White House anti-inflation adviser Alfred Kahn yesterday said he is opposed to any administration effort to deregulate oil prices at this time.
In a briefing with reporters at the White House following a meeting with President Carter and govenment antitrust and inflation advisers, Kahn said this is "simply not the time for deregulation of oil," because such a move "would be seriously inflationary."
Kahn did say, however, that the Iranian oil production shut-off was "a very serious problem," and that the Council on Wage and Price Stability was studying the possible world-wide effects of a sustained cut-off.
Meanwhile, Federal Trade Commission chairman Michael Pertschuk and John Shenefield assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust, told the same gathering of reporters that they hoped to help stem inflation by promoting competition through vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws.
Shenefield said that Antitrust division cases and investigations covered a broad range of industries affecting consumers. He said that civil and criminal cases filed by his office involved more than $9 million in commerce.
Shenefield also cited the recent merger wave as a danger, adding that his office is supporting several innovative legislative proposals to broaden the definition of antitrust violations and to make it easier to prosecute and take preventive measures.
Pertschuk used the meeting with Carter to introduce a white paper on the FTC's anti-inflation program. The paper targeted several areas where the commission felt its actions could curb inflation.
The paper cited FTC scrutiny of self-regulation by the professions -- notably doctors and lawyers -- which the commission feels could keep prices for their services artifically high.
Pertschuk cited the Levi Strauss price fixing case as an example of how antitrust actions can lead to lower prices.
In that case, following an FTC complaint that Levi Strauss had fixed retail prices of blue jeans, the price of those jeans dropped by $4. "President Carter said that even he had benefited by the Levi Strauss case," Pertschuk said. "In fact, it has been said that thanks to the FTC, pants were dropping all over America."
Carter praised both the FTC and Justice for "responding vigorously to the call I sounded in the inflation message -- to redouble our effort to put competition back into the American free enterprise system."
Pertschuk went from the White House to the Consumer Federation of America's Consumer Assembly where he reiterated his call for more competition and less regulation impeding competitin. He cited the wisdom of Chinese poet Lao-Tse, "who said that government is best when people barely know it exists."
At the same conference, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) echoed Pertschuk, saying "the benefits of competition -- economic, social and political -- have been demonstrated time and again. Competition drives industry costs down, allocates scarce resources in the most efficient manner possible and dramatically increases innovation, productivity and technological advances."
Kennedy said that deregulation of the trucking industry, which the is seeking in legislation this year, will result in considerable savings to consumers.