One of the biggest lies Americans have been fed, and too many have believed, is that “more competition” is the answer to problems large and small. We even have Sarah Palin saying in a speech in Hong Kong that the current financial crisis was brought about by too much government regulation. Well, at least she’s not anywhere near the White House. Dodged a bullet there!
But on to the question – is the problem so often one of regulation, as the right insinuates? First we have to ask just what is it we get when we have lowered regulations. What does happen when regulatory agencies “back off” and let the so-called “free market” run? You get the lowest common denominator. Lower pay, less quality.
Look at the airline industry. Beginning in the late 70s that industry was in many ways decimated by deregulation. Good airlines that paid their employees well and had sound route structures were forced into bankruptcy. Startups filled some of the gaps, but have you tried to fly to a smaller city lately? Or can you say with a straight face that flying today is more enjoyable than it was in the past? Perhaps you think we should deregulate even more, allowing even more farmed out maintenance, more cramped scheduling that leads to delays, or even fewer FAA inspectors?
Perhaps, even after recent meat recalls and E. Coli outbreaks, you feel that the food industry needs less regulation? Or do you consider oil companies do a good job of self-regulating? What about real estate? Military contractors? Bridge construction? Banking? Big tobacco?
The current health care debate is but the latest front in a war on reality when it comes to regulation of business and industry. People mistakenly assume the big overhead in health care comes from too much government regulation when in fact, the most onerous rules come from the health insurance companies themselves. They, like the banking industry, use overbearing and confusing rules and terms to help game the system.
Frankly, the “free market” is a myth, purposefully put out by those who most benefit from little regulation, sold to the gullible as the source of all that is well and good. Unregulated capitalism always, without exception, devolves into crony corporatism and monopolies controlled by a monied elite. Unfettered capitalism eats itself. And the survivors are rarely, if ever, are those who do the job best. It is usually those who are most willing to forgo any notion of what is right and conscionable.
In a correctly functioning economy strong, enforceable, and clear regulations are a must. Companies that operate in the light under strong rules are part of a sustainable and working economy. Those who don’t wish to or for some reason think they can’t will be replaced by those who can.
Health care doesn’t need less regulation, just like banking doesn’t. What both need are strong rules that they cannot dodge and will be penalized heavily for ignoring.