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Nobody despises free markets like the GOP

By Dan Gorry
On March 25, 2014

If there is one thing that the modern Republican Party predicates its overarching ideology upon, it would have to be their supposed preservation of free market principles. Whether they be socially conservative or liberal, all GOP politicians have had to conform to the standards set by the party's Philosopher-King, Ronald Reagan, when he said in his first inaugural address, "government is not the solution to the problem; it is the problem." Since then, one would be hard pressed to find a single politician from the GOP who does not parrot this philosophy in some form. But in reality, the actions of the Republican Party demonstrate a pattern of outright rejection of free market principles, even going back to Reagan himself.
 Let's start with Reagan. As Sheldon L. Richman points out in October 1988, Reagan's initial 1980 platform was predominately geared toward cutting the rampant spending of Jimmy Carter's administration, which had totaled 27.9 percent of national income. Yet, after having enjoyed eight continuous years in office to fulfill his promise, the first quarter federal spending of Reagan's administration in 1988 was 28.7 percent of national income. In nominal terms, federal spending under Reagan increased a whopping 60 percent, and some $22 billion of the growing federal budget was spent on military aid primarily for Latin American dictators like Rios Montt or Augusto Pinochet-both of whom are guilty of egregious human rights violations. The portion of imports subject to restriction doubled under Reagan, making him the most protectionist President since Herbert Hoover. It took 31 years for the national debt to triple for the first time in the postwar period, but Reagan managed to triple it again, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion, in just eight years.
 This blatant rejection of small government and free market principles runs through Reagan's disciples who would come to run the GOP over the next two decades. Take Newt Gingrich, famed Speaker of the House during the Republican Revolution in 1994, a member of the Gang of Seven who pledged to bring accountability and ethics back to the corrupt largesse of Congress in the wake of dual Congressional scandals. Gingrich preached a return to Reaganomics-namely the flowery false promises of free markets, not the real policies-all the while lobbying on behalf of Lockheed Martin Corporation, which owned a plant in Gingrich's congressional district, to inflate the production budget for the C-130J transport plane from $59 million to its final cost of $503 million.
 Republicans' recent rally against free markets is most notable in the arena of automobile manufacturing. Take Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a politician who invokes Reagan's warning against government interference in virtually every talk he gives and his conduct concerning the United Auto Workers' attempt to expand into a new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Even though the UAW had the full backing of Volkswagen, Corker rallied against the union's efforts to provide collective bargaining for autoworkers, and even went so far as to publicly disclose an unsubstantiated promise Volkswagen had allegedly made to him that if the workers rejected unionization, the company would expand the Chattanooga plant for production of a new SUV. Corker's statement runs completely contrary to Volkswagen's multiple public assurances that the union vote would "have no bearing on whether the SUV will be made in Chattanooga," which were assurances made before Corker's promise, and have been repeated since.
 At the same time, Tesla Motors is facing a legislative assault on its innovative business strategy, primarily in red states. Tesla offers customers the option of ordering custom cars straight from Tesla's factories, which effectively cuts out the eight decade old practice of having to purchase automobiles through car salesmen, whose roles as middle men often significantly inflates a car's total purchasing price. Republican-lead majorities in the state legislatures of Texas, Arizona and Virginia have already banned or severely limited Tesla's consumer-friendly business model, whereas governors Chris Christie (R-NJ) and John Kasich (R-OH) are refusing to veto similar bills that would mitigate or outright ban the sale of Tesla's automobiles.
 Whether or not individuals agree on the harms or benefits of free markets, resentment against hypocrisy is ubiquitous amongst the U.S. citizenry, and the facts laid bare concerning Republican policies all display a systematic pattern of contempt toward free market principles. The issue here is not the efficacy of Republican policies, but rather the blatant reality that U.S. voters are being promised one thing and given another.
 


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