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Lincoln Institute


Time for a Government Anti-Trust Act?

by Frank Ryan
 

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 real or perceived 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, they 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 the citizen defending their rights.

To add insult to injury, the citizen even has to continue paying taxes to the very people who are attempting to destroy him!

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 Federal Election Commission's burdensome reporting requirements make 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 that 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 DC, one of the large PAC's, from whom I was seeking support, indicated that while they supported me generally, they 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 that I was involved with, I found that 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 has 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 upon 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 same standard of financial and ethical responsibility that 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 and

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

Sanctions would also 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 supporter 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 their 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 which protects those rights.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at FRYAN1951@aol.com


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