Being “pro-business” and “pro-market” are not the same things.
Pro-market officeholders create conditions which encourage economic growth for everyone. Pro-business politicians twist public policy to unfairly favor specific business interests, often at the expense of competitors and consumers, especially the poor and middle class.
A late October poll found that a majority of Americans had soured on the market consequences of “Middle Class Joe” Biden’s and Washington Democrats’ agenda. Their belief that Democrats disregard America’s middle class influenced midterm election results in the U.S. House of Representatives where, if it’s smart (a big “if”), a Republican majority will begin proposing genuine alternatives.
The GOP and business community should be enthusiastic supporters of pro-market policies, but “Big Business,” generally, prefers government cash and favors.
Corporate/industry associations and lobbyists encourage Congress to spend indiscriminately, think their members/clients are entitled to extra spending and insist it’s good for the nation when officials in either party ignore pro-market, fiscal conservatives.
Trade groups support “business-friendly candidates,” that is, candidates who are willing to ignore budgetary concerns and direct government money toward private businesses/industries.
This “marriage” of government officials and special interests is known as “crony capitalism.”
Years ago, watchdog organization Open the Books issued a report estimating all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and subsidies for Fortune 100 companies between 2000 and 2012 at $1.2 trillion. Open the Books’ most recent published findings in 2019 estimated total subsidies over the prior eighteen years at $1.8 trillion-plus.
Cronyism didn’t stop in 2019.
Only Republicans bear the stigma of “the party of Big Business,” even though, for years, Big Business, generally, has taken Republican support for granted, begun yielding to pressure from outside activists and/or their own liberal employees, gotten increasingly involved in “woke” social and political issues, and become cronies of and election influencers and campaign cash ATMs for the Democrats who reward them.
Those increasingly adversarial influences alone should encourage GOP office-holders to reject cronyism, especially in a flat economy.
“Pro-business policies,” as Big Business defines them, restrict innovation, growth, and make job creation for middle class entrepreneurs and workers less likely.
Furthermore, the longer America remains economically stagnant, the more favorable the political climate becomes for leftist demagogues to redistribute wealth, a phenomenon that always imposes a dampening effect on the overall economy.
In that context, in addition to being lousy politics, Republican cronyism would be bad for America.
Republicans should take public opinion seriously, and work toward eliminating corporate welfare, including cutting unnecessary military spending on unwanted weapons systems.
Republicans who claim “fiscal responsibility,” but fail to consider those savings, among others, cannot be taken seriously.
Ironically, if Republicans do those things, some of the loudest protests will come from Big Business-owned, crony-capitalist Democrats.
At least one Republican has the formula.
U.S. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, has always delivered strong, persuasive messages against crony capitalism.
Lee routinely identifies specific instances and explains why cronyism is contrary to free markets and conservative fiscal policy.
He has cited, among many other examples, federal financial regulations, sugar protectionism, farm subsidies, public education and Obamacare.
Lee has also detailed effective policies to combat cronyism, including tax, budget, and regulatory reform, ending “too big to fail” policies and special tax treatment for the energy sector, protecting taxpayers from business bailouts, and modernizing federal labor laws that favor labor cronies.
Lee: “Americans intuitively understand that crony capitalism is not a form of private enterprise, it’s a form of public corruption.”
And: “It seems to me that a principled, positive agenda to remove government-created barriers to upward mobility and middle-class opportunity – to level our economic playing field and put economic elites back to work creating jobs and growth for everyone else – represents everything conservatism should stand for.”
Lee is right. If the tax code were simplified – preferably flattened – federal regulations rationalized, existing immigration laws enforced, and “public service” union monopolies, congressional earmarks and no-bid contracts abolished, federal lobbyists and industry/trade/labor groups would have nothing left for which to lobby, and become extinct.
Will a middle class-friendly GOP emerge, re-embrace its traditional principles, and be the party of pro-market innovation and reform?
Or will the Republican establishment preserve corrupt perversions of free market capitalism, the government/private “partnerships” that abuse public trust and treasure, and reward a privileged few at the expense of everyone else?
America is watching…