Now that Republicans feel that they have won a minor victory over Obama on the debt deal, they might be more likely to make concessions on non-debt/spending related issues like the confirmation of Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson. It is more important than ever that fans of the free-market pressure the Senate to oppose the nomination of this rent-seeking, radical environmentalist. In a Kansas City Star op-ed published this morning, I show why his corporatist past is reason enough to block Bryson’s nomination.
President Obama’s nominee for secretary of commerce, John Bryson, is a terrible choice for a Cabinet department ostensibly dedicated to promoting economic growth and job creation. In fact, Bryson has made a career out of undermining both. Over the years, he has used his government connections to game the political process and receive billions in bailouts and subsidies. America does not need any more crony capitalists in high places.
Bryson’s career began as a regulator in California in 1976, when then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the State Water Resources Control Board. In 1979, Brown appointed him to chair California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). As chairman, he deliberately drove up electricity rates by using fixed-rate contracts that passed the costs of massive wind energy projects on to consumers.
Bryson readily acknowledges the effects of his policies during this period. “What California has done is knowingly incur higher cents per-kilowatt-hour costs,” he boasted in 2009. “They’re substantially higher than the U.S. average in order to invest in the kind of systems we have in California. … That’s been part of the regulatory environment for the investor-owned utilities as long as I’ve been close to it.”
As PUC chairman, Bryson helped create a regulatory structure that fixed utilities’ profits at a percent of costs. As a result, the utilities make money not by bringing costs down and selling more electricity, but by raising costs with unnecessary, expensive and redundant projects.
Moving from government to industry, Bryson parlayed his intimate knowledge of the regulatory landscape – which he helped create – into a high-level position with the utility Southern California Edison in the mid-1980s. After rising to CEO of parent company Edison International, he then used his government connections to make a series of cushy political deals for the utility. …
Bryson’s career demonstrates that he trusts politicians and bureaucrats, not businesses competing in the market, to drive the economy. Just as voters in 2010 rejected bailouts and subsidies for politically favored businesses, the Senate should reject the confirmation of John Bryson.