Congress

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan: ‘We can’t green the economy without the power of the free market’

Ohio Democrat continues to position himself for moderate path to party’s presidential nomination

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, struck a conservative tone in interviews in the early primary state of New Hampshire. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

On a tour of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire, Rep. Tim Ryan emphasized that the Democratic Party should not appear to be “hostile to business” and argued that climate change can be addressed in the private sector.

The Rust Belt Democrat has been positioning himself on the moderate path as he considers a run for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

“We can’t green the economy without the power of the free-market system,” Ryan said, appearing to advocate for a carbon tax to combat the climate crisis over the sort of large-scale investment in the public sector encapsulated in the Green New Deal. 

Ryan also cautioned his party against appearing unfriendly to the private sector.

“We’re not going to solve these problems without coming together and that includes being engaged with the business community,” Ryan said in an interview with New Hampshire media and Fox News.

“You can be hostile to greed, you can be hostile to income inequality, you can be for raising rates, you can be for taxing capital instead of labor,” Ryan continued. “But you can’t be hostile to business.”

His warning comes at a time of rising popularity for candidates who are critical of corporate interests, including democratic socialists like presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York.

Ryan breaks from the party in support of fracking to extract natural gas.

Last week Ryan addressed a letter to Amazon asking the company to relocate its aborted New York second headquarters in northeast Ohio. While the letter touts the area’s “business friendly environment,” a spokesman clarified that Ryan does not support granting the corporation tax breaks and other financial incentives.

"That was a generalized way to say that we have a network of universities, hospitals, international airports, Lake Erie, and access to major interstate highways that connect the Midwest to the East Coast," the spokesman said.

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The Ohio Democrat justified this criticism of his party by emphasizing his working class upbringing — he was raised by his mother, a county clerk, and his grandparents, both union members — and by reiterating his longstanding criticism of the impact of trade pacts on U.S. manufacturing.

"If anybody should be a hostile to business it's a guy like me, from where I come from," Ryan said.

Ryan unsuccessfully challenged then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her spot in leadership after the 2016 election, arguing that the party had lost touch with white "blue collar" voters in his northeastern Ohio district. President Donald Trump carried three of the five counties in the 13th District in 2016.

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