by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For the first time in the Obama era, lobbyists are giving more money to Republicans than to Democrats. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that Republicans have received $12.4 million from lobbyists to the Democrats’ $11.3 million. This is a huge shift — over the past three elections, Democrats pocketed more than 58 percent of lobbyist donations.
Meanwhile, Joni Ernst of Iowa, a top Republican Senate prospect in a tight race, is on the record favoring ethanol subsidies and the Export-Import Bank.
This is not the path for appealing to middle-class voters — something Mitt Romney failed to do. Republicans, to win the White House, will need policies that concretely help average people (such as cutting the payroll tax). But a big part of this effort could be waging war on corporate welfare.
If Republicans decide that they really believe in all that free-market talk, and they train their sights on corporate welfare, they’ll find a target-rich environment.
First, all Republicans should follow the lead of North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis. [Emphasis added.] Although he has something of a corporatist reputation among Carolina conservatives, he is campaigning on killing Ex-Im, which subsidizes foreign buyers of U.S. goods at taxpayer expense. Ex-Im has a sister agency, OPIC, which is even less defensible: It subsidizes U.S. companies who set up businesses overseas.
Bobby Jindal laid down the marker for Republican presidential candidates on Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation, when he called for phasing out the ethanol mandate. No pandering to Iowa there. The Republican Senate could start the ethanol fight in January, pointing out that the mandate raises food prices and sometimes gasoline prices, while reducing fuel efficiency.
Beyond Ex-Im and ethanol, the third member of the unholy trinity of corporate welfare is the sugar program. This program drives up prices for shoppers and U.S. candymakers, while benefiting only a few politically connected businessmen.
Crop insurance, terrorism reinsurance, and bans on oil and natural gas exporting are all special-interest big-government programs that hurt the U.S. economy on the whole.