Dynamist Blog


In an interview with Jim VandeHei of the WaPost, Howard Dean shows himself to be the thinking man's Cruz Bustamante, calling for a sweeping "re-regulation" of the economy:

After years of government deregulation of energy markets, telecommunications, the airlines and other major industries, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is proposing a significant reversal: a comprehensive "re-regulation" of U.S. businesses.

The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.

In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his "re-regulation" campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out "re-regulating" the telecommunications industry, too.

He also said a Dean administration would require new workers' standards, a much broader right to unionize and new "transparency" requirements for corporations that go beyond the recently enacted Sarbanes-Oxley law.

The specifics are all rather vague, but the underlying attitude is clear. Dean is running as a guy who wants to control the economy from Washington and who sees business as fundamentally bad. "Any business that offers stock options" covers a lot of companies, including some of the economy's most promising and dynamic.

Regulation tends to be relatively invisible to the general public, in part because it's mind-numbingly technical. That makes it much more difficult to reverse, much easier for interest groups to manipulate, and much more dangerous to the general health of the economy than the taxing and spending that attract attention from pundits.

It will be interesting to see how--or if--self-described "libertarians for Dean" respond to his re-regulation campaign. Are they simply looking for an antiwar candidate, and accepting Dean as the best alternative on their top issue? Are they genuinely upset with Bush's less-than-stellar record on issues like free trade, in which case Dean would be worse and should be no more appealing? Or are they just trying to hang with the cool kids?

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