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Public Statements

Greenville News - Government Shouldn't Tilt the Field for Anyone

Op-Ed

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By Senator Jim DeMint

When people ask me if I'm pro-business or pro-labor, I say I'm neither: I'm pro-freedom.

Freedom is the only political principle that cannot be bent to serve special interests. Remember how 7-Up used to call itself the un-cola? Well, freedom is the un-special interest.

Freedom, protected by the Constitution and the rule of law, works for everyone. It allows everyone -- left or right, young or old, rich or poor -- to make their own choices according to their own values.

Government's job shouldn't be to tilt the field for one team or another, but to guarantee a level playing for everyone.

That's why I'm against forcing workers to join unions, congressional earmarks for favored groups, government bailouts of Wall Street, and energy subsidies -- both for oil companies and for green energy.

Now, look at recent events surrounding the Boeing Company, one of South Carolina's most important employers. As a South Carolinian, as an American, and just as a guy who likes cool planes, I love Boeing.

When Boeing's home state labor union ganged up with President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board to try to sue Boeing for building a new factory in North Charleston, I strongly supported Boeing's freedom to build factories wherever they pleased.

More recently dust has been kicked over the extension of the Export-Import Bank, a federal program that subsidizes American businesses' exports. Because Boeing receives Ex-Im subsidies, and because I favor winding down the Ex-Im Bank instead of increasing its budget, some ask if I went from being pro-Boeing to anti-Boeing.

Neither. All I've ever been is pro-freedom.

In both cases, my guiding principle is the same: liberty.

Freedom isn't perfect, but it is fair. And any time government hands out favors, they'll be unfair to someone.

When Washington picks winners and losers, in the end taxpayers always lose, and Ex-Im is no exception.

Ex-Im started out decades ago with a lending cap of $5 million to help American companies sell into a "global economy" that barely existed. Today, the cap has ballooned to $100 billion, in a booming global economy. And what have the American people gotten for their money?

Ten-million dollars in loans benefitting the now-bankrupt Solyndra. Millions in loans to another solar company to sell solar panels to itself; $600 million in loans to Enron projects before Ken Lay went to prison. All this after Ex-Im has already sought its own $3 billion taxpayer bailout.

This isn't a criticism of an agency, or an administration, but of government subsidies in the first place.

When government stays out of markets, businesses focus on their customers. Quality improves, prices fall, and everyone wins.

When government steps in, businesses turn their attention from their customers to their congressman and hire influence peddlers instead of innovators. Competition sags, the pace of innovation slows, prices rise, and product quality suffers.

Defenders say Ex-Im is needed because Europe subsidizes their exporters. But Europe says the same thing about Ex-Im! We're in a bidding war with other countries for the biggest subsidies.

Still, exporters say the cost of doing business in America is too high to compete.

I agree! We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, so let's cut taxes. Let's reform our insane, $1.75 trillion-per-year regulatory state. Let's reform education to liberate kids from failing schools and create a better-prepared workforce for the future. Let's repeal the government takeover of health care, and put an end to predatory lawsuits filed against innocent businesses.

In short, let's fix the rules of our game to make all our exports competitive rather than rigging them for one company or product at a time.

Our policies should make the United States the best place in the world to buy, sell, farm, manufacture, patent, invent, invest, innovate and educate -- for everyone in every industry.

Look at what today's ad-hoc economic policymaking has done to America -- where a collection of narrow special interests vie for the favoritism of discredited politicians while we mount unsustainable debt onto the backs our children and grandchildren.

That is what I'm against. What I'm for is a level playing field, a clear set of rules that guarantee the freedom of entrepreneurs to make and sell what they want and the freedom of consumers to buy what they want.

I'm not for big business or big labor. I'm for big freedom, for everyone.


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