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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Nobody's Running on Deregulation


The prevailing consensus in Washington endorsing the deregulating of American business from government supervision had been self-assured: Government was not the solution; government was the problem. The smart money all agreed that The Private Sector knew best. Federal rules on business were, almost by definition, obstacles to economic growth and, probably, socialistic schemes dreamed up by some impractical theoretician who obviously "had never met a payroll."

That anti-regulation consensus is now officially dead. No 2010 candidate not under indictment or detox will be running on a platform of, "Let's stop government's meddling in the affairs of Wall Street and America's big banks," or, "When it comes to the safety of the food we eat, the free market knows better than any federal inspector or bureaucrat."

It's not that Americans are suddenly pro red tape. They are not. But they do not want their children exposed to disease or disability from the lead paint on the toys they play with any more than they want contaminated toothpaste or pet food coming into their homes from China.

Nor will sensible Americans accept E-coli in the spinach they are sold or, even worse, salmonella in their peanut butter — because the peanut processing plant went uninspected by the federal government for seven years. Taken together, these failures and threats to the very survival of families destroy the conservative case for deregulation.

Last February's tragic crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 to Buffalo, with the loss of 50 lives, revealed that the commuter airlines pilots were not just paid less than a receptionist or a bellhop, but that they received much less training than do the pilots at the major airlines. And they were flying with less rest.

Serious questions were raised about those major airlines — greedily pocketing bucks while subcontracting out their major company name and these less-profitable commuter routes — absolving themselves of responsibility for the safety of the passengers on the ticket those passengers have bought not from the commuter, but from the major carrier.

Federal oversight was weak and unresponsive. That is unacceptable.

One of the staunchest champions of deregulation had been Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman, and former California Republican congressman, Chris Cox. As Americans painfully discovered that Washington's deregulation of Wall Street and the banks, along with the untrammeled avarice of many in the financial field, had brought the nation to its economic knees, Cox confessed in congressional testimony on Sept. 25, 2008, he had learned that "voluntary regulation does not work." Cox added, "The lessons of the credit crisis all point to the need for strong and effective regulation without major holes or gaps."

Democratic hands are not all clean in the failure of government to protect citizens from the terminal, even criminal, selfishness of too many in the private sector. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had kept separate commercial banks from investment banks, won strong Democratic backing. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, signed into law the legislation to specifically exclude exotic financial instruments like derivatives and credit default swaps from federal regulation under the Commodity Exchange Act.

It was a great Republican president who solemnly stated, "In the United States, we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals." Those were the uncompromising words of Teddy Roosevelt, who courageously battled, and often bested, those powerful private interests that profited from the ravaging of the environment, the exploitation of workers and the apathy of the federal government.

In 2009, Americans want the air we breathe and the water we drink to be clean, the food we eat and the products we buy to be safe, and the marketplace we enter to be lawful. Deregulation has been tried and found wanting.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... What an entirely pleasant article... Call me strange, but I love the truth... I saw a commuter airplane crash at Metro Airport, in Detroit, sort of...The pilot was a hotdog, and he managed to flip the plane completely over, and run it into the concource....There I saw people die horrible deaths in flames, and there I saw the bravest man in the world, an airport employee standing at the edge of that burning wreckage trying to put out that conflagration with a fire extinguisher... I saw stewardesses standing by, faces bathed in tears at their friend's deaths inside that fire...Those people who escaped in the first moments were the only ones to escape at all... So; your example is perfectly appropriate... But think of the buildings we occupy...It is difficult enough for union people making it their life's work to demand quality construction, and to have the job security to be able to make a stand... Too many buildings are constructed by college kids on break, or rummys, or rats who run from one end of their existence to the other... All contruction workers should be like the elevator men around here, and be licenced... Sure; the union helps, but a licence on the line would make people give that little extra bit of care, and establish that the worker holding it has a minimum level of ability....Every time I hear of a building falling down on people, two thoughts enter my mind: engineering and execution....Government should regulate both... The object of government is for people to be free... When we set the object, apart from the constitution, that enterprise should be free we have allowed an end run around government... We might ask why so many organization are struggling for rights; why we have unions, associations, organizations, and support groups, -all with pacs, and all with lobbyists... Why would any of these groups be necessary if the government was living up to its clearly stated goals in the preamble of the constitution??? Should the Union not be our union??? In fact; to see capital free of all restraints, the people's freedom must be constantly under attack... We have gone to war over the threat of chemical weapons when our own chemical companies use us as so many guinnea pigs....We need government, but we do not need this government... It does not matter who the enemy is, or whether that enemy is domestic or foreign....If the government will not govern those who would feed on the body politic, it is the enemy too...We suffer too much infringement of personal rights...The people will not know freedom until it is made a priority of government...Government should not cut business loose; but harness it to the nation...Just as with government, the presumption of rights is misplaced...It is individuals who should have rights, and businesses, and institutions that must always be in defense of rights... They should only be able to profit so long as they can prove they are not acting as criminals, which is to say, against the national interest...And just as with government, they should not be able to hide behind our rights...If they are doing good, let them do good with open books.. Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat May 30, 2009 6:09 AM
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