Free-market fakers

Republicans claim they are the party of the free market. It’s too bad they don’t act that way.

The House vote a few weeks ago for a pork-laden farm bill exposed the GOP’s “free-market” hypocrisy, as most Republicans voted for protectionist measures, government-mandated price supports and tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for giant agribusinesses. Stripping out food stamps, which go primarily to the poor, simply made it easier for them to reward the Republican-heavy agricultural industry. But that is not an isolated incident.

The same Republicans who whine about the regulatory burden faced by business have been happy to impose a new one — the costly E-Verify system. The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that E-Verify, intended to screen out undocumented workers, will cost employers $6.9 billion a year. That’s bad news for businesses trying to hire good workers — and great news for the scores of immigration lawyers being scooped up by the nation’s top 250 law firms to help their clients navigate this new regulatory minefield. 

Speaking of immigration, the border protection amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill was a veritable giveaway to the defense industry, mandating the purchase of extremely specific equipment, such as six VADER radar systems, 17 UH-1N and 10 Blackhawk helicopters, eight C206H aircraft upgrades, and more. No open-market competitive bidding process is considered necessary when Republicans reward their defense industry donors. Heck, the entire military-industrial complex wouldn’t exist without Republican-fueled government largess.

In North Carolina, Republicans are pushing legislation championed by the state’s auto dealers that would prohibit electric car manufacturer Tesla from selling their cars directly to consumers. The dealers claim that consumers benefit from having sleazy middlemen in the process.

But if that’s the case, the market will continue to reward them with business. If Republicans actually cared about “free markets,” they wouldn’t use coercive state power to force manufacturers and consumers to go through unnecessary middlemen to buy and sell cars.

Southern Republicans, quick to claim reverence for the fabled free market, have responded most negatively to a proposal by the administration to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority. Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), among other regional Republicans, worried that it might no longer “deliver affordable electricity” if privatized — an inadvertent admission that even he believes the government can deliver better service and value than private industry. Oops!

Attempts by the U.S. Post Office to end Saturday delivery, as another example,  were squashed by the Republican House, preventing the Postal Service from responding to changing market conditions (and an operating deficit almost entirely created by congressional meddling).

Republicans remain illogically committed to subsidizing the insanely profitable oil industry to the tune of billions each year. They continue to protect the pharmaceutical industry by preventing the re-importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. They back “right-to-work” laws that prohibit employers from entering into arms-length hiring agreements with unions. They are absent on intellectual property reform, where the patent system has been abused to stifle innovation and move corporate competition from the market to the courtroom. In fact, a promising proposal by the Republican Study Committee last November was recanted just a day later because of irate industry lobbyists.

Republicans aren’t genuine champions of the free market. They are just as happy to meddle, subsidize and regulate as anyone else if it helps lock in campaign contributions, cheer the right lobbyists and grease the way for cushy post-electoral gigs on K Street. The only difference is that they pretend otherwise. 

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (