On January 16, the USA Today editorial page launched a broadside against President Bush's economic program. Donald Evans. President Bush's Secretary of Commerce, responded to the attack in the counterpoint USA Today op-ed entitled "Bush Plan Is Good for the USA." Secretary Evans countered by referring to the President's six-point jobs plan, which in addition to tax relief, includes "health care reform, expanded free trade, litigation reform, regulatory reform and a comprehensive energy plan."
Now, I think President Bush's economic plan is generally on-the-mark, especially the emphasis on tax relief, free trade, and litigation reform. But, as you might expect, the reference to regulatory reform caught my eye. We all know that unnecessary and overly burdensome regulation can act as a drag on the overall economy, just like excessive taxes. So Secretary Evans is correct to include reg reform in the six-point jobs program. But I'm not sure that the Administration has really focused enough on regulatory reform thus far. Can someone point me to the Administration's substantive regulatory reform agenda?
Anyway, if the Administration is looking for targets of opportunity, communications policy is certainly an inviting bullseye. Not nearly enough has been accomplished since President Bush took office. If the Administration wants to stick to six-point plans, here's one for communications policy: (1) Create a deregulatory uniform regime for broadband; (2) Resist calls to regulate the Internet, including new services like VoIP; (3) Reform the outdated universal service system by reducing the size of the existing subsidies and further targeting the remaining subsidies to those in need; (4) Move further towards creating a property-rights regime for spectrum management; (5) Reduce the role of the states in regulating communications; and (6) Streamline and reform the FCC--which, as communications regulation is reduced, simply shouldn't remain the same 2000-person agency it has been for the past decade. (I understand that while the FCC itself can accomplish much, some of the above items would require congressional action to fully implement.)
Well, you may have your own regulatory reform items, and, if so, don't hesitate to write or call. Anyway you slice it, though, there's much work still to be done, and it would be heartening indeed to see the Bush Administration clearly articulate a deregulatory communications agenda. And then provide determined leadership.