WHEN IT COMES TO making political deliveries, Teamsters Union leaders know how to go the direct route: by their unsubtle calculations, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line into the White House. And their biggest point for nearly a decade has been to stop any sensible efforts by the Ford and Carter administrations to deregulate the trucking industry. After all, why rock a sweet regulatory arrangement between Teamster leaders, trucking firms and an all-too sympathetic Interstate Commerce Commission?
According to the crude reasoning of this Teamster/trucking industry alliance, it is good to get government off peoples' backs -- expcets for those backs that government may be scratching when it keeps competition down and rates up. To retard the vigorous deregulation efforts of a freshly professional ICC in recent years, the Teamsters first tossed their considerable campaign money and weight in the direction of Ronald Reagan last year; and now their choice for ICC chairman happens to be the same as President Reagan's: Reese H. Taylor Jr., a lawyer with strong ties to a regulated transportation companies who has said he would like to slow the ICC's deregulation pace.
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week on his nomination that lasted all of 33 minutes, Mr. Taylor emphatically denied one report in Common Cause magazine that he was "handpicked" by the Teamsters Union for the position: "I am not in anybody's pocket. I am beholden to no one. I am not a political payoff." What mattered, he stated, was the recommendation of Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.). Mr. Taylor is a former law partner of Sen. Laxalt and served as chairman of the Nevada Public Service Commission when Mr. Laxalt was governor of the state.
Fair enough -- and good reason to suppose that Mr. Taylor is a shoo-in for confirmation.Nothing in the record indicates that things should be otherwise. But if Mr. Taylor is intent on proving that he is not beholden to the industry, he weill recognize the intent of Congress in enacting deregulation legislation last year by seeing to it that his primary responsibility as ICC chairman is to the public and the law, not to the Teamster/trucker opposition.