The Ethanol Juggernaut: Do Republicans Have the Will to Stop Big Government?

From the diaries by lexington_concord…

It’s always politically advantageous to support tax cuts.  However, it takes more intransigence and fortitude to oppose big government programs and special interest handouts.  It is even more arduous to oppose such programs when they are coupled with tax cuts as part of a backroom compromise.  Based upon Senator Jim Inhofe’s comments to NRO, it appears that there aren’t too many GOP Senators who are down for the struggle.  Concerning the green handouts hidden in H.R. 4853, Inhofe told National Review’s Robert Costa:


“94 percent of the provisions are meaningful. For people talking about wind and ethanol subsidies, you’re talking about 2 percent of the whole deal.”

Well, if Inhofe is signing on to this, then there won’t be too many others joining Jim DeMint.  If today’s cloture vote to proceed with debate is any indication of the final outcome, only 5 Republicans oppose the bill: Coburn, DeMint, Ensign, Sessions, and Voinovich.  (Although Voinovich opposes it on liberal grounds).  What concerns me more than Inhofe’s support for the tax deal is the way he expresses it.  I could respect the fact that some believe that this is the best political decision we could make, given the circumstances.  However, to dismiss the permanent welfare benefits, the special interest handouts, and the regressive ethanol “Hawkeye Handout” as “2 percent” is very disconcerting.

If Republicans lack the will to strike out at the heart of the dependency and welfare state after a stunning electoral victory, then when will they assert themselves?  The Democrats will always demagogue the issue by attaching big government programs to honey traps.  Does anyone really believe that the GOP will have the tenacity to fight the extension of the unemployment subsidies after they expire in 13 months from now?

What about the extension of the regressive, job killing, price hiking ethanol subsidies?  If the Republicans don’t have the courage to make an issue of it while gas prices are soaring over $3, do you really think that they will have the determination to oppose them when they expire again before the Iowa Caucus?  Will the ethanol issue still be considered a mere “2 percent” issue when gas prices reach $4 a gallon? Even the sacrosanct corn hustlers at POET have agreed to a lower subsidy rate for the extension period.  Couldn’t the GOP at least negotiate a better compromise on the ethanol subsidies?


Earlier today, Erick Erickson expressed his opposition to the tax deal, but noted that it is not “a hill to die on” for conservatives.  The more I contemplate this ethanol disaster, the more I think that it just might be the time to pull a “Harriet Myers” and make a stand.  The ethanol mandates, subsidies, and tariffs embody everything that is wrong with Democrat-run government.  It creates electoral constituencies, enriches special interests, distorts the free market, creates poverty, and endangers our national security and energy independence.  The Democrats are providing the Republicans with a huge opportunity to educate the public by shoving the left’s class warfare rhetoric right back at them.  We should be opposing this bill on the premise that it enriches powerful special interests on the backs of the “little guy”, by regressively raising the cost of food and energy, which are vital to anyone.

But what about the tax increases?  We all know that January 1st is not the deadline.  The Democrats would be under even greater pressure to pass the tax extensions once the tax hikes kick in and the Republicans seize control of the House.  On the other hand, the spending and handout provisions of the bill present us with an imminent threat.  If we pass them now, we will never have an opportunity to overturn them.  Let the Democrats get blamed for raising taxes on everybody for the purpose of keeping their regressive backdoor…..taxes!


Unfortunately, there is one fatal flaw with this strategy and line of reasoning.  Many prominent Republicans support the extension of the ethanol mandates even as a stand alone provision!  They don’t view it as a necessary evil at all.  At best, it is a mere “2 percent” inconvenience of a generally positive bill. So the moral clarity and political distinction between the two parties on this issue is out the window.   This is a teachable moment for anyone who fails to understand Jim DeMint’s principle that it is better to have 30 pure conservatives than 60 RINOs.

Even if it is already too late to fight the tax deal, we need to continue to make ethanol a campaign issue.  It should definitely be a ‘hill to die on’ in the presidential primary.  This issue will be a litmus test to see who is willing to fight for conservative principles even when part of the electorate (Iowa Caucus) is on the dole.  Every prospective candidate should take a stand on this issue.  Unfortunately, we already know where John Thune stands.

We always hear about the latest big government agenda item that the GOP is compelled to support because of imminent mitigating circumstances.  Their rhetoric would be more palpable if they ever showed the moxie to uproot a single consequential big government program.  Unfortunately, they always expect us to take things on credit.  Yes, we have all heard of John Boehner’s pledge to vote on weekly spending cuts.  But are they really going to pursue the substantial market distorting, special interest entitlements that are killing our economy, breaking the back of consumers, and infringing on our freedoms?  Will they touch the holy grails of the entitlement and welfare state?  For such issues there is no time like the present.  As Ronald Reagan said, “If not us, then who? And if not now, when?”


Cross-posted to Red Meat Conservative


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