Senator Ethanol, the Young Guns, and the Politically Expedient

Senator John Thune took to the Senate floor yesterday to criticize his fellow 2012 presidential contenders for playing politics with the Obama-Kyl tax deal.

“It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this deal,” Thune said. “And it would perhaps be politically expedient to stand on the sideline and criticize this tax deal. But to advocate against this tax deal is to advocate for a tax increase.”


It certainly is not.

None of the conservatives opposed to Obama-Kyl, including myself, want tax rates to go up on January 1. However, we are simply unwilling to accept the party line that the best deal we could get includes a mammoth 13 month extension of unpaid unemployment benefits (thus caving after a year-long fight on the principle of paying for such extensions), an extension of current tax rates that conveniently ignores the resurrection of the death tax, and a package of tax extenders that includes all sorts of giveaways for big business.

One of those giveaways is the renewal of the tax and tariff subsidies for ethanol that Senator Thune is so beholden too. At the end of November, Thune joined over a dozen other Senators in requesting that these extensions be made a priority in any legislative end-game, and inevitably these subsidies made it into the Obama-Kyl package that Thune is now heartily supporting. (Who is playing politics here, Senator?)

But Thune isn’t the only one casting aspersions on the motives of those opposing Obama-Kyl.

Republican Whip and self-declared Young Gun Eric Cantor, through his spokesman, is accusing opponents of the tax deal with “playing political chess with the budgets of millions of working families and small businesses.” Another Young Gun, Paul Ryan, stated that, “I think presidential aspirants will try to out-conservative each other for their own purposes.”


Folks, I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. The issues are different, but the proponents of Obama-Kyl tax make up the same coalition that gave us TARP. They are the doomsday caucus that warn us repeatedly that the world is about to end if we don’t accept THIS deal RIGHT now WITHOUT delay. Take the comments of the much heralded Ryan back when TARP was being considered on the floor of the House:

This is a Herbert Hoover moment. He made some big mistakes after the Great Depression, and we lived those consequences for decades. Let’s not make that mistake. There is a lot of fear and a lot of panic out there. A lot of what this is about is getting that fear and panic out of the market….Colleagues, we are in the moment. This bill doesn’t have everything I want in it. It has a lot of good things it. But we are here. We are in this moment. And if we fail to do the right thing, heaven help us. If we fail to pass this, I fear the worst is yet to come.

The more the issues change, the more the protagonists stay the same.

I get that John Thune loves his ethanol subsidies that raise the cost of food. I get that Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan always think the world is about to end without Congressional action. But let’s not buy into their notion that it’s politically expedient to be among the few who are out there willing to stand up to their party, and most of the political establishment, and say that a deal stinks and ought to be killed. That takes real courage, and real courage is never politically expedient.




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