The assistant attorney general in charge of the “anti-trust case” against AT&T called me to ask if Treasury had an interest in how the case was resolved. I went to Treasury Secretary Don Regan and told him that although my conservative and libertarian friends thought that the breakup of At&T was a great idea, their opinion was based entirely in ideology and that the practical effect would not be good for widows and orphans who had a blue chip stock to see them through life or for communications customers as deregulated communications would give the multiple communications corporations different interests than those of the customers. Under the regulated regime, AT&T was allowed a reasonable rate of return on its investment, and to stay out of trouble with regulators AT&T provided excellent and inexpensive service.
Secretary Regan reminded me of my memo to him detailing that Treasury was going to have a hard time getting President Reagan’s economic program, directed at curing the stagflation that had wrecked President Carter’s presidency, out of the Reagan administration. The budget director, David Stockman, and his chief economist, Larry Kudlow, had lined up against it following the wishes of Wall Street, and the White House Chief of Staff James Baker and his deputy Richard Darman were representatives of VP George H.W. Bush and did not want s substantial Reagan success that would again threaten the Republican Establishment’s hold over the party. Baker and Darman wanted to be sure that George H. W. Bush, and not Jack Kemp, succeeded Ronald Reagan, and that required a muted Reagan success that they could claim as theirs for moderating an “extremist” program.
Curing stagflation gave
Many progressives blame the worsening income distribution on the Reagan tax rate reductions, but the real cause is the offshoring of manufacturing, industrial, and professional service jobs, such as software engineering.
None of us in the Reagan administration foresaw jobs offshoring as the consequence of Soviet collapse. We had no idea that by bringing down the Soviet Union we would be bringing down
However, once the
No more. There was an error in my phone bill today, which I had corrected without result on two previous occasions. As everyone knows by now, it takes 10-15 minutes, usually, to get a live person who can actually fix the problem. After listening to sales pitches for 12 minutes, I got a live person. Once the problem was understood, it was pronounced to be an upper level problem out of his hands. I waited another 10 minutes while he tried to reach a superior who had the code to fix the problem that the phone company had produced in my account. The entire time I listened to product advertisements.
Whoever invented these artificial voice capabilities is the enemy of mankind. Whomever a customer calls--utilities, credit card companies, banks, whatever, the customer gets a voice machine. Some voice machines never tell the customer how to get a live person who can, on occasion, actually fix the problem.
In my opinion, the strategy behind the endless delays is to cause the customers to give up, slam the telephone down and play the higher incorrect bill as it is cheaper in time and frustration to correcting the problem and being billed in the correct amount. These ripoffs of the customer are produced by Wall Street pressures for higher earnings.
The frustrations, of course, multiply when one reaches an offshored service somewhere in the
Had Don Regan and I known that the high speed Internet was in our future and that American corporations would use it to destroy the jobs traditionally filled by US university graduates, possibly we would have decided to save the regulated telephone monopoly and to deliver the economy over to stagflation.
I regret that I did not have a crystal ball.
Deregulation proponents will say that the breakup of AT&T gave us cell phones and broadband, as if foreign regulated communication companiesand state monopolies do not provide cell phone service or high speed Internet connections. I can remember attending corporate board meetings years ago at which the European members had digital cell phones with which they could call most anywhere on earth, while we Americans with our analogue cell phones could hardly connect down the street.
What deregulation did was to permit Wall Street to push the deregulated industries-- phone service, airlines, trucking, and later Wall Street itself-- to focus on profits and not on service. Profits were increased by curtailing service, by pushing up prices and by Wall Street creating fraudulent financial instruments, which the banksters used
Perhaps the best benefit of regulated air travel for passengers was that airlines had spare airliners. If one airplane had mechanical problems that could not be fixed within a reasonable time, a standby airliner was rolled out to enable passengers to meet their connections and designations. With deregulation, customer service is not important. The bottom line has eliminated spare airliners.
When trucking was regulated, truckers would stop to provide roadside assistant to stranded travelers. Today, with deregulated trucking, every minute counts toward the bottom line. Not only do truckers no longer stop to aid stranded travelers, they travel at excessive speeds that endanger automobile drivers. Trucks have expanded in size, weight and speed. Trucks raise the stress level on interstate highway drivers and destroy, at taxpayers expense, the roads on which they travel.
Conservatives and especially libertarians romanticize “free market unregulated capitalism.” They regard it as the best of all economic orders. However, with deregulated capitalism, every decision is a bottom-line decision that screws everyone except the shareholders and management.
If Marx and Lenin were alive today, the extraordinary greed with which Wall Street has infected capitalism would provide Marx and Lenin with a better case than they had in the 19th and early 20th centuries.