The Corner

The Business Community and ‘Tea Party Economics’

Thus far, the election cycle has been characterized by Republicans focusing on the issues — jobs, government spending, accountability in Washington — and Democrats aiming low with negative ads and personal attacks. Leave it to spin impresario Robert Reich to hit the trifecta: a negative attack on the business community tied to a hit on the Tea Party disguised as a policy discussion.

Essentially, Reich tries to make three points. The first is that business leaders have committed the offense of “offering political views”; he singles out Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and GE’s Jeff Immelt. Sorry, but they offered policy views, namely that the administration’s policies are at the heart of our current economic woes. Business leaders have a right to their political views and an obligation to form opinions on how policies will affect their business futures.

The second argument is that the Tea Party is (or at least soon will be) the Republican party, and its policy views are unhinged. Unfortunately, this argument can be made only by extrapolating the political force of the Tea Party to the greatest extreme (a takeover of the Republican party) and by assembling random comments regarding the Fed, the IRS, federal funding choices, energy subsidies, and international economic institutions and asserting they are “the” views of the Tea Party. This is just an exercise in scare tactics — which is to say business as usual from liberals. Just as Republicans have heterogeneous policy views built off a core of center-right values, the Tea Party candidates have highly heterogeneous views as well.

The final point is that business leaders should be standing up to the Tea Party. Nonsense. To the extent that we have seen an articulated “Tea Party economics,” it is built on the tradition of a small, contained government devoted to its rightful roles and a preservation of personal and economic freedoms. More to the point, the Tea Party hasn’t damaged U.S. business. Liberal economic policy has.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.

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