The Spectacle Blog

Barack Obama’s “Regulatory Robber Barons”

By on 6.14.11 | 8:44AM

The Left likes to attack "robber barons."  But, in fact, the Obama administration shows how the government routinely creates "regulatory robber barons."  Writes Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner:

President Obama on Monday was scheduled to give a pep talk for American manufacturing at a factory in Durham, N.C., where Cree Inc. makes LED light bulbs. Cree embodies Obama-era capitalism: profiting from government grants, political connections, revolving-door lobbyists and regulations that force people to buy your product.

Cree deals mostly in light-emitting diode technology. The company makes LED light bulbs and sells LED components to other manufacturers to put in their own bulbs, automobiles or electronics. This is by far the fastest-growing part of Cree's business.

Company Vice President Greg Merritt spoke about the LED boom in April 2009 at a green-tech conference. "We are in a perfect storm in some respects," he said. After talking about new manufacturing efficiencies, Merritt added, "The political environment for sustainable technologies and energy efficiency is perhaps more favorable today than it's been for quite a while."

Merritt should know -- he and his colleagues helped shape that "political environment." Merritt lobbied Congress on the 2007 energy bill, "Specifically, provisions related to energy-efficient lighting." That is, Merritt and Cree's other lobbyists supported the law that will effectively outlaw the incandescent bulb, thus creating unwilling demand for their more expensive LED bulbs.

In fact, Republicans, starting with President George W. Bush, were among the worst "bulb smashers" helping Merritt and Cree mulct the public.  Alas, the worst enemies of capitalism always have been the capitalists.

It's why President Obama can say he is for business while in practice he attacks the market system.  When I worked in the White House so many years ago for Ronald Reagan, I remember businessmen coming in and saying:  "I believe in free markets, but ... ."  Somehow they always deserved a special exemption from markets, which were just so very unfair in their particular and unique case.

The challenge for Republicans is to demonstrate that they are for free enterprise, not for business.  Otherwise they will just end up promoting the same sort of regulatory robber barons who did so much to create the 2008 crash.

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