Shedding the Corporate Label

If there’s one thing that the more fervent sort of modern liberal hates more than capitalism itself, it’s a corporation. Whenever a modern liberal spits out the word  it sounds as if he thinks the longstanding legal tradition of incorporation is some sort of pact with Satan. If there’s one thing a modern liberal hates more than a corporation it’s a Republican, but we think the Grand Old Party can use some of that anti-corporate fervor in its favor on a few important issues.
This counter-intuitive notion came to us while poring through a recent issue of The New the York Times, of all things. The Gray Lady has been uncharacteristically feisty lately, with such lese majeste as to remind its readers that the president has often been on the record declaring his newly pronounced illegal immigration policy unconstitutional, and she even went so far as to run an article damning Obamacare. That grenade of heresy was lobbed from the left, criticizing the law’s rather cozy relationship with the evil insurance companies that the left had cast as the mustache-twirling villains in the melodrama that played out as the health care law was being forced down the public’s figurative and literal throats, but there’s no reason those on the right shouldn’t share in the outrage. The more righteous of the right have long insisted that government should favor no special business interest, whether incorporated or doing business by any other legal arrangement, but rather enforce a level playing field of ruthlessly efficient and red-in-tooth-and-claw competition. What The New York Times convincingly describes is lobbyist-negotiated, government-regulated, taxpayer-funded crony capitalism, and if there’s one thing the modern conservative hates more than socialism itself it is crony capitalism.
A constitutionally old-fashioned sense of civil discourse usually prevents a true conservative from employing such strong language, but in other contexts the modern liberal will call such economic policies “fascism.” Back in the bad old days of George W. Bush our liberal friends were constantly telling us how fascism merged corporate and government power, just like some tax break that the oil companies were getting or that no-bid contract for Halliburton, and they really seemed to believe that we were living under the reign of another Il Duce. We found it odd that their objection to fascism was not  based on its authoritarian insistence on conformity but rather what the more up-to-date academic liberals call “industrial policy,” and were always skeptical of their apparent belief that Mussolini lived in constant fear of the industrialists’ goons rapping that midnight knock on his door rather than the other way around, and can’t help noticing that their outrage about those tax breaks and no-bid contracts has greatly diminished since Bush left office, but perhaps they can be made to see that Obamacare is about as cozy a relationship between corporations and government as American history provides. We’re talking insurance companies, after all, and by now it will be hard for the left to write them a more friendly role in its ongoing melodrama.
Back in that brief, heated moment when Obamacare was being debated the right found the insurance industry a sympathetic character in the play, but it can easily be recast in the continuing conservative narrative. We initially argued that the industry’s 4 percent profit margin was not at all obscene, and certainly less than what the bureaucratic bloat of the federal government would inevitably suck out of expenditures on health care, but no longer felt any obligation to defend them when they signed on to new rules that exempted them from the market forces that had kept those profit margins low relative to other industries. A generous interpretation would be that in the national insanity following the great “hope and change” election of ’08 the insurers feared a single-payer or full-blown national health system would tie them to a metaphorical railroad track and thus felt compelled to sign on to anything that would prolong their survival, which we must admit did not seem at all far-fetched, but that’s no reason the right should hesitate to throw them back into that ferocious pit of pure capitalism. The always-feisty Washington Examiner warns that the insurance companies will resist any Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, but this will only provide the Republicans with a villain that even the modern liberal will boo and hiss in their telling of the long, sad story. They might not like the ending where the insurance companies go back to their piggish 4 percent profit margins and people who like their plans get to keep their plans, but even the liberals should prefer that to the bigger profits and promises of bail-outs under a system that would have surely been fascism if the Republicans had created it.
Selective corporate-bashing could benefit the Republicans elsewhere, as well. All Republican efforts to resist Obama’s outrageous refusal to execute federal immigration laws should include some mention of the powerful corporate interests which will benefit as well as and emphasis on the low-wage workers who will suffer. The waste of public funds on various “green energy” boondoggles should emphasize the incorporated but otherwise politically correct fat cats who are cashing in without providing any of the tangible benefits of those oil men. Countless state and local issues, such as that city-subsidized hotel referendum they peddled here in Wichita a couple of years ago, could unite the anti-corporate and anti-crony-capitalist constituencies in opposition. If the public can be made to understand that the comic agitprop of Jon Stewart and his late-night ilk and the usual fare of The New York Times and those up-to-date academic liberals are products of corporate America that would also be helpful.
The Republicans should resist the label of the party of of corporate America, and should continue to purge their ranks of those corporate-financed office-holders who make it plausible, but allow the Democrats to be the anti-corporate party. Those people who voluntary work for or buy from a corporation are going to be at least somewhat wary of a party intent on the destruction of corporate America, and they are probably a large portion of the population. A party of capitalism, which neither favors nor disfavors any of those corporations fighting it out in a ferocious pit of competition where the lowest profit margin survives, might even have some perverse appeal to even the most anti-corporate modern liberal.

— Bud Norman