Today is the beginning of National Consumers' Week, seven days of conferences, festivals and publicity sponsored by w0038 ----- r a BC-04/24/83-CONSUM 2takes 04-25 0001 Consumer Groups Don't Buy Reagan's National Consumers' Week By Molly Sinclair Washington Post Staff Writer
Today is the beginning of National Consumers' Week, seven days of conferences, festivals and publicity sponsored by the Reagan administration to show "how educated and informed consumers play a key role in the national and international marketplace."
To many leaders of the consumer movement, who view the administration as anticonsumer, the whole thing seems a sham.
A wide range of consumer organizations, including Congress Watch, Health Research Group and the Center for Auto Safety, say it is "a joke" for the administration to sponsor any consumer event given its attempts to eliminate basic consumer protections and programs.
Some consumer leaders, such as Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said they hadn't been invited to attend the events planned for the week.
"Is there a National Consumers' Week? I haven't heard of it," Jacobson said.
"I guess they forgot to send me an invitation."
Some who were invited, such as David Greenberg of the Consumer Federation of America, said they don't plan to attend because they will be too busy trying to save some consumer programs on the administration's hit list.
"I'll be working on the funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which the administration has been trying to weaken with budget cuts," Greenberg said.
Two other issues that will keep him busy, he added, are efforts by the administration to allow utilities to include in their rate bases the money spent on construction work in progress and proposals by the administration for natural gas decontrol.
Jacobson suggested that the most appropriate event for National Consumers' Week would be for Virginia Knauer, director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, to resign "because she plays along with the farce."
Knauer's office, which persuaded President Reagan to designate the week as a consumer event, defended the observances as a legitimate and meaningful way to emphasize the importance of consumer education.
"President Reagan has proclaimed April 24-30, 1983, as National Consumers' Week to focus national attention on the role of informed and educated consumers in the marketplace and the economy," according to a news release from Knauer's office.
Knauer also persuaded Avon Products Inc. to help sponsor the week and pick up some of the expenses for events in Washington.
The first program will be an all-day conference tomorrow titled "The Market Pacemaker . . . Consumer Education" and featuring a panel of four: Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell; Faith Ryan Whittlesey, assistant to the president for public liaison; Austin Kiplinger, editor-in-chief of Kiplinger Washington Letter and Changing Times magazine, and Arthur Shapiro, executive vice president of Yankovitch, Skelly and White.
Asked why there were no representatives from the consumer movement on the program, Dan Rumelt, a spokesman for Knauer, said representatives from various state and local government agencies were taking part.
But invitations weren't extended to groups identified with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Rumelt said, because "Mrs. Knauer had asked those groups for input in the past and was rebuffed. So we gave up and didn't ask this time."
Besides the conference, there will be events encouraging the use of seat belts, demonstrating proper car maintenance and educating children on how to be better consumers.
Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group and one of those who wasn't invited to participate, said the week was misnamed.
"It should be entitled Producers Week, because the administration has been devoted to protecting producers from complying with laws that apply to consumers," Wolfe said.
Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, said administration officials are "trying to show that they have something in the way of a consumer program, so they have Consumers' Week.
"They are having it for the same reason that a corporation has a consumer office--to say they are doing something for consumers when in reality they are not."