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Forbes.com

 

The New York Times Betrays Small Business

February 18, 2009

By Walter Olson

PRINTER FRIENDLY

Its editorial on consumer product safety legislation is clueless and disgraceful.

Clueless. Disgraceful. Grossly ill-informed. And cruelly hard-hearted toward families and businesses across the country that are facing economic ruin.

Yes, after months of silence, the editorialists of The New York Times have finally weighed in with their view of how the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is going. How bad did you expect their editorial to be? It's that bad, and worse.

In a six-paragraph editorial about toy safety, exactly one paragraph is spent informing readers that anything about the law might have aroused any public criticism. And here is that paragraph: "Unfortunately, the commission has yet to implement important aspects of the new law. The delay has caused confusion and allowed opponents to foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses."

Got that? "Confusion" about the law and "delay" in implementing it are the real problems. Fears that small business will be hurt are "needless" and are being "fomented" (the choice of verb is telling) by presumably sinister opponents.

Or, put differently: Anyone who imagines this law might be impractical for libraries, resale shops, handmade-toy businesses or other small businesses is just imagining things--fooled, perhaps, by misinformation spread by the law's opponents.

Libraries are just imagining things if they listen to people like Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association, who spoke to the press last month about the choices facing libraries if some sort of exemption could not be found. ("Either they take all the children's books off the shelves," she said, "or they ban children from the library.") Or people like Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books, who spoke to Publisher's Weekly about the prospective effects of the law: "This is a potential calamity like nothing I've ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable. ... It has to be stopped."

It's true that the Consumer Product Safety Commission's last-minute stay of enforcement did save the new-children's-book trade from calamity--but remember that to the Times "delay" has been one of the problems in implementing the law, not something that has (so far) spared us its worst effects.

Thrift stores are just imagining things if they listen to people like Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, who said, "The reality is that all this stuff will be dumped in the landfill."

They should ignore all the reports, no matter how numerous and from how many sources, of local Goodwill operations and other thrift stores closing children's departments or sweeping more than half their contents off the shelves, and of kids' resellers and consignment shops taking massive financial hits or closing down entirely.

All of these episodes are either imaginary or, if conceded as real, an instance of overreaction to the needless fears those mustache-twirling opponents have "fomented." They should also stop anticipating that the pursuit of their charitable missions will suffer a major blow from the loss of children's resale revenue, because that sort of thing just undermines morale.

Handmade toy businesses are just imagining things if they listen to anyone like the Handmade Toy Alliance. (Readers are urged to visit their Web site.)

The Times editorialists warn against "needless fears" that the law "could injure" smaller enterprises. Got that? Not only will they not be driven out of business, they won't even be "injured."

So small enterprises from coast to coast are just imagining things if they plead desperately for places like the Times to notice that they have already closed down, or will have to do so in the foreseeable future, or have lost thousands of dollars in unsalable inventories. Motorbike dealerships around the country are just imagining things if they think they're staring at massive losses from the inability to sell their products, even though news-side talent at The New York Times has in fact covered their story well--coverage that the editorial studiously ignores.

For as long as anyone can remember, The New York Times has unthinkingly taken its line on supposed consumer-safety issues from organized groups like Public Citizen and Consumers Union. In this case, the result of such reliance has been to render the nation's leading newspaper a laughingstock.

Original Source: http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/18/new-york-times-product-safety-opinions-contributors_small_business.html

 

 
 
 

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