Tim Pawlenty comes out against farm subsidies. In Iowa.

In his official speech kicking off his campaign:

I’m here today to tell Iowans the truth, too.

America is facing a crushing debt crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before.  We need to cut spending, and we need to cut it…big time. The hard truth is that there are no longer any sacred programs.

The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out.  We need to do it gradually.  We need to do it fairly.  But we need to do it.

Now, I’m not some out-of-touch politician.  I served two terms as Governor of an ag state.  I fully understand and respect the critical role farming plays in our economy and our society.  I’ve strongly supported ethanol in various ways over the years, and I still believe in the promise of renewable fuels – both for our economy and our national security.

But even in Minnesota, when faced with fiscal challenges, we reduced ethanol subsidies.  That’s where we are now in Washington, but on a much, much larger scale.

It’s not only ethanol.  We need to change our approach to subsidies in all industries.

It can’t be done overnight.  The industry has made large investments, and it wouldn’t be fair to pull the rug out from under it immediately.  But we must face the truth that if we want to invite more competition, more investment, and more innovation into an industry – we need to get government out.  We also need the government out of the business of handing out favors and special deals.  The free market, not freebies from politicians, should decide a company’s success.  So, as part of a larger reform, we need to phase out subsidies across all sources of energy and all industries, including ethanol.  We simply can’t afford them anymore.


As I have been reminded privately, in 2008 John McCain likewise came out against ethanol… and paid the price for it in Iowa and Indiana.  And it might make Pawlenty pay the same price in 2012; but the truth is, we really can’t afford ethanol subsidies anymore.  Either economically, or  – increasingly – in terms of world security*.  So the sooner we have more candidates feeling comfortable in telling early primary states that their particular sacred cows aren’t actually all that sacred, the better off we’re all going to be…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*No, seriously, world security.  Decrease the amount of food available (and raising food prices means that there’s less food available for the poor), and you get geopolitical instability as surely as night follows day.


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