Payne: The heydays of Crony Capitalism (The Michigan View 2.4.11)

Posted by hpayne on February 4, 2011

Democrats like to talk about taking on the special interests, but the truth is the Democratic Party today runs the Best Little Whorehouse in America with Big Government in bed with Big Business.

Take Michigan.

Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State promise last month to “work to reform over-reaching regulation” drew applause from the small business community. But Big Business? Well, define “overreaching regulation.”

In an interview with The Detroit News editorial board just days after the address, Consumers Energy CEO David Joos admitted that he hoped Snyder would not roll back one of his Democratic predecessor’s most onerous regulations: Renewable Power Standards. The Republican-denounced RPS. The inefficient, windmill-mandating, expensive, over-reaching RPS.

But it’s an overreaching regulation Big Utility likes. Why?

Because that is the price it is willing to pay to play ball with new, Big Government global warming regulations. With Washington and its Democratic allies determined to intrude in Big Utility carbon emissions, Consumers and Detroit Edison and their army of lobbyists saw their opportunity to horse-trade RPS for an end to state electricity deregulation. After all, they reasonably argued, if the feds were going to force carbon caps, utilities would need rate guarantees – that is, market monopoly – to reassure their return on investment from more expensive, carbon-reducing facilities like nuclear power and clean coal.

Send the lobbyists to Lansing. Utilities get their monopoly. Democrats get their green. Done. The losers? Michigan ratepayers who will see their rates rise.

Ratepayer defenders like Attorney General Cox, the Mackinac Center and Customer Choice Coalition – all of whom warned the measure “handed a monopoly back to the two utilities” and would raise rates – are hardly big money special interests, after all.

Shortly thereafter, Big Utility asked for rate hikes of 8.1 percent (DTE) and 8.5 percent (Consumers). “The blame,” wrote Oakland Press columnist Glenn Gilbert, “belongs squarely on Gov. Jennifer Granholm.”

Granholm the anti-special interest Democrat? Welcome to crony capitalism.

Democrats on the federal level are no less adamant about their opposition to special interests – and no less in bed with them.

In January, Barack “I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are” Obama and his EPA began enforcing new rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from any new or expanded power plant. This week, reports The Washington Examiner, the EPA issued its first exemption – to a 600 megawatt utility using gas turbines provided by FOB (Friend of Barack) CEO Jeffrey Immelt’s General Electric Corp.

The same Jeffrey Immelt who Obama just named chairman of the new White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? The same. Big Government has been very kind to GE and its lobbyists – if not to its customers.

Immelt was also in bed with Washington on banning the traditional light bulb. Why would a company support a government ban on its products? Ah, the echo of Michigan utilities and inefficient windmills. . . .

Because GE stands to make even more money on the incandescent’s replacement – the compact fluorescent – by shutting down its old, union-shop, American light bulb facilities, and moving CFL production to China.

Is Democratic Big Government anti-special interest? The evidence points exactly to the contrary.

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