Is it any wonder that the federal government has no credibility? There was an interesting story in today’s paper (2/6/2013) telling us that the Feds (U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents) seized $3.4 million in fake Super Bowl Merchandise. Of course, “fake” in this instance means “unlicensed,” and unlicensed means that the NFL didn’t get its licensing fees and cuts of the profits on the sale of the merchandise. And, that’s fine. We all realize that the NFL runs a “tight ship” and that most vendors of NFL merchandise “pay the freight,” and it is unfair for others to play outside the rules and benefit inordinately by doing so.
Now I wouldn’t mind if the NFL conducted its own investigations into the sale of unlicensed merchandise. I question whether or not, in these times of fiscal austerity, it’s a good and justified use of the federal agents’ time to be the gumshoes of the NFL. Clearly, the NFL can afford its own agents and deploy them much the same way that Coca Cola used undercover agents to identify the restaurants that routinely dispensed Pepsi when the customer ordered Coke.
Now while I may question the appropriateness of using the Feds to ferret out the stashes of unlicensed fan-wear, it seems that the Feds don’t have enough to do and, in fact, revel in the opportunity to come down hard on the illegitimate purveyors of illicit merchandise. In a news release, the acting director of the Feds’ field operation in Chicago asserted that “this counterfeit merchandise hurts consumers by being substandard and it hurts the U.S. economy as well.” Elsewhere in the article it was stated that most of the pirated substandard merchandise comes from China. Are we surprised? Doesn’t just about everything wearable in the United States come from China or somewhere else in the Third World? Am I to believe that the legitimate, licensed merchandise comes from a tailor’s shop on Rodeo Drive? Come on, all this merchandise is shlock.
And, as if the exaggerated characterization of the Feds’ role in righting wrongs in the world economy weren’t enough, the acting director went on to declaim that “the trade in counterfeit goods is a significant (emphasis, mine) threat to America’s innovation-based economy, the competitiveness of our businesses and the livelihood of U.S. workers and, in some cases, national security, critical infrastructure and the safety of America’s consumers.” Apparently the acting director tends toward hyperbole. Aren’t we talking about sweatshirts?