Will Pro-Market Republicans Stand Up?
Being pro-business and pro-market are not the same things.
Pro-market officeholders create conditions which encourage economic growth for everybody. Pro-business politicians twist public policy to unfairly favor specific business interests, often at the expense of consumers and competitors. Of the two parties, Republicans should know the difference.
A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll containing awful news for Democrats on every other issue, revealed that, by 52 to 32 percent, Americans still think Democrats are more concerned about the middle class
If it’s true that "perception is reality in the eye of the perceiver," then Republicans need to change perceptions by exposing or changing the realities — without whitewashing them.
The business community should be enthusiastic supporters of pro-market policies, but many corporations are more interested in government cash and favors from both parties.
They’re delighted that Congress reversed the sequester cuts, think they’re entitled to the extra spending and tell us it’s good for America.
Business/industry lobbyists were equally pleased when U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, challenged pro-market, fiscally conservative grassroots groups.
Last December, The Hill published an article stating: "Speaker Boehner said what a lot of us had been thinking for a long time…’ said one business group lobbyist.
"The pushback by Boehner comes as trade groups are vowing to protect business-friendly candidates in the 2014 elections."
In other words, "business-friendly candidates" — those who direct government money toward private businesses and didn’t fight for the budget – will benefit from the financial support of trade groups.
In March, an Illinois-based watchdog organization, Open the Books, issued a report tallying all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies going to businesses.
It reported that, from 2000 to 2012, corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to just the Fortune 100 companies totaled $1.2 trillion.
Both Democrats and Republicans engage in crony capitalism. But only Republicans, reputedly "the party of millionaires and billionaires," seem damaged by it, even though nobody has been more guilty than Democrats of backing cronies while creating lots of millionaire and billionaire campaign cash-dispensers.
Nonetheless, public perceptions should encourage GOP office-holders to reject cronyism, especially in flat economies.
Pro-business policies restrict innovation and growth and make entrepreneurial job creation less likely.
Furthermore, the longer America remains economically stagnant, the more favorable the political climate becomes for leftist populist demagogues to redistribute wealth – conditions having an even worse dampening effect on the economy.
In that context, in addition to being bad for America, cronyism is lousy politics for Republicans.
To change public opinion, Republicans should reconsider some sacred cows: eliminate corporate welfare and cut unnecessary military spending — including top-heavy commands and unwanted weapons systems.
If they won’t consider those savings, among others, Republicans cannot be taken seriously when claiming "fiscal responsibility."
Ironically, if Republicans begin doing those things, reality will intrude: The loudest protests will come from Democrats whose generous cronies will suffer, too.
Republicans have the formula, or, at least, one Republican does.
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently delivered a strong, persuasive message against crony capitalism.
In his speech, Lee identified specific instances of cronyism and explained why cronyism is contrary to free markets and true conservatism.
He cited, among other examples, federal financial regulations, sugar protectionism, farm subsidies, public education and Obamacare.
Lee also listed 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 health-insurer "risk corridor" bailouts in Obamacare and modernizing federal labor laws which favor labor cronies.
Lee said: "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’s right. If the tax code were simplified – preferably flattened – federal regulations rationalized, existing immigration laws enforced and congressional earmarks and no-bid contracts abolished, with nothing left to lobby for other than to preserve free markets, federal lobbyists and industry/trade groups might become extinct.
Can the GOP re-embrace its traditional principles and again be the party of pro-market innovation and reform?
Or will the Republican establishment preserve corporate welfare and continue to resist principled pro-market conservatives?