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Yet More Thursday Idiocy: T.P. Carney of AEI

Surely even the American Enterprise Institute can do better than this?

T. P. Carney: Obama hires revolving-door lobbyist and Clinton fixer John Podesta:

At times under Podesta, CAP’s lobbying dovetailed nicely with the White House agenda, the interests of CAP’s corporate donors, and the lobbying of the Podesta Group, still under Tony’s control. For instance, Walmart gave large donations (at least $500,000) to CAP. In 2009, CAP organized Walmart and the Service Employees’ International Union in support of Obamacare’s employer mandate. Walmart, of course, can afford the costs of insuring full-time employees more so than smaller competitors can (and is dexterous at moving employees to part-time)...

Does Carney really believe that Wal-Mart thinks an employer mandate will boost its profits? Could he possibly be that ignorant?

And, if not, what is he trying to say?

Now Wal-Mart does have an interest in rational, pro-growth (and also pro-equity: Wal-Mart does not profit when income distribution becomes more unequal--the top 1% do not shop there) policy. Is that what Carney opposes?


UPDATE: T.P. Carney protests:

@TPCarney: That's not what I argued, @delong. Once again, you would benefit from a dose of charity in your reading/blogging.

But if Carney is not arguing that Podesta lobbied for the ACA as a way of boosting Wal-Mart's rivals' relative costs and thus boosting Wal-Mart's profits, what is he arguing?

As I see it, Wal-Mart wants, in this order: (1) low capital gains taxes, (2) prosperity, (3) reduced income inequality to make its customers richer, and (4) freedom from regulations it finds burdensome. And, way behind, (5): if there are going to be burdensome regulations, let them burden its competitors more than they burden it. There are cases in which companies pursue competitive advantage and higher profits by lobbying for regulations that will be highly burdensome to competitors--cough, SEC, cough FDA--but the ACA's employer mandate really is not an example of them.

Wal-Mart has many competitive advantages vis-a-vis its rivals. But running a social insurance scheme is not high among them--it would rather focus its attention and energy on other things.

So why, then, does Wal-Mart fund CAP, if it is not a sinister plot to get CAP to lobby for the Affordable Care Act so that the ACA will then tangle its competitors up in bureaucracy and thus allow Wal-Mart to raise its prices and earn higher profits?

Well:

  1. Wal-Mart wants to appear to be and to some degree is interested in being a good corporate citizen--engaged in positive-sum gift-exchange relationships with America as a whole, giving something back in return for Americans' beneficence in patronizing its stores.

  2. Wal-Mart is interested in rational economic policy, because to a large degree what is good for America is good for Wal-Mart--and to an even larger degree what is good for the bottom 50% (at least what is good for those who don't work at Wal-Mart) is good for Wal-Mart.

  3. Wal-Mart wants a seat at the table: wants to make sure that aspects of the situation that are bad for Wal-Mart as a productive and as a profit-making enterprise are not overlooked in the center-left policy debate.

But if Carney writes that John Podesta is a bad actor because:

Under Podesta, CAP’s lobbying dovetailed nicely with the White House agenda, the interests of CAP’s corporate donors, and the lobbying of the Podesta Group... Walmart gave large donations (at least $500,000) to CAP... because it (1) wants to appear to be and to some degree is interested in being a good corporate citizen; (2) is interested in rational economic policy, especially in what is good for its customers in the bottom 50%; and (3) wants a seat at the table to make sure effects on it as a productive and as a profit-making enterprise are not overlooked in the center-left policy debate...

then people laugh at Carney.

So Carney has to write, instead:

Under Podesta, CAP’s lobbying dovetailed nicely with the White House agenda, the interests of CAP’s corporate donors, and the lobbying of the Podesta Group.... Walmart gave large donations... to CAP.... CAP organized Walmart and the Service Employees’ International Union in support of Obamacare’s employer mandate. Walmart, of course, can afford the costs of insuring full-time employees more so than smaller competitors can (and is dexterous at moving employees to part-time)...

My advice to Carney? That it was extremely uncharitable of him to write that paragraph. And he should use the strike tag on it.

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