Why are anti-establishment Republicans embracing the special interest racket of Washington, D.C.?
In 2016, candidate Donald J. Trump ran on a promise to drain ‘the swamp’. Since then, the term has become an all-purpose epithet, used by the MAGA faithful to flay elites of both parties, the special-interest groups that rule Washington, and government in general.
According to Pew, public trust in government has been at or below 20 percent since the end of the George W. Bush administration. Like earlier dips, the current one began with a combination of foreign war followed by recession at home, but this time there was no recovery. America’s democratic institutions may be suffering the worst crisis of legitimacy in the modern era.
Why this has happened is anyone’s guess, but a good place to look is the constitutional transformation that a century of progressivism has wrought. In the New Deal, progressives jettisoned the Constitution’s framework of limited and enumerated powers for a national government of consolidated and virtually unlimited powers. That has not only made every issue a matter of national majority rule, it also maximized the number of people who are unhappy with the end result.
Worse, in order for government to be able to redistribute wealth among various groups, it has become a free-for-all of rent-seeking special interests whose general preference is for government-created cartels designed to transfer wealth from unsuspecting working families to themselves.
That truly is an apt definition of ‘the swamp.’ Curiously, however, the very Republicans who tend to most bewail ‘the swamp’ are increasingly prone to embrace the policies that created it in the first place.
Their fatal error is to think that creating cartels for American companies helps American workers and puts ‘America First.’ It is the same misdiagnosis that leads people to blame the Rust Belt and dying communities of Appalachia on globalization and free trade when the real culprit was progressive regulation and taxation that chased both capital and labor away.
Hence the spectacle of supposedly anti-swamp Republicans shilling for every special interest racket with lobbyists in Washington. Consider the Jones Act, the sugar program, and the ethanol program, to name just three. These programs, all of which would be criminal violations of the antitrust laws if the government wasn’t part of the conspiracy, are simply frauds on the public. To defend them on ‘made in America’ grounds is to aid and abet a fraud against working class people who don’t realize they’re being taken advantage of.
The Jones Act has ruined America’s shipbuilding industry, for the benefit of a dwindling number of decrepit shipyards. It deprives the Navy of the vital benefit of an industrial-technological base, forcing it essentially into Soviet-style procurement where everything needs to be designed and built from scratch.
The sugar program’s throttling of production is so effective in transferring wealth from consumers to sugar producers that the law’s backstop appropriations are never triggered, with the result that the Congressional Budget Office is able to score the bill as costing taxpayers nothing, when in fact it costs them far more than if the subsidy for sugar producers were actually in the budget.
The ethanol program has led to an area the size of the state of Michigan being devoted to the production of corn ethanol instead of food, producing a fuel that is terrible for cars and for the environment and raises the cost of both food and gasoline.
Read the full article at Real Clear Policy.