Senator Mike Lee at the Freedom Summit, Manchester, April 12, 2014
If you think critique of Big Business is a left-wing phenomenon then think again.
Two Senators who are testing the waters for Presidential runs, and a prominent Republican Representative, have been talking about “corporate cronyism” and “crony capitalism” in recent presentations at The Heritage Foundation of all places.
Speaking at the conservative “think tank” on April 30, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) issued a blast at “America’s growing crisis of crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and policy privilege.”
“The free enterprise system is based on the fundamental equality of opportunity for all—to succeed and to fail—on a level playing field, but cronyism cements the status of the politically well-connected, making it easier for favored special interests to succeed and harder for their competitors to get a fair shot. As a result, honest small business owners, would-be employees, and investors are unfairly kept on the sidelines of a rigged game,” Senator Lee went on.
Senator Lee has made at least one visit to New Hampshire, site of the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary. At Americans for the Prosperous’ “Freedom Summit” in April he gave a rather tepid speech in which he said Republicans “have to stop talking like Ronald Reagan and start acting like him.”
His Heritage appearance was more interesting:
Cronyist policies come in many shapes and sizes—from subsidies and loan guarantees to tax loopholes and protective regulations—but they all work the same way: The elite leaders of big government, big business, and big special interests collude to help each other climb to the highest rungs of success, and then pull up the ladder behind them.
Senator Lee is not the only one talking like that.
In an appearance before the Rockingham County Republicans in New Castle, New Hampshire on May 9, Senator Marco Rubio issued his own blast at greedy capitalists.
As reported by Fox News Latino the Cuban-American Senator from Florida said “Big companies may not like big government, but they can afford to deal with it. They can hire the best lobbyist in Washington to help write those regulations. They can hire the best lawyers in America to find loopholes in those regulations. But if you’re starting a new business out of the spare bedroom in your home you can’t do that.”
Like Lee and a host of others, Senator Rubio is a contender for the GOP Presidential nomination.
“Subsidies, tax preferences, and political influence”
Rep. Hensarling (R-Texas), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, was another recent visitor to Heritage, where he said “The Main Street competitive economy relies upon hard work, creativity, perseverance and ‘can do’ optimism to create wealth,” while “the Washington insider economy, in contrast, relies on earmarks, regulatory barriers to entry, subsidies, tax preferences, and political influence.”
Rep. Hensarling devoted much of his Heritage speech to criticism of the Export-Import Bank as the epitome of the “Washington insider economy.”
Created in 1934 to boost the U.S. economy by financing foreign purchases of U.S.-made goods, the Ex-Im Bank has earned its place as a focus of criticism. For example, as a long article in a recent issue of The Nation describes, the Ex-Im Bank was behind the financing of a controversial ExxonMobil mining project in New Guinea, where a landslide cascaded 2 million tons of rocks and mud onto a village two years ago, killing at least 27 people. The limestone quarry, where the fatal landslide originated, was part of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project financed by a $3 billion Ex-Im Bank loan.
Ian T. Shearn writes:
This massive government loan to the ExxonMobil-led project was issued despite sharp rhetoric from the Obama administration on climate change. Indeed, the loan was approved by the administration just four days before the president delivered his address to the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. “As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second-largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change,” Obama said then. “That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies.”
The PNG LNG loan was hardly the only exception to the president’s stated position. Since Obama took office, the Export-Import Bank has invested more than $27 billion in fossil-fuel endeavors, while lending less than $2 billion to clean-energy projects.
As the Presidential campaign heats up, alongside a growing movement of citizens concerned about the floods of corporate cash washing through the election system, it will be interesting to see whether populist attacks on Big Business find a secure home in the GOP. Maybe we’ll even see some Republican Senators at the NH Rebellion march July 5.