It’s not impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s exceedingly difficult. The same applies to our government. One would think the election of Donald Trump, the first non-politician to win the presidency, would be a signal for a change when it comes to special interests. Nonetheless, the long-and-glorious tradition of favoring special interests, or cronyism, continued last week. President-elect Trump successfully negotiated $7 million in tax incentives for the air conditioning company, Carrier, to stay in Indiana.
It’s great that Carrier’s employees can keep their jobs, but what Trump did was exactly the form of corruption he campaigned against. The government should not be in the business of giving special tax incentives for any particular interest group. His actions were so blatant, both Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders came out against it.
These two ideological opposites wrote pieces calling out President-elect Trump. Palin described Trump’s action in an Op-Ed for Young Conservatives:
“When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent…Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets.”
Sanders expressed similar sentiments in The Washington Post.
“Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives.”
Whatever you think of Palin or Sanders, both are outside of the political establishment. Their similar stances on Trump’s crony practice show why both parties have faltered and lost the trust of their respective bases.
Political leadership, like any relationship, is about trust. If our elected officials put special interest deals above advancing their principles, the electorate will only continue to reject their leadership in exchange for those who promise change—regardless of whether they will actually deliver.
Every American knows the stress and pain of filing taxes. Yet as millions struggle to pay for healthcare and other expenses, it seems our government has no qualms over relieving taxes for big business. This is fundamentally inconsistent with the American ideal of success through merit. Businesses should get ahead through creating valuable products for consumers, not through their political clout.
The solution, however, is not increased protectionism and regulation. More red tape only makes it harder for business to operate and for new competitors to enter the market. Furthermore, it wouldn’t address the underlying issue of the government’s power to pick winners and loser.
Instead, the new administration ought to fight for an even playing field, where new business firms can fiercely compete for consumers’ dollars. Rather than cushioning large corporations through a complicated tax code, they should remove existing barriers to entry to make it easier for new, smaller companies to get in the game. More competition would increase consumer choice, lower prices, and encourage innovation.
It looks like the Trump administration is up to government’s old crony tricks. Those on the left and right would do well to call it out as Sanders and Palin have done. With enough consistency, maybe we can teach our political system to stop rolling over for special interests.