Grab the pitchforks: Free-market populism goes mainstream 

Over the past twelve months, commentators have struggled to explain what’s happening to populace — what explains their anger, where their allegiances lie, and who could take advantage of it, with what ideas. Ross Douthat’s column makes a crucial contribution to this discussion today (I’m biased, of course, because it mentions me), with his call for class warfare.

Here’s the problem:

In case after case, Washington’s web of subsidies and tax breaks effectively takes money from the middle class and hands it out to speculators and have-mores. We subsidize drug companies, oil companies, agribusinesses disguised as “family farms” and “clean energy” firms that aren’t energy-efficient at all. We give tax breaks to immensely profitable corporations that don’t need the money and boondoggles that wouldn’t exist without government favoritism.

Here’s how Douthat says we should react:

All of this ought to be grist for a kind of “small-government egalitarianism,” in the economist Edward Glaeser’s useful phrase, that seeks to shrink government by attacking Washington’s wasteful spending on the well-connected.

I use the more loaded term, “free-market populism.” Go after the health insurers’ special favors, the banks’ bailouts, the drug industry’s protection. Also, as Douthat implies, go after Medicare for rich people.

Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard pipes up at Ricochet that this should be called “The Palin Persuasion.”

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Timothy P. Carney

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