THE STUMP OCTOBER 10, 2011
Recently, I asked whether Republican voters would care enough about the crony capitalism evident in Rick Perry's Texas to vote against him. For Tea Party conservatives to do so, I suggested, would mean confronting the disconnect between their populist rhetoric and their willingness, until now, to tolerate Republican coziness with big business. Commenter "Rayward" made another good point to explain why the crony capitalism charge may not take against Perry: "Crony capitalism has no sting anymore because Republicans have neutered the term by calling Obama a crony capitalist. It's quite effective. Reminds of me Pee-Wee's comeback: 'I know you are but what am I.'"
Well, today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article by Kate Linebaugh suggesting that Rayward had it right. Tea Party supporters, she reports, have launched an assault on General Electric over CEO Jeff Immelt's willingness to head President Obama's "Council on Jobs and Competitiveness." Leave aside that the council, by all appearances, is not doing much of anything. To the Tea Party, the willingness of Immelt (a Republican from a Fox News-addicted family) to work with the administration is proof positive of...crony capitalism! Linebaugh quotes Wayne T. Brough, chief economist at Freedomworks, the national tea-party group backed by Dick Armey, which has protested at GE shareholder meetings: "We've had concerns that Immelt uses the government rather than the marketplace to drive GE's philosophy on how to do business. It feeds into a crony capitalist kind of mentality that isn't actually the best way to generate economic growth."
Linebaugh reports that Tea Party supporters are also upset that G.E. has managed to pay so little in corporate taxes in recent years, and that so much of its job growth has occurred overseas. Somehow, though, I suspect that is not the main driver of Tea Party discontent -- there are no shortage of offshoring corporations with paltry tax bills who are not getting FreedomWorks pickets at shareholder meetings. And I also don't expect to see FreedomWorks showing up outside any of the company locations in Armey's home state of Texas that have received millions from Perry's taxpayer-funded Enterprise Fund -- Caterpillar, Washington Mutual (now JP Morgan Chase), Citgo, Lockheed Martin, Tyson Foods, Home Depot, Medtronic, T-Mobile, Comerica, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, Fidelity...