Politics, Moderate



Republicans say they favor free markets. Yeah, right.

Catherine Rampell on

WASHINGTON -- Republicans say they favor free markets. They're not like those pinko-commie Democrats, who prefer "picking winners and losers."

Oh, come off it already.

Republicans love picking winners and losers, too. They just choose different winners and different losers than Democrats do. In the case of today's Republican officials, the winners are mostly donors, incumbents, culture-war favorites and cheats.

On Thursday, the White House announced yet more tariffs, this time on steel and aluminum imports. Predictably, this protectionist measure pushed stock prices for beneficiaries like U.S. Steel and Century Aluminum way up. It also pushed stock prices for other industrial companies such as Caterpillar and Boeing -- which will now face higher prices for raw materials, as well as the threat of retaliatory tariffs abroad -- way down.

This White House announcement follows an earlier round of tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. Those, too, are likely to lead to higher prices for consumers, and have already caused at least one U.S. company that imports solar panels to announce layoffs.

President Trump has undertaken other measures to subsidize specific industries he has a soft spot for, especially coal. At one point his own appointees stepped in to block a set of subsidies to coal power plants that had been proposed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

There are other energy-related regulatory carve-outs for friends and family, such as the offshore drilling plan that shields Florida beaches (at the behest of Republican Gov. Rick Scott) but not those in deep-blue California.

And before you start arguing that these market interventions are all Trump-specific, consider what happened in Georgia this week.

Republican officials there vowed to punish Delta Air Lines, one of the state's largest employers, for canceling discounted prices for National Rifle Association members.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor, gave Delta an ultimatum: restore the NRA discount, or forget the $50 million sales-tax exemption on jet fuel that Republican lawmakers had been considering. In other words, restore our special discount, or we won't give you your own special discount. Delta didn't budge, so lawmakers axed the tax break Thursday afternoon.


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