There may be efforts by the Trump Administration to weaken federal regulation of industry. Based on what is good for consumers in the United States that would be a very big mistake. Over the past several years, the federal government has failed to effectively regulate industries like the auto and drug industries. The result has been the Toyota sudden acceleration problems – the GM ignition problems – and now the Takata airbag debacle on the auto side. There have been numerous examples on the drug side.
Many safety experts say that the government has failed to do its regulatory job. Clarence Ditlow, who died in November, served as the director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington D.C. based non-governmental organization (NGO), for 40 years. He was a strong advocate for safety. Just prior to his death Dr. Ditlow discovered the Takata problems. He had this to say to Bloomberg:
My take is that if NHTSA had done the right thing and really probed Takata, they could have caught it a lot soon and we wouldn’t have the crisis we have today. Takata made one of the most colossal blunders in the history of the industry.
A major problem is that the car companies are allowed to police themselves and file their own reports about defective parts. Rob Weissmann, the President of Public Citizen, said in a press statement regarding discovery in the Takata case:
We know that regulation itself is not sufficient, because the regulators are underfunded, often too close to industry, and even in the best case scenario can’t be everywhere. The executives responsible for this lethal corporate penny-pinching belong behind bars, both as a matter of justice for the victims and their families, and as a deterrent to executives who show similar disregard for the safety of their customers.
Instead of weakening regulation agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they should be given the tools necessary for them to adequately do their jobs. We know from experience that regulation is quite often very much like the “tail wagging the dog. That must change.
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