Friday, May 11, 2007

The Case for Regulation

By Ron Ault
Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO

The Reagan Administration sold the American people a bill of goods called “De-Regulation” purportedly as free enterprise working at its best to reduce prices, improve services and improve the quality of products. Natural competition was supposed to have businesses vye for your dollar by lowering prices and offering you a better deal. AT&T, airlines, the meat & poultry industry, public utilities, the broadcast & print industry, oil companies, drug companies, public hospitals and private health care industries were all un shackled from government regulation and were free to run their business as they saw fit…but they were no longer protected from competition as a public utility nor required (in the airline industry) to service unprofitable routes in smaller cities and rural areas. Gasoline was around $1.50 a gallon and U.S. telephone, mail and airline services were the envy of the free world. Deregulation of other industries accelerated under both Bush Administrations. Today, there is no meaningful regulation or controls on industry.

But, deregulation proved to be something altogether different.

Deregulation brought us the collapse of the airline industry Eastern, TWA, Value Jet, People’s Express, Delta, US Airways, and UAL bankruptcies. We got Bernie Evers’ WorldComm, Ken Lay’s Enron, and the Oil Companies’ $3.00 a gallon gas gouging…dead dogs and cats from un-inspected contaminated pet food, “E” coli deaths from contaminated un-inspected meats and produce, untold thousands of deaths from the “for profit” health care industry that has absolutely nothing to do with real health care, and just the latest debacle of the drug industry in a long and continuous list of debacles, drug company CEO’s lying about “Oxycontin” being a miracle drug and not being addictive.
“Trust me” say the captains of industry…on commercial network television channels that no longer gives us a factual news broadcast but instead, columnist commentary and entertainment news magazine format filled with fluff about celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Anna Nicole Smith, Brittany Spears, Barry Bonds and Lindsey Lohan . Real news doesn’t sell nor does it have high enough ratings for advertising dollars.

For profit corporations cannot be entrusted to monopolize essential goods and services without strong Congressional oversight and a system of checks and balances. CEOs caught every day lying and cheating the American public. One only has to look at the energy sector. Dominated by multi national corporations and foreign state-owned businesses, they are only concerned about profits. The law of supply and demand doesn’t exist in the oil industry. Just look at today’s record highest gasoline prices in history…crude prices are lower than last year and supplies are so high Chevron has to rent super tankers to store crude in the Gulf of Mexico as they don’t have any where else to put it—all oil storage facilities are totally full. Production quotas are dictated by OPEC—the oil producing nations. This is nothing more than price fixing and commodity manipulation by greedy nations in collusion with even more greedy corporations. There is no better example of corporations that should be regulated as a public utility than the energy companies, and no one can argue that energy isn’t an essential service required by every American.

The so-called “Health Care Industry” is another shameful example of corrupt corporate greed that is killing Americans every single day in the name of profit…just look at the thousands of new life-saving drugs developed every year that are patented but never marketed because the margin of profit just doesn’t fit the corporation’s formula as only a few thousand patients each year fall victim to these deadly illnesses. But Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs have billions of dollars of profit, so they get center stage advertising, free samples for doctors to give out to establish a need and a customer base. Same story for diet drugs…that is the largest R&D effort in drug history; not curing cancer nor finding a cure for diabetics…community and charity hospitals have just about gone the way of the dinosaur…for-profit Health Care provides neither health nor care…you get the level of health services you can pay for…those who can’t afford to pay, die.

It is time for Americans to demand better from our elected officials. Demand that Congress pass laws regulating all public transportation, food, medicine, utilities, health care and energy companies. Make profit margins in these essential goods and services exactly the same as real inflation, so Americans are protected against price gouging. Excess profits from these industries should be returned to the government to pay for regulating the industries and to provide coverage for those who cannot afford coverage.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they have resisted with either words or blows or both! The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.”
Frederick Douglass
Escaped Slave and Great Abolitionist, 1857