| September 4, 2012

Paul Ryan: Free enterprise, not crony capitalism

To the surprise of precisely no one who heard his 2010 speech in Oklahoma City, Paul Ryan knocked it out of the park last week at the Republican National Convention.

One of the things Mr. Ryan mentioned was the Obama stimulus money. “That money wasn’t just spent and wasted—it was borrowed, spent and wasted,” Mr. Ryan said.

It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Ryan has touched on this theme. “We already see enough of ‘crony capitalism’,” he had said in his Oklahoma City speech.

When government sends bailout money to Wall Street firms they label “too big to fail,” that’s crony capitalism. When government buys shares in General Motors, names their management, and dictates their salaries, that's crony capitalism. When big health insurance companies, instead of competing for market share, team up with congressional health care writers to order every individual to buy their products, that’s crony capitalism.

Mr. Ryan had said much the same thing in a 2009 piece, urging Americans to be “pro-market,” not “pro-business.”

Indeed, he said, “we all stand to lose as crony capitalism drains the life from our economy; but we all stand to gain from the fruits that genuine, vigorous, free-market competition provides.”

And then this year in the Financial Times, in a piece entitled “Republicans must return to free-market principles,” he wrote:

The protection of big business remains a common thread in Mr. Obama’s policies, which have come at the expense of the consumer, the taxpayer, and the entrepreneur. A growing coalition of reformers—rooted in citizen movements across the political spectrum—reject this pernicious crony capitalism. Our solutions promote an opportunity society, one that is rooted in the U.S. commitment to free enterprise.

Others are echoing this theme. The Heritage Foundation’s Romina Boccia warned last week that “a system of political favoritism is increasingly encroaching on America’s free-market system.” Arthur Brooks and Daniel Rothschild of the American Enterprise Institute also said crony capitalism is a major threat to our free-enterprise system.

This is playing out right now in Oklahoma. Some of the same crony capitalists (in the health industry, for example) who supported Obamacare are now—unsurprisingly—supporting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It’s really disappointing that some “pro-business” types in our state seem more comfortable with big government and crony capitalism than with free enterprise.

Whether it’s Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or any number of other issues, here’s hoping Oklahoma political leaders are listening to Paul Ryan. We must choose free markets over crony capitalism.

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