by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Conservatives are the ones coming up with new ideas on how to improve the fortunes of middle-class America — but, as it stands, the plans are incomplete. A comprehensive strategy to boost the middle class has to include an aggressive assault on political corruption.
Every year, the government wastes an obscene amount of money through corrupt public policies. And let’s be careful with our terms here. If we think of corruption merely as illegal activity, we’re defining it too narrowly. As I argue in my new book, A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption, the better way to understand it is as James Madison might have. In Federalist 10, he worried about the “violence of faction,” which he defined as a group “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
This is all too common in public policy. From farm subsidies to Medicare, regulatory policy to the tax code, and highway spending to corporate welfare, our government does violence to the public interest by rewarding the interest groups that lobby it aggressively. The total price tag every year extends into the tens of billions of dollars — and beyond.
Of course, these policies are inevitably disguised as helping the country at large, or some sympathetic group. Maybe it’s the struggling family farm, or the senior citizen who can’t pay his medical bills, or the small business in need of a loan. But the rhetoric does not match reality. When you look more closely at federal policy, you see just how regularly it works against the public interest.