its way and a big trade deficit, something is more than missing from the perpetrators’ analysis.
2. Organic food is too costly and chemically treated food is quite okay, says the misnamed Consumer Alert. All this talk about pesticides, herbicides and fungicides — most of which have never been tested by the
government — is just so much scare talk. And don’t bother about the farm workers and their children exposed to this stuff or the ground water contaminated before heading for its drinkers. Never mind about the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences on agricultural chemicals (about half of which are used for cosmetic purposes as on fruits and vegetables) or any other dozen studies lately.
3. Complete the deregulation of the banking industry. These perpetrators and their surrogates must think the people are not experiencing or reading about the massive failures of hundreds of savings and loans. Presently, Mr. Bush and his Congressional allies are preparing legislation to stick millions of innocent consumers arid small taxpayers with the bailout of these crooks in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The Reagan de-regulation in the early Eighties provided the permissiveness that allowed these S & Ls to go wild with self-dealing, looting and speculating — all the while using the savers’ deposits.
4. Further restrict the power of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban products the Commission thinks are dangerous. It is just misuse by consumers that gets them killed or injured.
5. Fully de-regulate the oil and gas industry. Sure, perpetrators, expose the consumers and the economy to the growing power of the global oil cartel and its colleagues in the domestic oil and gas industry whose prices parallel those of the cartel. In recent years there has been an oil glut, so prices have not bitten hard. But without any likelihood that government can crack down on future gouging, as cartels and their colleagues tighten supply, Americans will be victims of soaring gasoline, home heating and other energy prices which follow in lockstep such as natural gas.
Other zany ideas are part of this “Halloween” National Consumer Week. Or is it a prolonged April Fools. Whatever, it is clear that deceptive practices are riot restricted to operating businesses. Operating hoaxes which call themselves the National Consumer Coalition have fallen in that tradition of claiming the moon is made of blue cheese.