Who is happiest with President Obama’s nominees to head the EPA (Gina McCarthy) and the Energy Department (Ernest Moniz)? As Tim Carney explains, it’s neither environmentalists on the left nor free marketeers on the right, but the lobby groups that seek as many beneficial — for their corporate members — government subsidies and mandates as possible:
Although Obama regularly talks about ending “corporate welfare,” battling the “special interests” and creating a “level playing field,” he has steadfastly supported government favors for the ethanol industry — favors that increase costs for drivers, taxpayers, ranchers and grocery shoppers.
The Solar Energy Industries Association also applauded Obama’s nomination of McCarthy and Moniz. Solar companies profit from a production tax credit that Obama recently fought to extend, and a plethora of stimulus subsidies such as loan guarantees, tax credits and grants.
Check who’s investing big in solar energy, and you’ll notice a lot of politically connected names, such as Al Gore, Warren Buffett and Vinod Khosla.
And this is not a new thing for the president, Carney notes:
Obama never has been anti-business. His stimulus amounted to billions in corporate subsidies. His health care bill is a boon to hospitals and drug-makers. He was the most important supporter of Bush’s bailout outside the Bush administration in 2008.
Carney’s right. Obama isn’t anti-business. He’s anti-markets.
As I have written before, both liberals and conservatives need to recognize the nexus of Big Government and Big Business is more problematic than either one on its own. Democrats and Republicans both have a bad tendency to scold the industries they don’t like while protecting the ones they do.
Big Green Energy is one industry the Democrats definitely like. As Carney puts it, the idea is: “Politicians and bureaucrats tell business what to do, and business gets to make a profit doing it.”
But only the biggest businesses benefit from that arrangement: Only they can afford the lobbyists who help shape the legislation and absorb the costs the legislation foists on them. The upside for them is they become further entrenched in their markets, keeping smaller competitors at bay and, in some cases, virtually guaranteeing themselves profits. That builds up a lot of economic sclerosis over time, and it’s one reason America has lost some of its competitive edge.
The good news is that our economy is still dynamic enough — as opposed to, say, many of those in continental Europe — to overcome that sclerosis if we start to unwind that Big Government/Big Business relationship. Obama’s nominees for EPA and Energy suggest that won’t be happening in the next four years. The GOP would do well to spend that time changing its own M.O.
– By Kyle Wingfield