Edward M. Kennedy died Tuesday, and discussion will center on his liberal legacy. But what of those elements of his conservative legacy? Kennedy was an interesting politician, and when remembering him, commentators should also remember his push to deregulate America’s transportation.

Vanderbilt University professor James W. Ely’s book on Railroads & American Law renders this judgment about railroad regulation: “Railroad regulatory policy has left a cautionary legacy. Rather than a triumph of the Progressive Era, the waves of regulation put the industry in a straitjacket, and ultimately proved disastrous.” (p. 282). Railroad regulation was disastrous from any perspective. Regulation encouraged the growth of highways, and so liberals could complain the decline of the railroad increased global warming and other bad things. Conservatives could rightly complain that Congressional intrusion into transportation disrupted the market and created artificial winners in the automakers and trucking. In any case, big economies need railroads because railroads are economical means to move products to market—you pay less at Wal-Mart thanks to railroads.

By the 1970s, American railroads were in chaos. Almost a century of regulation left railroad companies unable to compete due in part to regulation and domination by unions. Bankruptcy was a common story of the era for railroads. Democrats and Republicans saw a need to fix this and the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 (followed during the Clinton years by the 1995 elimination of the Interstate Commerce Commission) allowed railroads greater freedom to set their own rates, and perhaps most importantly, merge.

But the Staggers’ Act arose out of Jimmy Carter’s promise to deregulate, and Ted Kennedy’s primary campaign against Carter for the Democratic nomination. According to Stephen Goddard’s Getting There, Kennedy’s primary campaign for deregulation encouraged Carter to push Congress for rail deregulation. Goddard called it, Carter “looking over his shoulder”. This led Carter to urge Congress to “remove the shackles” (as Goddard put it) from trucking and railroads. It finally happened, and Democratic president Jimmy Carter signed the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 in October—just before an even bigger deregulator was elected president.

Even after the campaigns, Kennedy praised deregulation. He was proud of his legacy to deregulate airlines in 1978, and the 1980 act to deregulate trucking. This combined with railroad deregulation saved consumers millions, and helped spark substantial economic growth. When Bill Clinton signed legislation to end the ICC, it capped a legacy where Democratic leaders helped end regulation begun by Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt.

When Congress considers healthcare “reforms” it should remember the serious problems caused by government intrusion into transportation. While Democrats, many that supported deregulation, have pushed for greater government control of healthcare, everyone should remember the disastrous legacy of transportation, and how Democrats like Kennedy led the way out from the burden of regulation.

31 thoughts on “Kennedy’s deregulation legacy”

  1. and your readers should look around the world: pretty much every other Western nation has nationalized health care, and it works great.

    what are you so scared of, really?

  2. I don’t know…maybe being like the rest of the world? The US economy is enormous and successful because it isn’t like the rest of the world.

    In fact, the rest of the world through the IMF and GATT have embraced the American way of doing things. Globalization has encouraged economic growth everywhere. And now, instead of embracing the unique things that make America great, we want to stagnate like France.

    No thanks.

  3. Vance. Do you know of anyone that has been refused healthcare ? Do you know of anyone that has been turned away because they are uninsured ? Do you know anyone that has recieved inadequate healthcare because of not having coverage ?


    Let me ask you something else. Why in the world would anyone put the Gov. in charge of their very life ? You are not thinking reasonably if you believe that the Gov. can do this. They can not. If they get control of healthcare its just another encroachment on our freedoms. We are headed towrd Communism / Socialism at a breakneck pace.

    If the Gov. gets control of healthcare every hospital will be like a V.A. hospital. They are horrible.

    Wake up you mindless sheep of a man.

  4. Part of this article is correct but only as it relates to a manufacturing based economy. The ‘Global Economy’ idea is a load of baloney that has been fed to a generation heavily trained in ‘Groupthink’. It’s as contrived as the 1970’s gas shortage. Want to help rail be relavent again? Cut down on imports and Gov regulation. Market demand will bring it back. Unfortunately we can’t because of fiat currency and the Chi-coms own our debt!

  5. Your political views have gotten in the way of your “Alabama Athletics” commentary. I don’t come to this site to read about your political views, that “yes” I don’t agree with. If there is another political story, you can count me out as a viewer to this site. How about report what your site advertises, “Alabama Athletics”.

  6. Sorry, I meant ‘bring manufacturing back’. Then rail will have something to move besides the few import containers they do now.

  7. I’ll write about what I want to write about, when I want to write about it. Have a nice day, and thanks for visiting, or not visiting as the case may be in the future. 🙂 If you want to submit a rebuttal, I’ll publish it. Routinely this site ventures into political and economic issues. I didn’t hear any moaning about reporting on Colonial’s collapse.

    BTW, the legacy of regulation isn’t a political view–it is established fact for anyone willing to delve into the economic history of the Progressive Era. Even Kennedy recognized the failure of regulation. I guess you don’t like those facts, huh?

    Daddio, actually railroads have flourished since the Carter-led deregulation largely because of the global economy. One thing I’ve been shocked by is the power of the US economy even when dealing with imports–the U.S. still makes a fortune in trade, but somehow all we ever hear about are the deficits. I fault unions for that. I’m actually pro-union, but am willing to admit unions have been one of the biggest problems for U.S. companies over the last forty years.

  8. I guess I should kill my weekend essay examining why colleges and universities like Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, etc. are better at teaching than K-12. That would stir up a hornet’s nest 🙂 But it is something I’ve been thinking about since reading the Post-American World over the summer.

  9. Cap. Keep up the good work. I enjoy a good political column. If you notice, only the dam libs dont like them. Why ? Because they get their rectums handed to them on a silver platter whenever they try to debate or spin away their ridiculous decisions.

    But, Its hard for me to agree that Kennedy did anything good. Even though I know he had to have made some good decisions in his 40 years of politics. I know hes gone now and the proper thing to do is to respect his passing, and I do sympathize with his family. But the bottom line is this. The man made way more bad decisions than good ones. And, as hard as this is for some people to hear, the country will be better off with him out of office. I just hate it that he had to die, instead of getting voted out. The Dems are already trying to capitolize on his passing by trying to ramrod the healthcare bill in the name of Ted. Thats plain sickening.

  10. Thanks Ballplay.

    The reason I wrote this today was being struck by the contradiction in deregulation. Here was Kennedy and Carter both Democrats helping to end regulation launched by a Republican.

    Since we are a community of scholars, I thought it would be a fun aside to all the football stuff.

  11. About healthcare. To answer Auburn is a joke… I know someone who has been unable to get certain medical treatments because of inadequate coverage. ME.

    If you need to go to the doctor and you are without health insurance, then you must be able to afford to pay for whatever it is you need entirely out of pocket. Sometimes that means making a decision… go to the doctor when you have the flu and spend a fortune or suck it up and hope you will get better.

    Have I ever ben DENIED? No.

    You can go to any emergency room and they have to see you. But they don’t have to treat you unless its life threatening and if they prescribe medicine you have to be able to afford it…and you will still have a large bill to pay.

    I really don’t see what the fuss is about on the healthcare reform thing. Rich people will still get the healthcare they want because they can afford to pay.

    Providing a public health care option for those who cannot afford the current prices of healthcare seems like the Christian thing to do….you know…take care of those in need.

    Fortunately I am healthy enough that I rarely really NEED to see a doctor… I do know other people who are not as fortunate.

    Why are people so afraid of the Socialist-Communist boogey man? Capitalism will not collapse over our government finding a way to fund healthcare for more Americans any more than it has collapsed because we have public schools or public parks or public anything else.

  12. Well, it is your site and you do have every right to “write about what I want to write about, when I want to write about it.”… and I can’t blame you… However, I do have my choice and I just believe you should discuss what you advertise, that’s just me. Thank you for the offer to publish my rebuttal, this is a very kind offer and to me shows your ability to listen, which unfortunately now days is rare to find.

    It seems as though, throwing insults at those you do not agree with, is the first reaction of many. This is not grade school, if you want to discuss a issue with someone, don’t insult them. Auburn is a joke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian. Oh, by the way, don’t answer for people either. I do know people who have been turned down by a insurance company, I do know people who are not as fortunate as myself and will not go to the doctor, because they can’t afford it. These same people have been really injury, go to the hospital, do get taken care of and it’s thousands of dollars. These people I know do not work and money is scarce. We could argue, they didn’t set themselves up in life… but they are still people and citizens of the US.

    I wish I had more time to write, I am at work and just the time spent writing this post has taken more time than it should. If you would like a summary of my beliefs they are this.

    We are in a war we should not be in. We are spending billions of dollars on other countries and we can’t take care of our self. Everything goes back to this point. Healthcare, recession… we are building up other countries many will never see or choose to go to. Why? When our infrastructure needs repairing, schools, hospitals, transportation… we did not choose this war, thousands are dying, why? We choose to police the world and take care of people around the world, but we can’t take care of neighbors. This is my problem.

  13. Hunter…I am not trying to be unreasonable. But ,,,,Can you not get some sort of healthcare? Blue Cross has Individual Blue personal health insurance that is VERY reasonable. Around the tune of 250 bucks a month for individuals. Family plans are going to be expectedly higher. Now, tell me , do you honostly think that the Gov. plan will beat that ? NO WAY…..You will take a beating like no other on that. No version of healthcare will be free. EVER !!!!!!

    If anyone can sympathize with the healthcare delimna, its me. I pay 50% of all of my employees BCBS policies every month to the tune of about 4,000 bucks. And bleive me when I say I am not rich. I will gladly continue to pay that if they will keep their whoremongering paws out of the system.

    Again , I am not bashing you, as I do not know your condition, or your circumstances. But the bottom line is this, while you may have had to pay for it, you would have been taken care of. Nothing in life is free. Why would we think that we are entitled to free health care ? WE ARENT….People have a sense of entitlement that this country has never seen before . THANKS WELFARE SYSTEM !!!!!!

    As far as the Christian thing to do goes. If the church would do our job, there would be no need for social security, Medicare, Welfare, or any other type of charity. The church is failing miserably.

    There are ways to fix this . A multi Billion dollar Gov. run healthcare system is NOT IT !!!!! How about this, GIVE ME A BIG TAX BREAK FOR PAYING 50 PERCENT OF MY EMPLOYEES HEALTHCARE !!!! GIVE TAX BREAKS TO THOSE WHO ARENT , BUT WILL START TO PAY FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES HEALTHCARE !!! Its really a no brainer to fix the system. They do not want to fix the system. THEY WANT CONTROL !!!!

    Look at the bailouts. WHAT A JOKE MAN !!!!

    And Hunter, you had better be afraid of the Communist/ Socialist boogyman. He is going to ruin everything that this country was founded on. To not see this is a grave mistake on your part my friend. Half of this country is under some sort of false sense of security that we cant be denied of our freedom because we have always had it. Those people would be wrong.

    How do we lose our liberty ? In one giant swoop ? No. A little at a time.

  14. Josh, or someone who doesnt want to talk politics , you sure are talking , arent you ?

    First. Let me say I have been blessed beyond reason. I am not wealthy, but I make a good living. One reason I do, is because I tithe. I know that to non Christians this sounds crazy, But if you tithe , you will be blessed. For people who do not tithe ( not all) there is never enough money. If you dont believe me on this. Tithe 10 % and see what happens.

    Second. No one wants war. Your President Barrack said he would end it all ? What happened ? He didnt . Why ? IT WAS NECESSARY !!!!! He closes evil Quantanimo Bay. Sends some of the detaineees home. What happens ? Some of those prisoners have already killed some of our soldiers.

    These are not things people want to hear. But its true. this world is full of evil people that want to kill us for no other reason than thay just want to. If we had NOT gone over there and stayed , there would have been several more attacks taking way more civilian life than what weve lost in soldiers. Is that good ? No….Was it necessary ? Absolutely ….Also , keep in mind that EVERY soldier that has gone to war went on his own accord. There is no evil empire sending innocent reluctant tropps in harms way. EVERY ONE IS A VOLUNTEER !!

    Another harsh reality is this. You cant take care of those who will not take care of themselves. Does this include your aquaintances ? Probably not. Does it include Hunter ? No. But most of the people without healthcare are under the radar labor who dont pay any sort of tax anyhow. Cold reality , I know , But TRUE !!!!

    What version of America are you looking at ? I see wonderful schools. Great Colleges. Smooth Highways. Great Parks.

    you have bought into the hype josh. Move to France.

  15. hunter, do you have cable? satellite? what’s your package a month?

    do you have a cell phone? what’s that package a month?

    do you own a big screen? what did that cost?

    you house payment?


    how many jobs do you work??

    does your wife work??

    have a beach house??

    lake house??

    getting kind of personal, hunter??

    if you expect the taxpayer, ME, to foot your medical expenses, those are questions that should be answered, don’t you think??

    (and when obama gets control, they will be answered)

  16. I can tell you that Trucking is a big damn mess.
    What about the rest of us – the 90% that is still working – making it through this Recession because of hard work – should Comrade Obama take away what we have to take care of the 10% ?

  17. i forgot your internet package, hunter. what’s that cost???

    if you have these luxuries, (cell phone, cable, internet, big screen) tell me hunter, why should i pay for your healthcare???

    there’s one quick way to make insurance affordable.


    answer this question, hunter: why can’t you or i buy health insurance from out of state???

    i’ll answer for you hunter: BECAUSE IT’S AGAINST THE LAW!

    get government out of the way. end BCBS’s stranglehold on the citizens of this state. make them compete for your business in the open marketplace.

    prices will plummet.


    and for josh, if you don’t like the title, don’t click on it.

    it’s really that easy, son.

    cap, ask mary jo what she thinks about deregulation………….

    (i wouldn’t hold my brea……….)

  18. Aub,

    I still don’t believe this is the best place to discuss political issues, but since I was here I did decide to reply. I hope that is ok with you? I know most Dems don’t reply cause, “Because they get their rectums handed to them on a silver platter whenever they try to debate or spin away their ridiculous decisions.” Once again, I’m all up for discussion… but if you want me to take you serious, please stop insulting me. I love this country, that’s why I’m here… if I wanted to move to France I would. Just because I disagree, with you and what our government has done in the past and present. That does not make me less of citizen of this nation. When did it become unpatriotic to question your government?

    War is NECESSARY… by the way, I can read without all the CAPS. I’ll sum up my believes pretty quickly. If we had not been concerning ourselves with everyone problems and making them ours… the war would not be necessary. I do agree, maybe we are past that point. I hate it, I believe it is crippling us… we can’t afford it.

    Everyone is a volunteer. Do you have any idea the amounts of contractors there are in the war zones… fighting? Don’t tell me that I don’t know, I personal know people over there, fighting for money.

    Wonderful school, colleges, smooth highways, great parks. School, I went to public school, and I still can’t see the republican viewing… so something is wrong. i kid, but we are not #1 in the world or even in the top 10 in the school system. Now, I just pulled two random sites from the internet, I don’t know how creditable they are… but neither had us in the top ten. http://www.nationmaster.com/country/us-united-states/edu-education

    US Mathematical literacy – 18 of 27
    US Scientific literacy – 14 of 27
    US Reading literacy – 15 of 27

    I’m just saying we should improve our values on education in this country. You can’t argue with teacher pay and student funding in the US… it’s not good. Go to South Alabama/Mississippi and look at the school there… They do not have good schools, that are very under funded. Students don’t have computer access. I just believe we should be #1 or in the top 5.

    We have the greatest highway system in the world… I can’t argue there… we built the car… we should.

    Tithe, I have tithed in the past. I don’t tithe now and I’m very comfortable financially. If you believe that works you, I am very happy for you.

  19. Look. If I had a billion dollars I wouldn’t go to the doctor unless I was seriously maimed or I couldn’t live another day without going. We all have our own decisions to make and priorities to set. I’m the opposite of a hypochondriac… I stay away.. far away from doctors and hospitals.

    I just don’t believe that having better health care for more Americans should be that hard. If you don’t have kids in school (or kids at all) why should you pay for public education? Maybe you shouldn’t. I just believe that helping more people to be educated and healthy causes a benefit for society as a whole.

    I do not believe that having a public option for health care or having expanded Medicaid or.. what have you… will turn us into some version of the old Soviet Union. And I believe very strongly that if some form of government health care reform is passed, there will ALWAYS be room for people with money to get their own independent health care plans. Maybe large corporations would find better alternatives for their employees and make that an incentive to work for them.

    We are paying for a lot of services for illegal aliens why can’t we do something more for our own citizens?

    An old person with no money in this country might have a hard time going to see a dentist but could probably get Viagra for erectile dysfunction and have Medicare pay for it. The drug companies have got to be behind all this anti health care reform bit.

  20. Finebammer:

    I didn’t realize it was against the law to buy out of state health insurance…that’s not right.

    The Blue Cross army should be fought on that one I would agree. There ought to be more competition. Good point. I still don’t see why some kind of basic standardized health care couldn’t be an option. I just tune out when people start yelling communism and socialism because it seems like a scare tactic to divert away from real problems.

  21. Here is the deal with the public school system in Alabama.

    Again. I know this will make people angry, But its true. The AEA is the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party is the AEA. Teachers cant be fired once they get their tenure. Thanks to the AEA. The AEA is a teachers union. My wife is a teacher so, I know of what I speak. Our county school system here in Etowah is a well oiled machine. Excellent faciclites , excellent teachers. We do not get half of the money that the inner city systems get. Whey pray tell are we light years ahead? The welfare state of mind that the Dems have instilled into the inner city population. There is no accountability. There never is with liberals.

    I am aware that the education system lacks in math and sciences. but the U.S. still leads the way in all these catagories in the corporate world. Why ? Because we lure the best minds from around the world to this country with the hope that they will profit off of their knoowledge. that they will prosper and be able to pursue life liberty and the pursuit of happines. I know that your people think that prospering is wrong, but anyhow, thats the case.

    Now thae libs dont want Billy to be smarter than Johnny. That would hurt poor little Johnnys feelings. Lets fund little Johnmny with some Retilin and tell him its all O.K. Under the Libs policies there should be no one that is better than anyone else. There should be no rich people . All people should make the same amount of money. Its .Therein lies the whole problem. No reward for excellence. ITS BULLCRAP !!! Yes I know I all capped.

    Computers do not make anyone smarter. In fact, they dumb down in certain cases. Are they convenient? Yes. But not really necessary. education comes from educators. Educators come through our state government system.

    Dude , we didnt pick this fight. It picked us. Do you not realize that ? What would you have us do ? Call up Bin Laden and sing a chorus of KumBa ya ???

    I used to be like you , would be civil and restrained. The time for that is over for me. You and your lib leaders are screwing up my country , and Ive had enough. My kids will pay the price for your idiot leaders stupid decisions and frankly the time for civility is over.

    There are absolutes in this world , wether you would choose to recognize that or not. There is good and there is evil. Evidently , you have picked the wrong side my friend. yOu say you used to tithe ? Did you “used ” to be a Christian ? I will not kid about that. Perhaps you need to do some soul searching. I hope you see the light before its too late. There are way too many people like you that are being decieved by this administration that its scary.

  22. Hunter. every small step in that direction still gets you to that point. It just takes longer to get there.

  23. there you go again, hunter.

    BCBS does what government allows them to do. nothing more, nothing less.

    obama rakes big insurance over the coals but says nothing of the causation,

    by the way, you didn’t answer my questions.

    something to hide??

  24. also answer this question, hunter:

    who wrote that legislation???

    we know obama didn’t.

    how did the senate and house produce 1000+ page legislation that was going to be put before obama BEFORE THE AUGUST RECESS until we the people started screaming?

    who wrote that legislation, hunter??

    this debate is much like the gun control debate. there are those who THINK they know what this is about, and those that DO.

    if you think gun control is about crime, better open your eyes. the more gun control laws, the more lawlessness.

    if you believe this is about affordable coverage for everyone, there’s no help for you.

    how do you add 47 million (including illegals) to an already taxed system (go find a doctor if you don’t have one) and promise to “save” money by cutting funds from the system.

    this is about single payer. barney frank has said it. obama has said it. it’s a matter of public record. micheal moore wishes democrats would be honest about it.

    i would remind those of us old enough to harken back to the pre-legal abortion days.

    abortion proponents argued that abortion should be legal to stop the back alley coat hanger abortions.

    i would submit to you that once we are single payer, back alley medicine will occur.

    people are going to get what they want, whether it’s in the light of day or the back alley.

    why didn’t prohibition work???

  25. Aub,
    Thanks for the discussion today. I really did not believe either one of minds would be changed.

    I couple of small points before I leave today,

    I don’t know who you are getting your information from but wow. I have never understood giving awards to everyone just because they participate… that has never made sense. I don’t know who is responsible, I would guess it’s parents whose little kid isn’t good enough, but I don’t know. I know when I was playing ball as a child, we got beat by this team… oh it was bad… well I practiced hard after that. It pushed me, it made me a better player… I don’t know if this is the dems here.

    And this, “Because we lure the best minds from around the world to this country with the hope that they will profit off of their knoowledge.” We could create the best minds here in the US, instead we import our education.

    And this, “Under the Libs policies there should be no one that is better than anyone else. There should be no rich people . All people should make the same amount of money. Its .Therein lies the whole problem. No reward for excellence.” I don’t believe everyone should make the same amount of money. However, it’s just crazy what people do make. Professional athletes, big CEOs… how much is enough? 50 million a year? And I don’t know what the limit is… but that is crazy.

    I am very aware of my religious views and beliefs. I have studied religion for many years, and have come up with my own view. It is based on intelligence and research of books, people and my inner self. It does not match your views my friend, however I will not tell you your view is wrong. Because, I believe you have researched your view and determined what is best for you. Please do not knock my views, because they do not match your.

  26. josh. Thanks for the discussion as well.

    While you may not believe in reward for no producton, the people youve put in office do.

    Yes, Pro athletes get paid an excessive amount of money. but you know what ? Who is the Gov. to tell them what they can or cant make ? As far as CEOs go. No one wants to hear it , but the same prionciple applies here. Its up to the shareholders to hold the CEOs accountable. Just like its up to the citizens to hold our Gov. leaders accountable.

    Again, I am certainly not judging you. But as I said earlier, there is an absolute truth. His name is Jehova. His son Jesus is the only way to spend an eternity with Him. I hope you see this one day.

  27. Finebammer:

    I am more worried about multi-national mega corporations than our own government.

    Multi-national mega corporations pay lobbyist to influence our government. The Megas have no patriotism and owe alliegance to none other than themselves.

    Seeing spooks and haints in our American government is a little anti-American.

    I would be more concerned about the folks that don’t love America.

  28. Our Gov. is a multi-national mega corporation.

    So, you should be worried about them.

  29. Yeah, that’s one way to look at it.

    Good point.

    I try to just pull my own little wagon these days and notworry about anything beyond my control.

    These hot button issues intrigue me becaue of the way they become partisan and predictable and because of the scare tactics and outright lies from both sides that always get injected.

    Let’s drop the political footballs and pick up the real pigskin…just a few more days til kickoff


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