John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Inside the GOP Debate of No Government vs. Better Government

Posted on September 8, 2014
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"US-ExportImportBank-Seal" by U.S. Government - Extracted from PDF version of March 2004 article Ex-Im Bank Helps Companies Boost Exports to Latin America (direct PDF URL [1]).. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

(This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank)

The debate roiling the Republican base comes down to this basic disagreement: One side believes that government has no role in job creation. The other side believes that government does have a role but that it needs to be doing it better.

On one side are what I call the evangelical libertarians.

They believe that the free market has been tainted by political corruption. Crony capitalism can be defeated only by greatly reducing the size and scope of government: Get rid of the Export-Import Bank. Don’t extend terrorism risk insurance. End Fannie and Freddie. Get rid of corporate welfare of all kinds.

On the other side are the Republican reformers.

They don’t share the evangelical libertarians’ zeal in ending all government programs, but they see the need for reforms: Could the Ex-Im bank work better to protect domestic companies such as Delta? Sure. Could we ensure that taxpayers are not on the hook for a bailout of the GSEs without destroying the housing market? Certainly.

The evangelical libertarians may have passion on their side, but politically speaking their position is far riskier. It’s hard for politicians to say to their constituents “I am going to do nothing to create jobs.”

Most Americans believe that the U.S. government is broken and needs to be fixed. Far fewer believe that government is inherently evil and needs to be eliminated.