Viewers of television news
could be forgiven for thinking that regulations are free. Network
reporters rarely tell them of the costs they, as consumers, incur
when the government places mandates on businesses.
An exception was the
reporting late last month on increased gasoline prices. Two
reporters, ABCís Lisa Stark and NBCís David Gregory, used their
stories to inform viewers that state mandates were exaggerating the
price hikes. Stark, on the August 29 World News Tonight,
reported that "the different prices [in the different states] are a
result of different state taxes and the expensive anti-pollution
additives required in some states."
Gregory, on the same
eveningís Nightly News, said, "Such high demand creates even
greater sticker shock in California, where itís more difficult for
oil companies to keep up the supply of reformulated, clean-burning
gasoline mandated by the state."
Another exception was a
recent CNN series on the many efforts across the country to
deregulate electricity services. Correspondent Natalie Pawelski, on
the September 1 World Today, said, "The theory is basic free
enterprise. Competition should bring lower bills, better service,
and innovation." She reported that "Congress is considering
electricity deregulation and almost every state is making plans as
well. If small pilot projects in New Hampshire and Massachusetts
hold true on a larger scale, deregulation will mean lower electric
According to Pawelski, the
"biggest boulders in the road to deregulation are white-elephant
nuclear plants and other big-ticket items that were approved by
regulators, but wonít make economic sense in a competitive market."
She ran a soundbite from
two sources who argued that taxpayers shouldnít have to pay for
these "stranded costs." Adam Thierer of the Heritage Foundation,
said, "A stranded-cost bailout would represent potentially the most
egregious example of corporate welfare in American history." And
Anna Aurillo of U.S. PIRG argued that "it is an outrageous insurance
for their gambles that did not pay off."
Three days later Pawelski
profiled Bristol, Virginia, which recently broke its ties to the
Tennessee Valley Authority. "Bristol, Virginia is going through a
divorce of sorts," she said. "Itís breaking away from the mighty
Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant federal agency thatís powered
this town, and dozens of others, for more than half a century."
She called the TVA "a
monopoly that doesnít like the idea of Bristolís turning to Cinergy,"
an Ohio company that Bristol figures "will save the town at least
$70 million over the next ten years. Thatís about $3,800 per
Kudos to ABCís Lisa Stark,
NBCís David Gregory, and CNNís Natalie Pawelski for pointing out
that regulations arenít cheap, and deregulation can mean a windfall