Tea party politicians place ideology over business
My colleague Sarah Scully reports that traffic at the Houston Ship Channel is slipping, and therefore manufacturers are laying off workers, after ultra-conservatives in Congress, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, blocked renewal of the Ex-Im Bank. The 81-year-old government institution supplies loan guarantees and other financial services to exporters of capital goods that can’t find those financial products in the private sector. That’s why every major exporting nation has an ex-im bank.
That is until July, when ideologues led by the Koch Brothers, convinced some ultra-conservatives to block a vote to renew the bank. The reason I use the term ultra-conservative is because many great conservative leaders, like Ronald Reagan, have championed the bank through the decades and a majority of conservative Republican lawmakers want to renew the bank. Only members of Congress, on the extreme margin of the party, are blocking it.
Opponents of the bank don’t like it because they don’t think government should play a role in helping American businesses succeed. The fact that the bank actually makes money for the government through the fees it charges customers doesn’t make a difference. These people ignore the fact that conservative politicians across the nation regularly build roads, grant tax breaks and offer cash incentives to help businesses succeed. The idea that government should not play a role in facilitating business is ludicrous.
The ouster of House Speaker John Boehner is perhaps the most dramatic example of where ultra-conservatives are going. Boehner is a conservative by any definition and has been a reliable ally of businesses both small and large. Yet the ultra-conservative minority in the House was able to drive him from office, insisting that they want more confrontation and gridlock, not less.
Gridlock is exactly what business doesn’t want. Every executive knows that compromise and deal-making is necessary for all sides of a negotiation to find value in a transaction. A business person who takes an all-or-nothing stance in every circumstance soon finds themselves out of business. Politics are no different.
David Brooks has a great column this week on the difference between conservatism and the new ultra-conservative agenda. Marketplace had an excellent report on the growing fissures between the GOP and business brought on by tea party politicians. This is a growing problem for the Republican party, and many members are beginning to realize it.
Texas business leaders need to rally, and true conservatives need to step up, to prevent ideologues from doing real damage to the U.S. economy. That means financing pro-business candidates who are not afraid to say no the ideologues. If they don’t, the business community shouldn’t be surprised when the next ultraconservative policy position puts their business at risk.