When the history books are finally written, I think it’s clear that outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will likely go down as one of — if not the — most aggressively pro-regulatory Republican chairman in the agency’s history. Despite his occasional claims of believing in free markets and his support for a couple of legitimately deregulatory decisions, his tenure at the FCC has generally been characterized by a growth of government power, spending, and bureaucracy. But don’t take my word for it; read the report he issued last week called “Moving Forward,” which to some of us looks more like moving backwards (or at least stuck in the same ol’ mud).
Martin, however, touts his regulatory actions and expansion of FCC power as uniformly pro-consumer. Martin is just another in the long line of statists who claims that consumer welfare can only be enhanced by adding layers of government mandates and regulatory red tape. History teaches us a different lesson: That regulation and bureaucracy typically stifle innovation and competition and hurt consumer welfare in the process. Moreover, there are some constitutional considerations and limitations that should trump — or at least limit — the powers of unelected bureaucrats to run roughshod over our rights. But hey, who cares about those meddlesome little things like the First, Fifth, Tenth, or Fourteenth Amendments?! Certainly not Kevin Martin.
What’s equally troubling about Martin’s tenure at the agency is the track record of mismanagement and the bad blood that seemingly surrounds everything and everyone he comes in contact with. The picture painted in the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s 110-page report, “Deception and Distrust: The FCC Under Chairman Kevin J.Martin,” is not a pretty one — although the report failed to mention that waste, mismanagement, and other regulatory shenanigans have been going on at this agency under the days of Democratic rule, too.
Martin’s response to the House report was all too predictable: The evil corporate interests are out to get me! “[M]ost of the criticisms contained in the Majority Staff Report,” Martin says in a letter released a few days ago, “reflect the vehement opposition of the cable and wireless industries to my policies to serve and protect consumers.”
I’m just glad this nightmare is over. Hopefully Martin’s tenure will serve as a cautionary tale for a future Republican administration: If you actually believe in free minds and free markets, try vetting the guy you install at the FCC to make sure he’s a true believer as well.