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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > A-Power Skeptics Heard

Before it is possible to ex­pect effective anti-inflation­ary policies to come out of Washington, the Ford administration will have to ask itself if it is willing to oppose some old or pro­posed pro-inflationary prac­tices.

Here is a handy checklist of pro-inflationary direc­tions which many elected and appointed politicians would rather not talk about with citizens back home:

Campaign contributions are a major pro-inflation­ary force. By buying or’ renting the White House and Congress, industries can obtain tax privileges, subsidies, inflated contracts or lax enforcement, all of which fuel inflation. Less than $2 million in contribu­tions by the milk cartel in 1971 led to a reversed deci­sion by the Department of Agriculture to raise price supports for milk. The re­sult: an increase in the re­tail price for milk of $500 million the following year.

Weak or nonenforcement of the antimonopoly laws permit anticompetitive practices and monopolistic tie-ups to keep prices artifi­cially high. Where an­timonopoly enforcement is successful, prices have dropped in the affected areas, sometimes dramati­cally. Although both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission believe there is rampant an­ticompetitive behavior and monopoly in industry and commerce at national, re­gional and local levels, their budgets for investiga­tion and enforcement are ridiculously low. Their com­bined budgets for an­timonopoly actions are less for one year than General Motors grosses in 15 hours.

Tax subsidies, cash subsi­dies and hidden subsidies pour out of Washington to America’s large corpora­tions in the profligate, un­checked style of an all-powerful business welfare’ system. The profit-glutted oil industry, for one, has been on tax welfare for years, paying in percentage terms about one-third in federal taxes of what a steel worker has to give to the Treasury.

The Joint Economic Com­mittee of Congress filled a volume with descriptions of many kinds of subsidies to various industrial, mari­time, agribusiness, banking and commercial interests. Most of these subsidy pro­grams are exacted by dete r-mined lobbyists with White House connections and plenty of money for the re­sponsive legislators’ cam­paign and other needs. Huge defense contracts, re­plete with renegotiation for waste, prop up corporate goliaths too mismanaged to float on their own.

Certain forms of regula­tion by such agencies as the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Civil Aeronautics Board keep freight rates and airline rates going higher and high­er. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says it is against federal regulation, really means that the only federal regulations it is against are the few laws protecting the consumer.

The ICC truck freight rate and the CAB airline rate approvals foster price fixing which the truck and airline industries favor. And so does the Chamber of Commerce. Industry-sup­ported regulation of trans­portation and communica­tions by the federal government has cost con­sumers between $16 and $24 billion annually in the form of higher prices and waste, based on the best scholarly estimates of our regulated sector.

One form of deregulation which would gouge consum­ers out of $10 billion a year, according to estimates of Federal Power Commission economist David Schwartz, is ending price controls over new natural gas. Wall Street emissary William Simon, masquerading as Treasury secretary, is the leading advocate in the Ford administration for get­ting this superinflationary legislation through Con­gress.

As if repeated price in­creases granted recently by the Federal Power Commis­sion to the lushly profitable natural gas companies (mostly owned by the oil companies) were not high enough, Simon’s latest anti­consumer craze would re­sult in natural gas prices tripling in less than a year from their present record high level. Simon also wants to decontrol “old domestic oil, which now sells for a record $5.25 per barrel, so that it can go, he says, to $11 or $12 a barrel. Imagine what results these two moves would have in gasoline and home fuel prices.

None of these hyperinfla­tionary recommendations has anything to do with cost pressures or return on in­vestment; they have every­thing to do with satisfying corporate greed of epic proportions.

Although the Ford admin­istration, like its predeces­sor, talks about curbing waste in energy and bu­reaucracy, it is reluctant to apply the necessary mus­cle.

Reducing energy waste in industry, commerce and products like automobile engines means reducing sales of the oil, gas, coal and utility companies. In choosing between corpora­tions or consumers, the White House wastes little time in being servile to the former.

The one move which Ger­ald Ford can make for help­ing consumers is to urge the Senate Republicans like Sen. Robert Griffin (R-Mich.) to stop the filibuster and pass the Consumer Advocacy Bill, S.707. Thus far, President Ford has been silent. So he needs to hear from consumers who are gritty enough to become active citizens and put this and other questions to their President and congression­al representatives.