The Coming Toothpaste Czar

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Sen. Chuck Schumer, proponent of such policies as a 27.5 percent tariff on all things Chinese, has an idea:

A leading critic of China in the U.S. Senate called on Sunday for creation of a new American "import czar," saying the current maze of federal oversight has failed to protect consumers against harmful Chinese imports.

A statement issued by Schumer's office said federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration have proven ineffective at protecting American consumers from dangerous Chinese products including pet food and toothpaste tainted with industrial chemicals.

"There are more than a half dozen federal agencies responsible for monitoring, testing, and blocking dangerous or tainted shipments," the Schumer statement said.

The bureaucracy is plagued by organizational failure, thus we need a new bureaucracy. For evidence in favor of this conclusion, see the shining model of efficiency that is the Department of Homeland Security.

Not that the import czar business is actually about safety (as opposed to currency revaluation and resentment over deficits), but it's worth noting that no one thinks it's possible to "monitor" or "test" every shipment from China. Unless Schumer intends to clone his czar ten billion times and endow this clone army with superpowers of detection, it's hard to see how this plan is going to be particularly effective. The New York Times reports that multinationals are increasing their scrutiny of Chinese manufacturers out of self-interest, which makes me feel rather more safe than the prospect of a federal toothpaste inspection agency supported by senators bent on restricting trade with China.

reason's Ron Bailey pondered poisoned pet food in May.

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  1. I propose that we stop calling the thing a “trade deficit”, which has an unmistakable air of Mercantilism and start calling it what it is: either something like “import/export ratio>1” or “not a big deal you economically illiterate fuckwits in Congress.” I suppose, “current account imbalance” also might work, but the current account has both trade and debt in it and as most of the foreign held debt is *gasp* government debt I think the real issue is continued issuance of debt to finance stupid spending not who owns the damn paper.

  2. I might consider this a good idea, if as the first step, all the existing bureaucracy was dismantled, and all the employees let go.

    But that would never happen, so it’s a moot point.

  3. They can use the drug war as an example of how to effectively keep things out of the country that are considered harmful.

  4. The purpose of a “czar” is obvious: that personage may be called to testify before Congressional Committees, thus enabling various politicians to ask pontificatory “questions” in front of the cameras.

  5. I propose that we stop calling the thing a “trade deficit”

    I prefer to call it an “investment surplus”. See how the Reuters article changes…

    Before:

    There is growing frustration in Congress over a huge U.S. trade deficit with China, which hit a record $233 billion in 2006 and has continued to swell this year.

    After:

    There is growing frustration in Congress over a huge U.S. investment surplus with China, which hit a record $233 billion in 2006 and has continued to swell this year.

    Why does Congress hate America?

  6. I’d be okay with a toothpaste czar if he’d prevent nasty flavored toothpaste from coming on the market. I tried this vanilla flavored kind one time and it tasted like sugarless frosting flavored with fluoride. Yack.

  7. FinFangFoom,

    I agree. Toothpaste shouldn’t be orange-flavored. Yuck. (Not trying to be factitious.)

    And what the hell has happen to gum flavors? Berrywintermint? Chocolate? Citrus-Kiwi Blast? How about, I dunno, grape? Big League Chew is the last grape bubble gum I can find on a regular basis. I’m anti-smokeless-tobacco nitwits will get it off the market soon enough.

    Signed,
    Cranky Old Man

  8. Not that the import czar business is actually about safety (as opposed to currency revaluation and resentment over deficits), but it’s worth noting that no one thinks it’s possible to “monitor” or “test” every shipment from China. Unless Schumer intends to clone his czar ten billion times and endow this clone army with superpowers of detection, it’s hard to see how this plan is going to be particularly effective.

    Sorry, but Bush would veto that idea in a heartbeat. Human cloning – even for politicians – is still wrong in the neocon world.

  9. MikeP: I like it! That’s brilliant!

  10. Here’s an idea. If you make crappy products, you may not sell many of them.

  11. MikeP,

    OK, what euphemism can you come up with for the fact that China holds a significant portion of our national debt?

  12. crimethink,

    Is “stupid government” not good enough?

    Seriously, why do you care who holds the paper for the government’s profligate spending? Certainly, certainly!, there is absolutely nothing good that can come from trying to address this issue by hindering trade with China.

  13. MikeP,

    You’re right in saying that hindering trade with China won’t help that situation. I mistook your previous statement for an attempt to euphemize away the serious problems with our economic relationship to the Dominion of the Dragon.

  14. And what the hell has happen to gum flavors? Berrywintermint? Chocolate? Citrus-Kiwi Blast? How about, I dunno, grape? Big League Chew is the last grape bubble gum I can find on a regular basis

    Bubble Yum has a grape flavor — in both the traditional and the SugarFree variety?

    Are you asking us to believe that they don’t have Bubble Yum in your neck of the woods??

  15. We have a Drug Czar, a War Czar, and now maybe a Trade Czar.

    I realize this is pedantic, but the last time a republic relied on Caesars (“czars”)to get things done, things ended very badly for the people there.

  16. Why not use dental floss instead?

  17. I purpose we stop using the word “Czar” and start using “Emperor.” Means the same thing, but I thing fewer people would be in favor of a Drug Emperor or a Trade Emperor.

  18. think

  19. I was wondering if they will create chocolate-flavored toothpaste. It doesn’t look like it would go together.

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