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Topics: Obamacare

FreedomWorks calls on Aetna to reject Obamacare bailout

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Health,Timothy P. Carney,Obamacare,Free Market,FreedomWorks

Conservatives and libertarians regularly bash lawmakers who support corporate welfare and bailouts, but these days, they're not letting the subsidy-seeking corporations off the hook either.

FreedomWorks, a prominent Tea Party group, is launching a campaign against the insurance bailout created by Obamacare's "risk corridor" provisions. In addition to pressuring lawmakers, FreedomWorks is pressuring CEOs against lobbying for a bailout, or accepting a bailout.

Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, wrote to Aetna's CEO in a letter to be made public later today: “I demand that you refrain from lobbying either directly or indirectly (as through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) against” Marco Rubio's bill to block the Obamacare insurance bailout.

Such a bailout “would betray taxpayers and violate … free-enterprise principles,” Kibbe wrote.

This cuts against an older free-market argument summarized by Milton Friedman in the phrase "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits."

While the GOP instinct for years has been to follow the lead of the business lobby, Kibbe's colleague Tom Borelli made it clear that Tea Party groups want to exert pressure on the business lobby, and bring business in line with the free market.

"Big business was crucial for making Obamacare the law of the land," Borelli told me, "and we view big business as the key for killing Obamacare."

Kibbe and Borelli invoke moral language ("the right thing to do,") but ultimately appeal to companies' bottom-line: "I think these companies run a tremendous risk for reputational risk," in lobbying to protect their bailout, Borelli says.

Kibbe, in the letter, cites the reputational harm GM suffered for the auto bailout.

This reflects the free market corporate social responsibility I wrote about in The Atlantic last year:

[I]n the age of crony capitalism, libertarians must declare that some means of pursuing profit are immoral and call on executives to reject them. This would create a positive case for capitalism -- arguing that the pursuit of profit, in the context of fair and open competition, helps the whole society. The new corporate social responsibility, redefined for libertarians, must stand athwart crony corporatism yelling "stop."

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