Bil­lion­aires for dereg­u­la­tion

The left ob­jects when busi­ness spreads the wealth the old-fash­ioned way

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Daniel Oliver

The New York Times is hav­ing a hissy-fit over bil­lion­aire “in­vestor” Carl Ic­ahn’s be­ing named as Pres­i­dent Trump’s spe­cial ad­viser on reg­u­la­tory mat­ters, which many hope means dereg­u­la­tory mat­ters. What’s trou­bling The Times is that Mr. Ic­ahn has been work­ing on dereg­u­lat­ing the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and par­tic­u­larly a reg­u­la­tion that gov­erns the way corn­based ethanol is mixed with gaso­line. The prob­lem, for The Times, is that Mr. Ic­ahn owns a com­pany that would have saved a cou­ple of hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars last year if the fix Mr. Ic­ahn is rec­om­mend­ing had been in place. Is that a con­flict of in­ter­est?

No doubt it re­minds The New York Times of the Mary­land liquor mag­nate who was ap­pointed head of the state’s al­co­holic bev­er­ages con­trol agency and was ac­cused of hav­ing a con­flict of in­ter­est. He re­sponded, in­dig­nantly, that he had no in­ten­tion what­so­ever of run­ning the gov­ern­ment agency in a way that would con­flict with his busi­ness in­ter­ests.

The real prob­lem is that a bil­lion­aire, al­most by def­i­ni­tion, has in­vest­ments es­sen­tially ev­ery­where. Which means that if Mr. Trump can make Amer­ica great again, bil­lion­aires are go­ing to profit like gang­busters, or, the way The Times tends to view bil­lion­aires (ex­cept Ge­orge Soros), like eco­nomic gang­sters.

There’s a huge op­por­tu­nity for growth in the econ­omy be­cause the Obama crowd, the reg­u­la­to­rys­tate pro­gres­sives, adopted a slew of anti-growth poli­cies that pro­longed the Obama Re­ces­sion.

It’s called the Obama Re­ces­sion be­cause growth was so slow dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s time in of­fice, and that wasn’t be­cause of the align­ment of the stars or the col­lapse of the Peru­vian an­chovy har­vest. It was be­cause the econ­omy was over­reg­u­lated by pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion like Dodd–Frank. In the re­ces­sion of 1982, un­em­ploy­ment reached 10.8 per­cent in De­cem­ber. The high­est it reached dur­ing Mr. Obama’s time in of­fice was 10 per­cent, in Oc­to­ber 2009. Gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth av­er­aged 2.2 per­cent through the first 25 quar­ters of Mr. Obama’s “re­cov­ery,” whereas GDP ad­vanced at a 4.6 per­cent an­nual pace dur­ing the com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod for Pres­i­dent Rea­gan.

What’s a poor bil­lion­aire like Mr. Ic­ahn to do if he wants to help his coun­try? Sell all his stocks and buy an in­dex fund? But if the econ­omy im­proves the way Messrs. Trump and Ic­ahn (and maybe even Ge­orge Soros) hope, in­dex funds will go up, too. It is too much to ex­pect that The New York Times will not ob­ject to Mr. Ic­ahn’s own­ing an in­dex fund.

Where is he sup­posed to hide his money? In his socks — de­signed by Ivanka Trump? Ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, Mr. Ic­ahn is worth $16.6 bil­lion, mak­ing him the 26th wealth­i­est per­son on the Forbes 400 list. If Mr. Ic­ahn bought enough of Ivanka’s socks to store that much money, she’d make a killing — and then what would The Times say?

The prob­lem with The New York Times’ scare piece — and this should be ob­vi­ous even to Times read­ers — is that Carl Ic­ahn is surely not the first nor the only per­son to say that reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gaso­line should be changed. This is not a pol­icy Mr. Ic­ahn thought up solely to ben­e­fit his com­pa­nies. And prob­a­bly all the rest of the rec­om­men­da­tions he will make will have been writ­ten about and rec­om­mended by a slew of pub­lic pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tions over a num­ber of years. Mr. Ic­ahn is sim­ply or­ga­niz­ing the dereg­u­la­tory ef­fort.

Mr. Ic­ahn isn’t be­ing paid — what do you pay a man who has $16.6 bil­lion? — so that can’t be an ob­jec­tion. Come to think of it, what do you give a man worth $16 bil­lion for his birth­day?

Nor can Mr. Trump be stopped from con­vers­ing with Mr. Ic­ahn. Both of them re­tain their First Amend­ment rights —Hil­lary Clin­ton hav­ing lost the elec­tion —which means that af­ter a round of golf at Mara-Lago they can dis­cuss mat­ters like … reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gaso­line.

What The New York Times re­ally doesn’t like, of course, are the rec­om­men­da­tions — any rec­om­men­da­tions — for dereg­u­lat­ing the econ­omy. For rea­sons known only per­haps to the Peru­vian an­chovies, the Demo­cratic Party has aban­doned the work­ing men and women of Amer­ica by sign­ing on to the left wing’s crazy, anti-eco­nomic agenda, in­clud­ing most es­pe­cially their anti-en­ergy poli­cies. As a re­sult of those poli­cies, some Amer­i­cans have lost their jobs, and the av­er­age Amer­i­can hasn’t seen a pay raise in 15 years. That’s why they voted for Don­ald Trump. And they would surely rather have even a self-in­ter­ested bil­lion­aire help jazz up the econ­omy than have a pen­ni­less so­cial­ist pro­mote the kind of an­ti­job eco­nomic pol­icy nos­trums fa­vored by The New York Times.

Those are the poli­cies Mr. Trump has said he wants to change, and he is likely to en­list any­one will­ing to help. Even your lo­cal, friendly bil­lion­aire.

Love the socks, Carl.

Carl Ic­ahn is surely not the first nor the only per­son to say that reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gaso­line should be changed.

Daniel Oliver is chair­man of the board of the Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search In­sti­tute and a di­rec­tor of Cit­i­zens for the Repub­lic. He served as chair­man of the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion un­der Pres­i­dent Rea­gan and was ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor and chair­man of the board of Na­tional Re­view.

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