In November, I posted about the ethanol subsidies and tariffs that, if allowed to expire, would reduce the deficit by $6 billion. But instead of Do-Nothing deficit reduction, Rich Lowry points out the bipartisan effort to increase it:
[Al] Gore’s ethanol apostasy is a symptom of a left-right coalition that has arisen to expose the former wonder fuel. (The Gore of old insisted that “the more we can make this home-grown fuel a successful, widely used product, the better off our farmers and our environment will be.”) But common sense, even cross-ideological, bipartisan common sense with all the evidence on its side, is no match for Congress’ boundless appetite for expensive favors for powerful lobbies and constituent groups.
Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, the Democratic and Republican senators from Iowa, stand at the doors of Congress declaring: Ethanol now, ethanol forever. They have graced the Obama-McConnell tax bargain with an extension of a tax credit for ethanol that costs about $6 billion a year, and with an extension of a tariff on ethanol imports. Ethanol is so uneconomical that Congress supports it three different ways — with a mandate for its use, a tax credit to subsidize it and a tariff to keep out competitors. Rarely are so many levers of government used to prop up one woeful product.
Well – that’s one more reason for me to oppose the tax deal. And it really makes me wonder if the republicans are committed to fiscal responsibility. I guess I’m not the only one, as The Green Conservative has a related test for the Tea Party:
The federal farm subsidy system is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. It’s a world unto itself, a thicket of bewildering programs that comes with a deluxe package of jargon and acronyms that are opaque to anyone except the most dedicated and/or foolhardy farm policy geeks.
The basics: Five crops – corn, wheat, cotton, rice, and soybeans – scoop up the lion’s share of crop payment subsidies, the largest subset in the universe of federal farm subsidies. Between 1995 and 2009, the Big Five crops received $170 billion in payments, out of nearly $247 billion in total farm subsidies paid during that period, according to the Environmental Working Group’s fabulous farm subsidies data base.
That’s a little over $12 billion a year for 5 crops, of which we know from the $6 billion ethanol subsidies, corn is getting at least half. An aside to conservative environmentalists: cotton consumes 25% of all pesticides despite being 1% of US acreage. I personally consider that subsidized pollution.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh. I mean – why cut the deficit when there are special interests and primary voters in Iowa in need of pandering?