One of the costs of Obama's government-business partnership is the increased opportunity for corruption and cronyism. Mickey Kaus blogs about it, hitting on a point I often make but nobody seems to hear: Republicans could gain some populist points and put Dems in an uncomfortable position by highlighting corporatism.
Shouldn't Republicans hold hearings on the general threat of Putin-like corporatism—i.e., an insidious alliance between big government and favored corporate and labor interests? a) They could call GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to testify and embarrass him about the myriad ways in which his slightly creepy role as CEO and presidential adviser might allow him to benefit his company and squash competitors; b) They could grill the various regulators who might be tempted to favor the auto manufacturers that the government bailed out (and which, in GM's case, it still owns about a third of). Maybe some GM competitors would even be brave enough to testify. (Exhibit No. 23: Will GM and Chrysler claim all the remaining billions of "green" retooling loan money from Obama's Department of Energy? Entrepreneurial startups need not apply?) c) They could question whether these bureaucrats and others are also doing favors for other Obama constituencies, like labor unions, or Google; d) They'd appear transpartisan--this is an issue where left and right populists unite. Do they love corporate-government alliances at Daily Kos? It's also one of the legitimate worries at the heart of TeaPartyism. e) Hearings might help: There is no obvious answer to some parts of the corporatism dilemma, such as the too-big-to-fail part. If lots of firms are now too big to fail—or else their markets are unstable—and if during a downturn the government winds up investing political and economic capital in specific companies, what are you going to do? Bail the companies out and then let them collapse again?