The Coming Toothpaste Czar


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.