Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Controlling America: Deregulation', printed in The Lone Star Iconoclast

Monday, March 15 2010 12:00 am
The trouble is that the corporate sector no longer has the "conscience" about over-pricing goods and services that it did years ago.

Once upon a time in American, deregulation was good. But that was then and this is now.

While we must advocate some sort of oversight of the electric industry, we should remain proponents of less government rather than more.  During the Eisenhower administration of the 1950's and until recently the GOP platform was less government in state and local issues. Today, however, the GOP is trying to assert government's power into almost every issue and activity — while at the same time pushing for deregulation of various industries.

While the law of "supply and demand" of basic economics certainly dictates some of the cost index of all products, recently, due to the deregulation of the utilities industry, electric retail costs have "gone through the roof," as have the costs of daily living expenses. We need to find and develop alternative sources of energy, but that's years down the road. How many people will lose their jobs and homes during the next decade or two?

There are many examples that show how government regulation of industry is bad for the economy in general. Look what happened in California re: the electric industry, which I won't go into here.
However, we can NOT believe that it is in the best interests of consumers to permit the travesties in pricing that are occurring due to relentless profiteering, lax legislation and void of some reality-based oversight. The trouble is that the corporate sector no longer has the "conscience" about over-pricing goods and services that it did years ago. Today, with the outsourcing of American jobs and services to lower their costs while gouging out higher prices for goods and services, corporations only seem to care about ensuring infinite profits. Affordability has taken a back-seat to profit-making and excellent customer service is becoming extinct.

If we agree that we don't want the government to regulate industry pricing, then at least we need to come up with some other alternatives that will regulate pricing more fairly. There appears to be a need to set pricing guidelines in various industries to ensure that costs to consumers remain fair. It becomes increasingly apparent that most corporations will not regulate themselves; rather they seem hell-bent on profiteering above all else.

Sky-high costs of goods and services are not unique to the energy industry. Several years ago, for example, due to lax legislation and little oversight, the insurance industry in Texas doubled overnight the cost of homeowner's insurance. Currently, Texas homeowners pay the highest insurance costs anywhere in the nation. While publicly chastising the industry for this maneuver, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), the governor and state legislators have ignored this urgent issue.

The truth is that today, without some sort of reality-based price cap or regulatory oversight system, our economy will suffer even while various industries continue to reap huge profits.

What happens when Americans can no longer afford to pay their daily living expenses, let alone for elective goods and services? For now, the price-gougers are content with short-term excessive gains. Future generations of Americans will have to deal more properly with the issues of deregulation and profiteering.

The greed for increased profits will ensure that many Americans will lose their homes to foreclosures and that millions will be forced into bankruptcy. Meanwhile the laws continue to favor the credit card/financing industries, and more people are being forced to pay high interest rates for credit—along with high monthly fees and penalties when they get behind in payments. Meanwhile, credit is easier to get today than ever before, ensnaring more struggling people.

In his farewell address on January 17, 1961 former President Dwight Eisenhower, noting the possibility of a conglomeration of military and corporate might and special interest profiteering, tried to warn all Americans by stating,

“The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government........The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Eisenhower knew then that influential men of government and industry often are weak-spirited and may become significantly misguided by their lust for money, and that "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present.... and is gravely to be regarded." What Eisenhower called the industrial division during his time period has evolved into the wealthy and powerful corporate sector.

 Today, the corporate sector wants "hands-off" Capitalism when things are going well, but when there is an economic turn-down, corporations look to Socialism, e.g., government intervention and taxpayer bail-outs.  Such a perspective is irresponsible and detrimental to an ailing economy.

How long can this go on? Already more people have lost their jobs and homes than since the days of the Great Depression. We must review the issue of regulation vs. deregulation and determine what is in the best interests of the American community at large, something the government and most corporations prefer not to do in this time when profiteering is proliferating, and so much in vogue.

(Peter Stern, a former director of information services, university professor and public school administrator, is a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Driftwood, Texas.)

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