Why I Agree With Sarah Palin

The Former Alaska governor was right in speaking out against crony capitalism; it's all too common for the rich and powerful to bend government to their own purposes.

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While I admire Sarah Palin for breaking ground as a woman candidate, we don't agree on many policy issues. But her tirade in Iowa a few weeks ago against what she called "corporate crony capitalism" captured my attention. She said, "It's not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts and influence peddling and corporate welfare."

Good for Sarah Palin.

Naturally she singled out President Obama, but, to her credit, she also took on her own party. Republican candidates "who raise mammoth amounts of cash," she said, should be asked what their donors "expect in return for their investments."

I admire Sarah Palin for speaking out loudly and forcefully against crony capitalism. It's all too common for the rich and powerful to bend government to their own purposes and get contracts, tax and legal breaks, and other preferential treatment through their political connections. This cronyism distorts our markets and promotes distrust of Washington.

People with less money can't get these special privileges. This at a time when the richest 1 percent already receive 25 percent of all income and control 40 percent of the country's wealth.

In her speech, Palin blamed the president for the help he gave the auto industry and for the bank bailouts that actually occurred under George Bush. As far as the auto industry goes, I think President Obama made a gutsy call that saved thousands of jobs and one of the most important businesses in our country. Eventually the government will be paid back in full. 

There are plenty of better targets: the senator who wants to change the patent laws so a law firm won't be subject to a $200 million suit; the oil industry that reaps record profits, fouls the environment, and still gets special tax deductions; the video-game companies that have their own special deductions for no social purpose that I can tell.

My brother Bobby Kennedy is an environmental attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, co-host of the nationally syndicated talk radio program "Ring of Fire," and founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which protects waterways all over the world. For the last decade, he has spoken eloquently about the great cost of crony capitalism to the environment. When polluters don't have to pay the full cost of their pollution, then we socialize costs and privatize profits. This is unfair to the businesses who do pay their full freight and to families whose children come down with asthma or a host of other sicknesses associated with dirty water and air.

Bobby was outraged by the policies of the Bush administration that encouraged companies to spend money on lobbying rather than investing in their business. Mountaintop removal in Appalachia is a great example. For decades federal law made it illegal to fill the streams around the mountain with debris. The law was even upheld when violators were brought to court.

So what happened?

If you can't win in court, maybe you can invest in Congress. The coal companies hired a platoon of lobbyists who succeeded in redefining the meaning of the word "fill" in the Clean Water Act. The companies were now free to block the streams with their debris.

According to Bobby, "Corporations don't want democracy, they want profit. That's why our greatest political leaders and philosophers -- Republican and Democratic -- have been warning people about the corrosive power of corporations. Show me a polluter and I'll show you a fat cat with political clout."

Presented by

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the author of Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Mixed God With Politics and Lost Their Way. From 1995 to 2003, she was Maryland's first woman lieutenant governor.

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