Michael LaFaive, Ralph Nader: Separated at Birth?

"Strange bedfellows" is a well-known political phenomenon that refers to ideological opponents sometimes finding common ground on a particular issue. In today's Wall Street Journal, anti-corporation gadfly and sometimes-Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader makes the case that, "A convergence of liberal-progressives with conservative-libertarians centering on the autocratic, corporate-dominated nature of our government may be growing."

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He might be right, although some of the specific corporate "abuses" cited in the Op-Ed suggest that he himself may not be invited to the party if it happens.

But at the state level, one of the particulars in Nader's list will elicit a hardy "Hear Hear!" from free-enterprise defenders like the Mackinac Center's own Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive: Nader opposes a growing "swarm of corporate welfare subsidies . . . handouts, giveaways and bailouts."

If anti-capitalists like Ralph Nader want to review a (very) lengthy indictment of these abuses of the rule of law by the State of Michigan and its own ruling political class, they can do no better than to scan a list of articles and studies produced by LaFaive over the past 15 years.

Nader's piece also cites some obstacles to a "convergence of liberal-progressives with conservative-libertarians centering on the autocratic, corporate-dominated nature of our government," including a reluctance to "collaborate in principled action because they have battled over issues for so long where they do not agree." No doubt, but if the current polls hold, which show Rick Snyder demolishing Democrat Virg Bernero in the upcoming governor election, we're likely to see an exception.

For 20 years, the Mackinac Center analysts have been unwavering critics of discriminatory government "economic development" tax break and subsidy programs, whether presided over by Republican Gov. John Engler or Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. However, under the latter, partisans on the left who might be expected to also oppose these giveaways have been cheerleaders for "their" governor's film producer subsidies, tax breaks for specific companies, and various other favors to the latest fad-industries du jour of Michigan's bipartisan political class. Indeed, Mackinac Center scholars' opposition has been subjected to vitriolic screeds posted on the Michigan left's various online news and discussion websites.

However, under a Gov. Snyder, can anyone doubt that this leftist support for corporate welfare will quickly turn into vigorous "we have always been at war with Eurasia" opposition (to cite Big Brother's famous flip-flop response from Orwell's "1984")? When "our" film producer subsidies become "theirs," for example, will the $125 million hole they tear in the state budget still be ignored by Democratic partisans?

Just to be fair, while the state's GOP establishment has been remarkably resolute in its support for the massive growth of this state's "economic development" empire under the current governor, recently a small but growing number of Republicans have been taking shots at least at particular incentives or subsidies. Some of these critics are sincere, but perhaps not all: This too will be revealed should "her" (Granholm's) corporate welfare programs become "his" (Snyder's).