A winning message for the GOP: Separate big business and state

Barack Obama

Republicans are poised for another successful mid-term election, the reasons for which are voter dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. In other words, voters are, to this point, flocking to Republicans not because of any agenda they’ve put forward, but rather because they’re the lesser of two evils on the ballot.

After 50-plus votes to repeal, delay, or defund the law, voters know that Republicans oppose Obamacare, though, the haven’t yet seen party leaders rollout out a replacement. They know that the GOP believes in limited government, fewer taxes and regulation, but leaders haven’t effectively communicated that message to the public.

There are some conservatives, however, who are pushing the party to adopt a positive reform agenda, one that advances opportunities for all Americans. One of the most notable aspects of this message is that it targets cronyism — the collusion between government and big business that rips off taxpayers through bailouts and subsidies.

Among the issues that Republicans could use to advance this message with voters are the Obamacare’s $5.5 billion bailout for health insurance companies and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, known as “Boeing’s Bank,” which is seeking to raise its borrowing limit to $610 billion over the next four years.

Today in Liberty: Obamacare’s missing Millennials, data review urges privacy law reform

“The strongest continuous thread in America’s political tradition is skepticism about government.” — George Will

— Just 28 percent of Obamacare enrollees are Millennials: The Obama administration finished first Obamacare open enrollment period far short of its target for 18 to 34-year-olds. The administration estimated that it needed between 38 to 40 percent of enrollments to be from Millennials for the risk pools to be sustainable. It got 28 percent. “The administration is still touting 8 million sign-ups—technically 8.019 million—when the official open enrollment period of October 2013 through March 2014 is combined with stragglers who came in during the special enrollment period through April 19,” Peter Suderman explains, based on the latest figures. “It’s still the case that just 28 percent of those sign-ups were between the ages of 18 and 34, far short of the administration’s target of 39 percent. State-by-state variation remains significant, with some states seeing robust sign-up activity and others posting relatively weak numbers.”

Brian Ellis: A case study in cronyism

Brian Ellis

Conservatives are working to change the narrative about the Republican Party. For too long, they say, the GOP has been viewed as the “party of big business,” one that often gives taxpayer-funded handouts to corporations.

Among those working to change the perceptions about the Republican Party is Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). The two-term constitutional conservative frequently votes against measures that give bailouts and handouts corporations that he feels should stand on their on own merits, not on the backs of taxpayers.

Amash’s opposition to corporate welfare and cronyism has made him a target of the establishment. His political opponents drafted a primary challenger to run against him this cycle, Brian Ellis, and heavily funded his campaign.

To put it in simple terms, the establishment wants a “yes man,” someone who will represent their interests in Washington, not those of the residents of Michigan’s Third Congressional District.

Ellis has taken aimed at Amash’s voting record, telling The Weekly Standard in December that “[Amash has] got his explanations for why he’s voted, but I don’t really care. I’m a businessman, I look at the bottom line.”

He must mean the “bottom line” for his crony friends.

A look at Ellis’ record from his time on the Michigan Strategic Fund reveals that he voted to give away tens of millions of taxpayers dollars to corporations, according to an audit conducted by Amash’s campaign. In fact, in 2006, Ellis voted 100 percent of the time with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI).

Here we go again: Congress is trying to pick winners and losers in the marketplace

Sheldon Adelson

The bill introduced by one of the least popular Republican lawmakers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, has been hit by a series of different sources that have been standing in opposition to the protectionist bill that would favor casinos over online gambling industry, putting the government yet again in the role of picking winners and losers.

A coalition of conservative groups has fired off a letter to congressional leaders in opposition to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would ban online gambling, calling the measure “a broad overreach by the federal government over matters traditionally reserved for the states.”

The legislation, S. 2159 and H.R. 4301, is backed by Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Republicans such as Sen. Graham himself. The bill is also backed by a coalition he started that included what The Washington Post reported as an army of lawyers and lobbyists to make sure that the bill passes in both chambers.

When leaders of a certain industry come together with lawmakers, it means that the very existence of competitors could soon enough pose a risk. While making poorly constructed arguments in an attempt to win over some hearts and minds, Adelson could never make the moral or financial case to support the ban on online gambling.

Export-Import Bank seeks billions more to fund cronyist operations

The Export-Import Bank has formerly requested reauthorization from Congress, and the controversial agency is seeking more money at a time when its ties to politically connected businesses are facing scrutiny from conservatives.

The reauthorization bill that has been presented to the House Financial Services Committee seeks to raise the Ex-Im Bank’s lending cap to $160 billion by 2018.

The bank’s activities have made passage of reauthorization an uphill battle. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) seems poised to bury the agency, which, he says, is the “face of cronyism.”

“I have always believed that re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank is a bad idea. In many respects, it’s the face of cronyism. So I was surprised, but not shocked, to see the bank ask Congress to raise its lending cap by $20 billion, to $160 billion,” Hensarling said in a statement on Friday. “Only in Washington can a taxpayer-subsidized program whose only purpose is to pick winners and losers ‘fail upward’ by requesting more money.”

Today in Liberty: IRS tracking license plates, Amash outraises primary opponent

“People acting in their own self-interest is the fuel for all the discovery, innovation, and prosperity that powers the world.” — John Stossel

— IRS among agencies using license plate-tracking: Several federal agencies, including the IRS, have contracted with vendors to use license plate-tracking technology. “Bloomberg News reported that the IRS and other government agencies awarded about $415,000 in contracts to Livermore, Calif.-based Vigilant Solutions before the Department of Homeland Security dropped a plan for similar work after privacy concerns were raised,” Fox News reports. “The Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, DHS and U.S. Marshals Service have also awarded contracts to Vigilant for access to its records or tracking tools, according to the report.” There are obviously some big issues with this. “These systems treat every single person in an area as if they’re under investigation for a crime,” said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with EFF, “that is not the way our criminal justice system was set up or the way things work in a democratic society.”

Today in Liberty: Republicans must take on cronyism, national ID making a comeback

“If the grassroots, conservative activists, and tea parties are going to change Washington, they must change the GOP. To change the GOP, its incumbent faces must be changed. These are the three incumbent races that matter most. Right now, the grassroots are behind. They have to make up ground.”Erick Erickson

— Democrats apparently serious about Sebelius: It’s not a joke, folks. Democrats are serious about their efforts to draft former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas. “I can’t think of a person who’s in a better position to defend Obamacare than Sebelius,” a Democratic strategist told The Hill. “If she runs and she becomes a viable and serious candidate for Senate, that really throws a wrench into the Republicans’ playbook and certainly their narrative that there’s this kryptonite out there called Obamacare.” People closest to Sebelius doubt she’ll run, largely because it’s just too soon after her tumultuous tenure in the Obama administration. Also, President Obama and Obamacare just aren’t that popular in Kansas.

Mike Lee: Republicans must take on corporate welfare

One of the biggest, most crucial tests facing the Republican Party are its ties to big business and unwillingness to, for example, end taxpayer-funded subsidies to favored industries. After all, most GOP politicians say, “it’s good for business,” all while cashing checks from lobbyists for their campaigns.

These policies, part of a $1.2 trillion corporate welfare culture, distort the market, allowing the government pick winners and losers. It gives Republicans the unfortunate, though not undeserved image of being in the tank for rich special interests. Sorry, but the “Democrats do it, too!” line doesn’t work, though it is very true.

In an editorial yesterday at National Review, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explained that Republicans have an opportunity to take a step toward shedding this image when the reauthorization for the Export-Import Bank comes up for a vote.

“The Ex-Im Bank exists to dole out taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to help American exporters,” Lee wrote. “Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world.”

“Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant,” he explained. “Twisting policy to benefit any business at the expense of others is unfair and anti-growth.”

State legislatures push back against online gambling ban

online gambling

The proposal to ban online gambling introduced at the behest of casino owner and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson has been met with opposition from the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group that serves legislators across the country.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the proposal, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301 and S. 2159), in their respective chambers at the end of March. While the supporters are making this out to be some sort of moral crusade, Adelson is using his money and influence to protect brick-and-mortar casinos from competition.

But the National Conference of State Legislatures is pushing back against the measure, telling federal lawmakers that regulation of online gambling should be left up to state lawmakers:

In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, the bipartisan group said the push would amount to the federal government usurping the role of the states to decide the legality of gambling online.

Taxpayers on the hook for $1.2 trillion in corporate welfare since 2000

When we think about welfare, most of us think about government programs aimed at reducing poverty. While we point out that the poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged since the “war on poverty” began in 1964, despite spending $12 trillion, we tend to ignore the money spent on corporate welfare.

Most Republicans turn a blind eye to corporate welfare, after all, they say, it’s “good for business.” But what’s good for business isn’t always good for taxpayers. Writing at National Review, Stephen Moore points us to a study showing that the federal government has doled out $1.2 trillion in corporate welfare over since 2000, a figure that doesn’t even scratch the surface given the pervasiveness of bailouts and subsidies for favored, politically-connected industries:

This week an Illinois-based watchdog group, Open the Books, issued a new report that scrupulously tallies up all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies flowing to individuals and companies. It examined all accounts from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Transportation and found that corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to the Fortune 100 companies, from 2000 to 2012, amounted to $1.2 trillion. I recommend a visit to the website, if you can stomach it.

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