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Time for a government antitrust act?

By - Last modified: June 8, 2012 at 10:42 AM

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Many laws protect us against abusive businesses. Some laws protect us against abusive unions. But what laws effectively protect us against abusive government?

The Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act and the RICO statutes have been enacted due to alleged market abuses or attempts to control a market by big business, big labor or organized crime. Antitrust laws are intended to protect us against business and unions. But the protections against intrusive government are fragmented at best.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision against the EPA overreach helps, but what about the human toll on the citizen while the case is being decided? What if the citizen had lost the case? Imagine the emotional and financial toll on the person.

When the EPA lost, all that happened was that the EPA must find another way to exercise regulatory power — and trust me, it shall. There was absolutely no financial risk to the regulators or to the EPA or to the government. The risks of financial ruin and criminal sanctions, however, were constantly present for citizens defending their rights.

To add insult to injury, citizens even have to continue paying taxes to the very people who are attempting to destroy them!

This government abuse starts with the way our government is empowered and its monopoly protected. The gerrymandering of the recent congressional redistricting, for example, has created an incentive by both parties to jointly create “safe” seats not susceptible to loss in an election.

With our current laws, government has the ability and incentive to restrain and limit competition in the political arena. The “monopoly,” or, perhaps, “restraint of government” — as is seen in redistricting, complicated ballot access for candidates of third parties in many states, McCain-Feingold’s alleged campaign finance reform and the Federal Election Commission’s burdensome reporting requirements — makes challenges to either party an exercise in futility. Being a “career politician” has overridden the need to serve the very people who elected them.

I, for one, find big government to be a problem. The federal spending and overreach in areas that I perceive to be of a personal responsibility concern me.

By the same token, many of my liberal friends find big business to be a major concern to them. They have found the overreach by the big banks, Wall Street or other large enterprises to be troubling to them.

Friends who are business owners find big unions to be a problem. The UAW settlements in the General Motors bankruptcy and the Chrysler bankruptcy are well known to this group.

Friends who are workers at companies also expressed lament about overreach by either their unions, if in a union environment, or by their companies in a nonunion environment.

The only common denominator I found in all of this common dissatisfaction is the word “big” or monopolistic power.

The Tea Party is rallying against one form of excessive overreach. The Occupy movement is reacting

to a different perception of overreach.

Perhaps big business, big government, big unions are the culprits. When I ran for Congress in 2010, I personally was opposed to the stimulus bill and said so publicly. Later, when I was with a political action committee in Washington, D.C., one of the large PACs, from which I was seeking support, indicated that while it supported me generally, it found my positions on government spending troubling.

As a consultant to financially troubled companies, I have done a great deal of work with tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers to the automotive companies, the Big Three. In these financial restructurings I was involved with, I found the market power exercised by the very large automobile manufacturers forced their suppliers to cut benefits and pay for even their union workers. The net result was the union members of the Big Three benefited at the expense of the union workers at the tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers.

In a similar vein, the airline industry, the steel industry and other similar industries have seen their power severely diminished. The lack of counterbalancing power in any business dealing creates the opportunity for market abuses and eventually market corrections to these abuses, leading to an industry’s decline. Once the abuses become rampant, either the marketplace or regulators step in to address the abuse, but this is only after significant damage and economic dislocation have occurred.

As our Founding Fathers wrote, it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people! Those words were true in 1776 and those words are true today.

The time for a government antitrust act is now. The law must protect us from the very government that is supposed to protect us. Unfortunately, the bill must be passed and signed by the very people we are seeking protection from.

Because of the government’s failure to regulate itself, I propose a bill to protect the American people from improper actions by elected leaders. Such a bill would establish the same type of trust and accountability for elected officials as we have come to expect of business leaders.

The Government Antitrust Act would require elected officials in the executive branch, the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as political appointees, to be held to the same standard of financial and ethical responsibility they demand of leaders in business.

The act would require:

• Redistricting based upon an independent commission elected from a proportional representation of independents and political parties, as well as judicial representation from the state’s Supreme Court.

• Eliminating campaign finance laws restricting contributions by individuals in the political process.

• Prohibiting allocation of voter representation based solely upon the two “major” parties.

• Requiring that candidates for public office meet the same standards as required of candidates of the “major” political parties to enforce open and fair ballot access.

• Elimination of all pensions for elected officials of Congress, the Senate and the president and vice president of the United States.

Sanctions also would be imposed for improper actions while in office and would include:

• Failing to account for public funds and passing unfunded mandates.

• Using public funds for any financial support to a candidate’s campaign without a full ethics disclosure and review.

• Failing to implement a

system of internal controls over financial reporting of government entities. (The federal government cannot produce a balance

sheet!)

• Waste, fraud and abuse to include pork-type projects without a cost-benefit analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Government Antitrust Act ideally would require restitution by the government for overreach of its powers.

Let the lawmakers be warned — the people are speaking and we will be heard. The Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street are real. Our freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and seeking redress from government are meaningless if career politicians control the political process that protects those rights.

Frank Ryan, a retired colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is a certified public accountant who specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics throughout the U.S. He is on numerous boards of publicly traded and nonprofit organizations. Email him at fryan1951@aol.com.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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