06/14/2011 05:22 pm ET | Updated Aug 14, 2011

Deregulate? So Easy to Forget

The amnesia sticks are kicking in. Already the distant past is lost to me, the recent past no more than a blur.

It's probably better that way: I'm watching the candidates, and I'm reading the news.

The candidates are complaining about the government. The candidates, who want more than anything else to lead the government, are complaining about how big the government is. And how incompetent it is. And how it's always getting in the way.

So they want to shut down this agency, and that agency, too. They want to get rid of this rule, and that regulation, and lots of those other rules and regulations, too. All they know how to do -- the agencies, the rules, the regulations -- is get in the way.

Get in the way of business.

Without all those rules and regulations, the candidates insist, business would be free to grow again. The economy would be back on track again, instead of stuck in the ditch. (I've got some vague memory of the economy going into the ditch -- it was a while ago, wasn't it? -- but the details are so fuzzy, it's hard to be sure.)

That's what the candidates are saying.

I hear the very same thing when I read the news. The titans of Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce are singing from the very same hymnal: Government is the problem. Too much oversight. Too many rules and regulations. Get government out of way, they're saying.

You want more growth? Give us fewer rules!

You want more jobs? Give us fewer regulations!

(I can nearly remember a time when there was growth, when there were jobs. But for the life of me -- it's the amnesia sticks, still working their magic -- I can't remember how many rules and regulations there were back then. I'm sort of thinking there were more rules and regulations back then -- or at least more than the titans and the Chamber ever wanted -- and the economy was humming along anyway. But how can that be? Did they junk some of the rules between then and now? Some of the regulations? Is that how we wound up the ditch? I can't remember.)

There are congressmen on my television now, and they sound just like the candidates and the titans and the Chamber: Get rid of the rules, they say. Don't appoint anyone who'll enforce the rules. Strangle the agencies that make the rules. Cut their staffing. Cut their funding. That'll make things better again -- they all agree about that. Government keeps getting in the way, they say. Government keeps --

I've got this tiny buzzing sensation, right behind my forehead. Sometimes it happens when I watch too many candidates, or too much news. Sometimes it just happens.

There's something not right. Something I'm hearing or seeing now -- from the congressmen or the candidates or the titans or the Chamber -- isn't fitting in with other things I used to hear, or used to see. With things I used to know.

I'm trying to picture the home buyers running roughshod over the lending firms when it came time to take out a mortgage. I'm trying to remember consumers pulling the wool over the eyes of the credit-card companies. Or hedge funds so tied up in regulatory knots that they couldn't rake in their billions.

I'm almost thinking it was the other way around!

The amnesia sticks must be wearing off.

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at

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