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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Corporate Regulation

Corporate over-regulation of the daily lives of Americans is growing fast. With business lobbies focusing relentless attention on government regulation, which after sixteen years of Reagan, Bush and Clinton is in a state of slumber, isn’t it time to take a look at corporate regulation?

Corporate regulation, as any small business franchisee knows, is imposed by an imbalance of power between seller and consumer, by deception and crime, and by an absence of realistic competition.

The pollution of air, water and soil, for example, by companies is a form of compulsory consumption of silent violence. To the extent environmental law enforcement agencies do not curb these toxic emissions, companies are regulating the content of your breathing, drinking and eating.

Where you have no bargaining power and cannot find competitors treating you differently, as with ATM’s and credit cards, for example, a myriad of corporate rules envelope your every move with these services. What have you been able to do when the credit card company imposes and keeps raising late fees, penalty interest rates, fuzzy pricing, two-cycle billing, and slamming (charging you for extras you didn’t order like a shopping service or credit life?)

Look at your bank list of charges. They charge you for just about everything but breathing, including a charge if you are the victim of a bounced check.

How about your HMO? The rules here are often hazards to life and health. Drive-through births and mastectomies. Gag rules on your doctor to prevent him or her from telling you about available treatments or specialists that are unavailable so as to increase profits of the insurance company. Look at your health insurance policy and see whether you are surprised by the rules and regulations that the insurance company is imposing on you or your employer — such as waiting periods, deductibles, co-payments, pre¬≠existing conditions, etc.

As any business course in college teaches students, contracts are supposed to be meetings of the minds. Hahi When was the last time you met the mind of Sears, General Motors, Citicorp, Prudential or any other company that plasters the fine print -¬≠take it or leave it — for you to sign.

Warranties are so loaded with exceptions and limitations that the fine print can hardly be seen much less read and understood. Then there are landlord leases, condo agreements, installment loan agreements and the notorious rent-to-buy scams.

Big Business regularly goes to government in order to regulate how your consumer, wage and tax monies are squeezed. Marketing orders for food growers keep prices up; corporate welfare payments shred the integrity of your tax dollars, and laws limit corporate liability or give them immunities against your efforts to bring them to justice in case of negligence or criminality.

You’ll be paying for another twenty five years for the government’s bailout of the crooked or mismanaged Savings and Loan banks. Half a trillion dollars in principal and interest are what this bailout will cost you. Who do you think got through that regulation of your tax dollars.

Do you think your tax dollars should pay for the bonus of the head of a defense corporation that merged with another. Well, this company “persuaded” the Pentagon to do just that, at the same time the merging companies — Martin Marietta and Lockheed — were laying off thousands of workers.

Companies are finding more and more ways to regulate your privacy in the workplace and marketplace by invading it. Other companies will be affecting your ability to get a job or insurance by issuing new rules about the consequences of your genetic profile.

And so it goes. Just remember that next time you hear a Bob Dole or a Bill Clinton talk about reducing government regulations, wonder aloud why they never mention corporate regulations, and monopolistic practices. Sometimes it is hard to tell the public regulation from the corporate regulation apart.