Categories: Featured News

Freedom? Republican Run States Are Now Telling People What They Can and Can’t Buy

Republicans hate regulations nearly as much as they hate taxation, and according to their Libertarian mindset, the concept of government interference in free market capitalism is tantamount to seizing the one percent’s wealth and assets and giving everything to undocumented immigrants, gays, and people of color. However, during the past year Republicans have interfered with private businesses simply because the companies failed to adhere to GOP regulations against union representation and renewable energy sources. In Republican-controlled states, GOP legislatures have forbidden business owners from providing overtime pay, sick leave, or raising the minimum wage, and still have the temerity to decry tyrannical government interference in business over gender pay equity, attempts to raise the minimum wage, or enforcing 14th Amendment protections against discrimination in the workplace. In a relatively new form of Republican fascism and regulatory overreach, Republican states have told consumers what they can and cannot purchase, and enacted regulations forbidding one company from conducting business in their states.

Missouri is the latest state to attempt to ban residents from purchasing cars from Tesla by inserting new language in an existing bill that forces consumers to buy new cars and trucks only through franchised dealerships. The legislation, HB 1124 was passed late last year without anti-Tesla language, but Republicans resorted to their now-typical stealth tactic and slipped new language to put a screeching halt to Tesla selling cars in Missouri; a clear violation of Republican libertarian policy against government dictating how free market capitalism is conducted. The Missouri senate version of the bill passed without the public’s knowledge and moves to the House for passage without debate because powerful car dealers and the oil industry ordered Republicans to protect their monopoly on pollution-causing vehicles without the public’s knowledge.

Powerful auto manufacturers already paid the Chris Christie administration to shut down Tesla in New Jersey because the company does not use middlemen (franchises), and the Christie administration supported banning Tesla because Republicans contend “Tesla shouldn’t have the right to unilaterally change the way cars are sold.” Free market capitalism is not free in Republicans’ minds and they will not allow Tesla, or any company to sell cars unless manufacturers profit from dealership franchise fees, dealerships profit as middleman, and the oil industry profits from selling gasoline and oil that Tesla CEO Elon Musk clearly understands is the rationale behind forbidding consumers from purchasing what they want. According to Musk, the electric cars need far less service than gas-powered cars so the need for a dealership franchise profiting off of regularly scheduled dealership maintenance is non-existent. He said,  ”There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car. Overcharging people for unneeded servicing (often not even fixing the original problem) is rampant within the industry and happened to me personally on several occasions when I drove gasoline cars.”

The Federal Trade Commission weighed in and came down on the side of Tesla’s right to sell vehicles directly to consumers without the necessity of a middleman. The FTC said In a blog post, “Regulators should differentiate between regulations that truly protect consumers and those that protect the regulated.” In a separate letter signed by over 70 leading economists under the banner of the International Center for Law & Economics soundly dismissed every single car dealer argument and concluded that these bans are entirely motivated by “economic protectionism that favors dealers at the expense of consumers and innovative technologies.” Elon Musk agreed with the economists and Federal Trade Commission saying, “When Tesla came along as a new company with no existing franchisees, the auto dealers, who possess vastly more resources and influence than Tesla, nonetheless sought to force us to sell through them. The reason that we did not choose to do this is that the auto dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none.”  Republicans love conflict of interest when it profits the oil and auto industry and the concept of free market capitalism is thrown out the window when their donors’ profits are jeopardized by a product that cuts into their bottom line.

Nearly all car manufacturers profit handsomely from granting individually-owned dealerships the right to sell their cars, so Tesla is facing pressure for Republicans beholden to automobile manufacturers and dealers wielding inordinate political power stemming from their political contributions. For example, a powerful lobbying group representing car and truck dealers, the National Automobile Dealers Association, spent $3 million in political contributions in 2012 and an additional $3 million on lobbying to prohibit consumers from buying a car they want and force them to purchase only vehicles their clients sell. Missouri Republicans  resorted to an increasingly common practice and asked New Jersey, Texas, and Arizona to “show me” how to force consumers to purchase gas-guzzling vehicles and restrict free market capitalism by using stealth legislation to forbid Tesla from participating in what Republicans claim is commerce untouched by government intervention.

Republicans are once again displaying the hypocrisy that has become one of their defining characteristics when it comes to their cherished free market capitalism free from government intervention and interference that is more often than not from Republicans. In fact, they are going far beyond just butting in to a business, they are deliberately prohibiting Tesla from exercising their right to commerce and boldly telling consumers which product they can buy and which one the oil industry and automobile manufacturers and dealerships are forcing on them. Tesla is in the early stages of the appeal process in New Jersey to be afforded the same opportunity to take part in what the Republicans claim is the American dream of researching and developing a product, manufacturing that product, and taking it to consumers and let the market decide if it is a success or failure. However, in the Republicans’ donors minds, an electric car that does not require oil and gasoline to operate, or costly regularly scheduled repair and maintenance dealership visits does not deserve to participate in free market capitalism because the only government interfering in business is Republican state legislatures that are now telling consumers they can only purchase Republican, automobile manufacturers and dealers, and oil industry-approved products in what can only be termed fascist capitalism Republican style.

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