Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Republicans now the anti-business-agenda party?

"There's a difference between being pro-business and pro-free market"

Republicans now the anti-business-agenda party?

"Business groups counting on Republican gains in Congress to deliver their legislative agenda are voicing frustration over obstacles within a party usually allied with their interests," writes Bloomberg LP here.

Conservative Republicans backed by the Club for Growth and Tea Party groups want to hack federal spending, root and branch, corporate subsidies as well as Medicaid. They hope reducing taxes and strengthening the dollar will induce private businesses to spend more. But Democrats argue that the GOP's austerity program would shrink the economy (like what's happening in southern Europe), and that it's worth running a deficit, at least for now, if that would boost growth.

That makes Democrats, for now, the friends of government programs big companies have grown to rely on.

According to the Bloomberg story: "Many of the Republicans elected in 2010 lean too heavily toward the demands of the Tea Party and other anti-spending groups," in opposing federal highway funding and the Export-Import Bank, for example, business leaders say.

"Businesses, including Boeing Co. and Caterpillar Inc., count on the Export-Import Bank to provide loans, loan guarantees and insurance to foreign companies to buy U.S.-made products." Club for Growth wants to kill it. Similarly, while truckers, builders and importers are eager for new highway spending, "there are a number of Republican members, particularly new members, who are against the federal government having a large role in transportation issues,” said Pete Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association in Washington, D.C.

"Bruce Josten, top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Tea Party-backed lawmakers have focused the congressional agenda on the deficit and debt." He agrees with that general goal.

But "Josten criticized the anti-spending Club for Growth, which rates lawmakers in part on whether they join it in opposing the highway and bank bills:"“Just saying no to everything is not a contribution to the debate."...

“There’s a difference between being pro-business and being pro-free market,” said Barney Keller, a Club for Growth spokesman. His group wants states to pay a larger share of highway projects and calls the Export-Import bank 'another form of corporate welfare” picking economic winners and losers.

The Club for Growth, formerly headed by Pat Toomey, now US Senator (R-PA), has a "super-political action committe that can raise and spend unlimited amounts in federal elections." It has raised $5.2 million to defeat Republicans like House Energy and Commerce chair Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Senate Foreign Relations veteran Richard Lugar, R-IN, who "don't do enough to curb the size of the government."

The Republican-focused but more mainstream US Chamber of Commerce spends more, but usually waits until the general elections to back party candidates instead of trying to pick off incumbents in the primaries. 

"As Republicans split over business bills, some Democrats say their party may benefit. Tea Party influence leaves congressional Democrats more closely aligned with business interests than Republicans, said Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat."

“The hard right is pretty far away from the mainstream business community,” Schumer told Bloomberg, “and there are many issues where Democrats are closer to them now than the Republican Party because they’ve moved so far to the right.”

“There’s a difference between being pro-business and being pro-free market,” said Barney Keller, a Club for Growth spokesman. His group wants states to pay a larger share of highway projects and calls the Export-Import bank “another form of corporate welfare” picking economic winners and losers.“There’s a difference between being pro-business and being pro-free market,” said Barney Keller, a Club for Growth spokesman. His group wants states to pay a larger share of highway projects and calls the Export-Import bank “another form of corporate welfare” picking economic winners and losers.
Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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