What big government? Feds to regulate garage sales

This story is actually a couple of days old but I wanted to write about it because it portrays a bureaucratic mindset that we would have to deal with if health care reform passes.

The Bush era Congress passed the "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act" in August of 2008. It was, as most legislation, an overreaction to the Chinese toy scare.

It was designed to "require extensive testing of any toy, book, or item of clothing intended for kids under the age of 12."

But ambitious bureaucrats have taken the bill and interpreted it to mean "used" toys as well. And now it appears that CPSC enforcers are going to be fanning out across the country in search of garage sales and church bazzars that are not in compliance.

No - I'm not kidding. An agency of the federal government in Washington is actually going to reach all the way down to your neighborhood and make sure that you're following their interpretation of the law.

This handy 28-pager from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds the American people that, thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (which I have blogged about here and here), the government is totally in charge of your yard sale...

"This handbook will help sellers of used products identify types of potentially hazardous products that could harm children or others. CPSC's laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products. This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities, and individuals holding yard sales and flea markets."

James Rosen of McClatchy has a report on the efforts of the CPSC:

If you're planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you'd best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products. The initiative, which targets toys and other products for children, enforces a new provision that makes it a crime to resell anything that's been recalled by its manufacturer.

"Those who resell recalled children's products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children's lives at risk," said Inez Tenenbaum, the recently confirmed chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The crackdown affects sellers ranging from major thrift-store operators such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army to everyday Americans cleaning out their attics for yard sales, church bazaars or - increasingly - digital hawking on eBay, Craigslist and other Web sites.

Secondhand sellers now must keep abreast of recalls for thousands of products, some of them stretching back more than a decade, to stay within the bounds of the law.

Staffers for the federal agency are fanning out across the country to conduct training seminars on the regulations at dozens of thrift shops.

And how about this for bureaucratic double speak:

"We're not looking to come across as being heavy-handed," he said. "We want to make sure that everybody knows what the rules of engagement are to help spur greater compliance, so that enforcement becomes less of an issue. But we're still going to enforce."

Not "heavy handed" but "still going to enforce?" What the hell is that? "Spur[ing]" greater compliance and one begins to wonder what the "spur" is going to be.

This is the danger of putting bureaucrats in charge of anything, much less health care. It is their interpretation of the law that will matter in the end. And given how broadly that law is being drawn, we might expect just about any nightmare to emerge after the bureaucrats get through with doing their job.

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