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Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 in At TMV | 7 comments

Beware of What You Wish For- Big Business and the Republican Congress

In the realm of beware of what you ask for…was the desire of Big Business and its lobbyists, including the Chamber of Commerce, to elect a Republican Congress in 2010, providing millions of dollars that went to support GOP candidates. According to a New York Times article, “the return on investment has not always met expectations.” (http://nyti.ms/Hm2k9s) This may be somewhat of an understatement.

Instead of pursuing legislation that would aid American businesses, enhance economic growth and reduce unemployment, Republican members of Congress have blocked these measures despite the fact they’re supported by corporate lobbyists and pro-business groups. The recalcitrance of these Republican members of Congress stems from their desire to reduce all government spending and cut the size of government. The two measures currently in limbo that businesses would love to see enacted are the transportation bill and authorization for the Export-Import Bank. The virulently anti-tax group, the Club for Growth, whose more appropriate name should be the Club for Stagnation, is opposed to this legislation, and many Republican members of Congress are taking their cues from them. A spokesman for this organization noted “Free market is not always the same as pro-business.”

Though a ninety day extension of the highway transportation trust may be enacted by the House shortly, businesses say that long-term funding is required to start new infrastructure projects that would boost employment and the economy. It is possible that 1.5 million construction workers may be laid off unless funding is authorized. Collection of gasoline taxes would also be stopped, $110 million daily, the money probably going to the oil companies, never to be collected by the government. Speaker Boehner had previously promoted a $260 billion five year bill which was blocked by the Republican caucus and the Senate has already passed a version of the bill with bipartisan support. Currently, the federal government funds transportation spending to the tune of $51 billion annually, with each billion responsible for 30,000 jobs.

The Export-Import Bank lends money to foreign entities to purchase American products and has been an important factor in American sales abroad since 1934, its charter due to lapse in May. U.S. exports have been thriving during the economic recovery. However, American goods would be at a competitive disadvantage without Export-Import Bank financing as other countries are willing to provide this kind of backing for their exporters. The Club for Growth opposes the Bank as an anomaly in the free market system, wanting lending to be a private function and unwilling to support the Bank as a necessity when other countries employ their funds to undermine our exporters. Rigid ideologues can not fathom pragmatic solutions to problems, dealing only in absolutes. The president of the National Association of Manufacturers, who contributed significant sums to Republican candidates in the last election cycle, had harsh words for opponents of the Bank, but these may fall on deaf ears.

Whether the extreme right-wing conservatives will eventually relent and support these two bills in the House remains to be seen. The American economy will lose if they do not, with both business and workers suffering.

Resurrecting Democracy

em>A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.