James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Paul Ryan and free-market populism

May 20, 2010 18:19 UTC

Over at RealClearPolitics, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin further fleshes out the emerging “free-market populism” meme beginning to emerge in the GOP:

From an ideological perspective, big government can combine with big business to advance a more progressivist society. For self-described “progressives,” the agenda is straightforward: expand government; co-opt big business; direct the capital markets from Washington to pursue “social justice.” Think Fannie and Freddie by much higher orders of magnitude.

Over the past decade, the thinking has been much less clear for conservatives. Being “pro-market” has been fundamentally confused with “pro-business.” Conservatives who came to Congress to defend and promote free enterprise have often been led to believe that pathway lies in bolstering established firms as they navigate the maze of government regulations and taxes. These instincts are correct, but the implementation is often flawed. All too often, the results of these efforts have been to exacerbate crony capitalism – erecting barriers to entry against potential competitors to firms that are currently on top.

For their part, companies seeking such protection have a right to pursue their narrow self-interest; but when these actions involve reducing open competition and transparency for short term gain, they do so to the detriment of the very free enterprise system that made their success possible.

Me: I can see this manifesting in a number of ways, from attacks on corporate welfare to more explicit calls to diffuse financial power. And it would seem to be in the sweet spot of folks like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Pat Toomey. This is also a group that would be willing to call for radical change in the U.S. entitlement system.

A ‘new’ GOP on its way?

May 20, 2010 18:10 UTC

So says Mr. Lawrence Kudlow:

A new tea party center is forming in the Republican Senate caucus. It will be the first Reagan nucleus in many years, one that will give the GOP a strong limited-government, cut-spending, low-tax-rate, stop-government-controls, and end-Bailout Nation message that will have clarity and gusto and will reverberate throughout the country.

Here’s how it’s going to work: Rand Paul will grab the Senate seat in Kentucky. Marco Rubio will take Florida. Mike Lee will win in Utah. Pat Toomey will finally prevail in Pennsylvania. And Carly Fiorina will knock off Barbara Boxer in California.

Yup. That’s how I see it. And this new tea-party Senate nucleus will join free-market stalwarts like Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Jon Kyl, Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, and John Thune. I’m probably leaving somebody out in the Senate, and I apologize in advance. But that’s what I’m thinking. It’s a pity Judd Gregg is retiring; he could be part of that group also.

This will be a reformist nucleus, tackling spending, taxes, and even monetary and currency policy. It will unabashedly propose free-market reforms to replace the Obama welfare state and to finally curb the avalanche of debt creation.


It’s interesting that anybody might see virtue in coalescing with the likes of Jim de Mint who is one of biggest scenery-chewing scam artists in political history.

If that’s the best the GOP has going for it, then they’d better be stocking up on industrial-strength deodorant.

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The politics of the bailout

Nov 23, 2009 19:33 UTC

From the Times:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn told the CBI annual conference of business leaders that another huge call on public finances by the financial services sector would not be tolerated by the “man in the street” and could even threaten democracy.

“Most advanced economies will not accept any more [bailouts]…The political reaction will be very strong, putting some democracies at risk,” he told delegates.

“I do believe that the financial sector needs to contribute both to the costs of the financial crisis and to reduce recourse to public funds in the future,” he said.

Me: In the US, TARP and bailouts are already transforming the political landscape, giving rise to the Tea Party movement and creating anti-Wall Street sentiment on the left and right.