Thursday, November 20, 2003

Dean: "Workers Are Getting Screwed"

The words look good. Hard to tell exactly what's behind them. According to the Washington Post,
After years of government deregulation of energy markets, telecommunications, the airlines and other major industries, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is proposing a significant reversal: a comprehensive "re-regulation" of U.S. businesses.

The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.

In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his "re-regulation" campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out "re-regulating" the telecommunications industry, too.

He also said a Dean administration would require new workers' standards, a much broader right to unionize and new "transparency" requirements for corporations that go beyond the recently enacted Sarbanes-Oxley law.

"In order to make capitalism work for ordinary human beings, you have to have regulation," Dean said. "Right now, workers are getting screwed."
Dean's criticism of dergulation seems to range from utility regulation to business accounting, possibly to workplace safety, although that's not completely clear from the article.

In a hint as to how the debate may develop -- both within the Democratic party, and between D's and R's -- the Post states that
Voters are clearly hungry for government efforts to force better corporate behavior, especially with scandals hitting such industries as mutual funds and accounting, pollsters say. At the same time, they are unlikely to accept the price spikes that Republicans and some Democrats warn could accompany some new regulations.
"Some Democrats" apparently include General Wesley Clark who sharply criticized Dean's statement:
Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark criticized rival Howard Dean on Wednesday, arguing that the front-runner's business proposal is a throwback to failed Republican policies and abandons the success of former President Clinton.

The retired Army general, in the harshest assessment of a rival to date, said Dean's plan to re-regulate U.S. businesses is a major departure from Clinton, who strongly backed deregulation of energy and telecommunications markets.

"The results in the '90s spoke for themselves," Clark said at a brief news conference in which he referred to Clinton by name six times. The 1980s style "regulation is not going to get our economy moving again. It failed in the past, it will fail again."
And in a statement that sounds rather "Republican Lite,"
Clark said he would increase efforts to hold corporate America responsible for misconduct and indicated that in some instances, would go beyond the Clinton administration. But he said he would do so without writing rules and regulations.

"You have to create incentives that let people follow their natural market instincts, and through following those instincts, they have to do the right thing," he said.
And then (no surprise), there's Joe Lieberman
"He would give us a treacherous trifecta of policies that turn back the economic clock: new trade barriers, a larger tax burden on our middle class and now bigger bureaucracy," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) said in a statement. "Either he doesn't know how to turn the economy around, or this is another reckless mistake."
Yeah, Joe. You should only wish you could make such mistakes as Dean's making.

I just returned from the annual convention of the American Public Health Association where there was much discussion in the Occupational Health Section about the broken regulatory system in this country as well as the effective corporate use of job blackmail tactics to repeal Washington state and federal ergonomics regulations, and to keep any new worker or environmental protections from seeing the light of day.

Is the regulatory system permanently broken, or or is there hope for some sort of resurrection should the Democrats win the next election (and someday take back the Senate and/or the House)? That discussion certainly needs to take place, but certain Democrats don't help when they take the business position that workplace and environmental protections are inconsistent with economic growth.

As Harry Truman said, 'give the voters a choice between two Republicans and they'll choose the real Republican every time.'