Taxpayer Money: The Glue That Binds the Friendship Between Politicians and Their Cronies
This year, conservatives are building momentum to tackle and combat cronyism. Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham penned a Fox News op-ed that puts the fight against cronyism at the center of the conservative movement’s agenda. “Conservatives must put forward an anti-cronyism, anti-corporate welfare agenda that uplifts all Americans, not just the elites,” he argued.
So what is cronyism and how does it affect us? If you’re not one of the cronies, you have reason to be concerned.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines cronyism as “the unfair practice by a powerful person (such as a politician) of giving jobs and other favors to friends.” It’s a special relationship of favors between politicians and their cronies.
Cronyism defined this way might not infuriate us, that is, until its fuller meaning is unveiled — until we see how cronyism permeates Washington and how it affects us personally. When politicians engage in cronyism to help out their well-connected friends, that’s not the end of the story. Cronyism also harms some other person or group of people.
Why? Cronies get special treatment, which puts them at an unfair advantage with their competitors. And in the case of politics, their competitors are all the folks not getting said special treatment.
Not only are we not getting special treatment; we’re paying for it.
As taxpayers, we’re subsidizing politicians’ cronies via taxpayer-backed Export-Import Bank loans.
As consumers, we suffer the effects of cronyism when the federal government keeps competitors out of the education market, artificially inflating the price of education.
As taxpayers, we suffer the effects of cronyism when billions of our taxpayer dollars are dolled out to the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers.
Politicians give a portion of our hard-earned paycheck to their cronies — a particular company or industry — in the form of direct or indirect subsidies or special tax treatment. This is corporate welfare, a form of cronyism whereby large corporations and businesses get special favors from politicians.
The politicians, in turn, are funded by their cronies, who donate money to their reelection campaigns in exchange for the favorable, taxpayer-funded treatment.
In a speech at the Heritage Foundation earlier this week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% said this of cronyism:
Like a black hole, cronyism bends the economy toward the state, inexorably shifting wealth and opportunity from the public to policymakers. The more power government amasses, the more privileges are bestowed on the government’s friends, the more businesses invest in influence instead of innovation, the more advantages accrue to the biggest special interests with the most to spend on politics and the most to lose from fair competition.
After all, cronyism has been the norm throughout human history. Friends of the king have always prospered. What makes free enterprise special is that it allows everybody else to prosper, too.
By nature, cronyism springs from the progressive ideology. “Properly considered, there is no such thing as a conservative special interest,” Lee said. “It’s progressives who slice the country into politically assigned subgroups, manipulating cooperative citizens into selfish special interests. It’s big government that divides us – picking ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.'”
For the sake of taxpayers, consumer, students, investors, and entrepreneurs who don’t get political favors, conservatives need to end the cycle of cronyism in Washington.