"Crony capitalism" and "corporate welfare" are good rhetorical cudgels for politicians to wield, and increasingly Republicans use them against Democrats. But are they more than just rhetoric?
Some liberals argue that complaints about "corporatism" and the like are just vicious smears against Obama.
But these are real phenomena. There are government programs whose purpose is to subsidize large, politically connected companies. If Republicans want their rhetoric about corporate welfare to carry any weight, they've got some opportunities to show it.
Which brings us to an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal:
Here's a neat trick: Ask a room full of congressmen what they think of corporate welfare. The scene will devolve into competing campaign speeches, each politician trying to one-up their peers' rhetoric. Now ask that same room what they think of the federally run Export-Import Bank. You'll only hear crickets — even though the bank is one of Washington's biggest corporate-welfare cash cows.
Congress has a chance to rectify its inconsistency in September, when the Ex-Im Bank comes up for reauthorization. If they're honest, the politicians who decry corporate welfare will let the bank, which authorized $27.3 billion in loans and guarantees in 2013, expire.
This is a real chance for Republicans to do something about corporate welfare, because, you see, Republicans don't actually need to pass anything to kill the Export-Import Bank. They just need to not pass a reauthorization through the House. Then Ex-Im's authority to issue new subsidies would end October 1.
(A confusing fact for those who follow the liberal line on money in politics: The op-ed is written by Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, one of those dreaded Koch brothers-funded groups that liberal writers peg as "pro-corporate" because of their free-enterprise advocacy.
Disclosure: As I've disclosed previously, I've received funding from organizations funded by Koch-backed groups.