3 Cheers for Jimmy Carter, the Great Deregulator!
Despite his post-presidential career as one of the most pompous noodges on the planet, Reason has never been shy about praising Jimmy Carter for his role in deregulating airline ticket pricing and interstate trucking (and beer!). Over at AOL News, B. Kelly Eakin and Mark E. Meitzen remind us of a third transportation-related deregulation success that Carter pushed:
Thirty years ago this fall, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Staggers Rail Act, stripping away a century of freight railroad regulation. The signing was accompanied by lofty proclamations: "By stripping away needless and costly regulation in favor of marketplace forces wherever possible, this act will help assure a strong and healthy future for our nation's railroads," the president's signing statement promised. "Consumers can be assured of improved railroads delivering their goods with dispatch."…
Consumers saw the payoff almost immediately. By 1982, rail rates had started a steady decline that, in real dollars, continued through 2004. Today, real rail rates average about two-thirds what they were in 1980. The railroads' financial condition stabilized. And the railroad industry's productivity has increased at triple the rate of the airline and trucking industries, as well as of the broader private sector.
Sadly, and despite many allusions to Obama as the Second Coming of The Man From Plains, our current president is not talking much about deregulating anything. And when it comes to trains, he's pushing one of the dumbest ideas possible: high-speed rail.