New motto: Jeb Hensarling discovers the ‘Main Street competitive economy’

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It is a delicate maneuver to appear available for a major job on Capitol Hill without compromising civility. Such is the case of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who has declared on at least three occasions that he’s not angling for the post of Speaker of the House, but if it, uh, just happens to come up this fall, the Texas Republican and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has not quite shut the door.

It’s too early to talk about tournaments for Republican leadership, he says, with so much work to be done on other matters. But if “possibilities and opportunities” come along come November, well, Mr. Hensarling says he’ll acknowledge them then. Meanwhile, the Lone Star State lawmaker is emerging as a man with a plan, offering a substantial economic speech at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, packed with numbers and just the right amount of smart populism.

In his speech, he recommended “everyone with a Washington D.C. address” read the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, an adviser to Ronald Reagan. Mr. Hensarling clearly distinguished between the “Washington insider economy” and “the Main Street competitive economy.” Surely the latter is a keeper phrase.

“There should not be one set of rules for the well-connected and another set of rules for everyone else,” Mr. Hensarling said, noting that “business interests are not necessarily freedom’s interests” and that, regrettably, “a great deal of economic activity that masquerades today as free enterprise is not.” Mr. Hensarling also said he is a guardian of a “uniquely American can-do optimism,” a phrase with a nice Reaganesque ring to it.

The lawmaker ended his speech with an old school rallying cry: “This is a call for action for Republicans and conservatives to reject the Washington insider economy. Let’s embrace the Main Street competitive economy.”

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