President Nixon’s proposed $268.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, continues the Administration’s indifference to consumer rights.
In his Inaugural Address, a few days before unloading the federal government’s biggest budget ever, the President told the people that they shouldn’t expect much from him or the government but rather they should help themselves.
Why then, asked many participants of the American Library Association’s mid‑winter meeting, did Mr. Nixon eliminate the entire library services and construction program? Thousands of public and school libraries — where people go to improve themselves as the Chief Executive recommended they do – will lose critical assistance in maintaining their programs and facilities, especially for children and the poor.
Last year, Congress passed the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act to help motorists save a couple of billion dollars a year in unnecessary expenditures to repair cars damaged because of creampuff bumpers. As repeatedly documented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cars involved in walking speed collisions (5 mph) registered $200 to $400 worth of damage.
The Administration does not like the law so it is spending virtually nothing until July to implement its requirements. And the new budget plans to spend $7 million for the following year, that is less than one-fifth authorized by Congress. The new law would also save motorists additional millions by setting up systems to inform consumers about the comparative costs of repairing cars and prohibiting fake odometer readings before resales. But it would also infuriate the auto industry. The White House chose to coddle those corporations.
With the ending of Phase Two, the President’s associates, such as Treasury Secretary George Shultz, have been emphasizing the need for special attention to antitrust enforcement against price-fixing and other consumer gouging practices. The new budget does otherwise. It left the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission virtually unchanged at their current tiny levels. Tripling the staff and beefing up enforcement would help competition and keep consumer prices lower by billions of dollars. One recent FTC study estimated price reductions of about 25 percent in concentrated industries such as soaps, breakfast cereals, copper, steel, and autos once they were broken up into more competitive units. President Nixon was not interested in a more competitive economy.
The overall budget seethes with hypocrisy. It was sent to Congress on a cloud of rhetoric about frugality and fiscal integrity. Little was said that the huge anticipated deficit (some $12 billion) could have been avoided if President Nixon applied his principles of self-reliance to corporations which are now on the public dole. He could have started with $19 billion in corporate welfare payments composed of government subsidies, wasteful procurement practices and tax privileges. Special beneficiaries of such taxpayer largesse include the defense, drug, oil and maritime industries.
Not only does the budget help make the poor, poorer and the rich, richer; it offers no new solutions or directions toward solving the country’s problems. For $268.7 billion and a legion of laws, the taxpayers deserve more.
We’ve only got one federal government and one big budget. We’ve got to make them
both work better and more efficiently for all the people and for all levels of government. This country has more problems than it deserves but it also has many more solutions than it uses. A political leadership is needed that adopts new ideas, releases new energies, and encourages citizen opportunities to tackle injustices. Citizens need to hold a very reluctant Mr. Nixon up to these expectations. Otherwise, he may landslide America.