- - Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The New York Times is having a hissy-fit over billionaire “investor” Carl Icahn’s being named as President Trump’s special adviser on regulatory matters, which many hope means deregulatory matters. What’s troubling The Times is that Mr. Icahn has been working on deregulating the Environmental Protection Agency and particularly a regulation that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gasoline. The problem, for The Times, is that Mr. Icahn owns a company that would have saved a couple of hundred million dollars last year if the fix Mr. Icahn is recommending had been in place. Is that a conflict of interest?

No doubt it reminds The New York Times of the Maryland liquor magnate who was appointed head of the state’s alcoholic beverages control agency and was accused of having a conflict of interest. He responded, indignantly, that he had no intention whatsoever of running the government agency in a way that would conflict with his business interests.

The real problem is that a billionaire, almost by definition, has investments essentially everywhere. Which means that if Mr. Trump can make America great again, billionaires are going to profit like gangbusters, or, the way The Times tends to view billionaires (except George Soros), like economic gangsters.

There’s a huge opportunity for growth in the economy because the Obama crowd, the regulatory-state progressives, adopted a slew of anti-growth policies that prolonged the Obama Recession.

It’s called the Obama Recession because growth was so slow during President Obama’s time in office, and that wasn’t because of the alignment of the stars or the collapse of the Peruvian anchovy harvest. It was because the economy was overregulated by progressive legislation like DoddFrank. In the recession of 1982, unemployment reached 10.8 percent in December. The highest it reached during Mr. Obama’s time in office was 10 percent, in October 2009. Gross domestic product growth averaged 2.2 percent through the first 25 quarters of Mr. Obama’s “recovery,” whereas GDP advanced at a 4.6 percent annual pace during the comparable period for President Reagan.

What’s a poor billionaire like Mr. Icahn to do if he wants to help his country? Sell all his stocks and buy an index fund? But if the economy improves the way Messrs. Trump and Icahn (and maybe even George Soros) hope, index funds will go up, too. It is too much to expect that The New York Times will not object to Mr. Icahn’s owning an index fund.

Where is he supposed to hide his money? In his socks — designed by Ivanka Trump? According to Forbes magazine, Mr. Icahn is worth $16.6 billion, making him the 26th wealthiest person on the Forbes 400 list. If Mr. Icahn bought enough of Ivanka’s socks to store that much money, she’d make a killing — and then what would The Times say?

The problem with The New York Times’ scare piece — and this should be obvious even to Times readers — is that Carl Icahn is surely not the first nor the only person to say that regulations governing the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gasoline should be changed. This is not a policy Mr. Icahn thought up solely to benefit his companies. And probably all the rest of the recommendations he will make will have been written about and recommended by a slew of public policy organizations over a number of years. Mr. Icahn is simply organizing the deregulatory effort.

Mr. Icahn isn’t being paid — what do you pay a man who has $16.6 billion? — so that can’t be an objection. Come to think of it, what do you give a man worth $16 billion for his birthday?

Nor can Mr. Trump be stopped from conversing with Mr. Icahn. Both of them retain their First Amendment rights — Hillary Clinton having lost the election — which means that after a round of golf at Mar-a-Lago they can discuss matters like regulations governing the way corn-based ethanol is mixed with gasoline.

What The New York Times really doesn’t like, of course, are the recommendations — any recommendations — for deregulating the economy. For reasons known only perhaps to the Peruvian anchovies, the Democratic Party has abandoned the working men and women of America by signing on to the left wing’s crazy, anti-economic agenda, including most especially their anti-energy policies. As a result of those policies, some Americans have lost their jobs, and the average American hasn’t seen a pay raise in 15 years. That’s why they voted for Donald Trump. And they would surely rather have even a self-interested billionaire help jazz up the economy than have a penniless socialist promote the kind of anti-job economic policy nostrums favored by The New York Times.

Those are the policies Mr. Trump has said he wants to change, and he is likely to enlist anyone willing to help. Even your local, friendly billionaire.

Love the socks, Carl.

• Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of Citizens for the Republic. He served as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan and was executive editor and chairman of the board of National Review.

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