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Thursday, January 17, 2019

There exists a government boondoggle that offends conservatives, liberals, environmentalists, oil refiners, cattle ranchers and taxpayers alike. It’s not easy to get that kind of Kumbaya going, but the corn-based ethanol program has done it.

This has put Joni Ernst, the Tea Party favorite for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, in an awkward position. The Republican has vowed to both end government subsidies and preserve the freight loads of taxpayer dollars chugging into Iowa’s corn belt in the name of ethanol.

Her footwork goes as follows: She says she’ll end this subsidy when every other subsidy in the American universe also gets the ax. And, she forgot to add, when Martians colonize Neptune.

Thus, Ernst has castrated a bedrock conservative principle as easily as the pigs she claims to have desexed on her family farm.

Two fierce winds have made it especially thorny for conservatives to justify blowing huge sums on energy projects — for oil and gas in Alaska, as well as for ethanol in the Corn Belt.

One is the conservative respect for market forces. A boom in production has actually created an energy glut. The global price for oil recently sank below $90 a barrel.

The other is the successful conservative crusade to curb federal spending. There’s less money sloshing around for dubious programs, as well as the noble ones.

“National support for the ethanol program is collapsing as the reality of corn ethanol has become more and more apparent,” Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group told me. EWG has been a forceful critic of U.S. farm programs and their impact on the environment.

The ethanol giveaway comes on top of the usual bonanza of farm subsidies. But now, because of the ethanol craze, “farmers trip over themselves planting every square foot they can find with corn,” said Cox, who’s based in Ames, Iowa.

The result has been fouled water supplies. There’s also a soaring world price for food — and for feed, hurting pig farmers and cattle ranchers.

Oil refiners are also taking it on the chin. Today’s big ethanol subsidy comes in the form of a mandate requiring refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into motor fuels by 2015.

“There’s only so much ethanol that can be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply,” especially as fuel consumption declines, Cox noted. The blend is typically 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

The current flashpoint is a pending Environmental Protection Agency decision to possibly roll back the mandate. The American Petroleum Institute is leading the charge for that.

By the way, the one compelling rationale for ethanol was that it would reduce carbon emissions. And the blending mandate theoretically rests on ethanol’s cutting those greenhouse gases by 20 percent.

Recent science shows that on the contrary, ethanol increases them. But no matter.

“The funny little secret,” Cox said, “is the fine print in the 2007 energy law, which exempts all existing ethanol plants or plants that commenced construction from that requirement.” In other words, all 15 billion gallons stay.

Before we go, let’s make of a point of not pinning a medal on Ernst’s Democratic foe, Bruce Braley. He’s all for the ethanol scam. Liberals who support government programs should feel a special duty to weed out the dodgy ones.

Am I being unfair and unrealistic? After all, this is politics, and the corn folks make up a good hunk of Iowa’s voters.

Well, here’s the deal for Republicans: If you want to transfer huge sums of other taxpayers’ money into local scams, go ahead and try. Just expect to be mocked every time you call yourself a conservative. OK?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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16 responses to “Castrating Conservative Principles In Iowa”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    For a hard core conservative subsidies are evil manifestations of socialism only when it involves social programs that help the elderly, the poor, students, and any other under privileged segment of our society. When subsidies help profitable corporations increase profits and shareholder goals more than they already did, they become manifestations of a pro-business environment, and something every red blooded American should support.

    • TZToronto says:

      I’ve come to the conclusion that “trickle-down” economics actually came with a caveat: It works IF the “job creators” actually want to create jobs. If their sole aim is to produce record profits (in large part due to massive layoffs and off-shoring production) and for the C-level executives to reap massive and unearned rewards, then support of subsidies to profitable corporations makes total sense. But the agricultural subsidies, if I have it right, were designed to help food producers stay afloat, not to pad already profitable bottom lines. I may be totally wrong about this, but I can’t see why profitable companies should be showered with taxpayer dollars simply for being involved in a particular industry . . . I wonder what subsidies the Koch brothers get from the public purse. (Their companies are involved in a lot of industries.) If they get even one cent of tax money in their businesses, then they’re the hypocrites we already know they are. If they get nothing, why aren’t they at the forefront of a campaign to end such subsidies? And since this article is about fuel, why aren’t TP-ers praising the President for the decline in gasoline prices? After all, they’ve been blaming him for years for high prices at the pump. Oh, I get it. When prices go up, it’s President Obama’s fault. When prices drop, it’s simply market forces at work.

      • Independent1 says:

        I think trickle-down economics actually worked before Reagan convinced Americans that not only was our government evil, but so were unions; and that companies should work to ensure their stockholders made the maximum return, even if that meant that the people working for them may suffer. And that was also, before he cut the max tax rate by more than 50%.

        Back when the tax rate was 70% and higher, there was a true trickle-down of wealth from corporations and the truly wealthy. That was at a time when the vast majority of American citizens had the belief that they had a responsibility to the nation, and other Americans, as well as to themselves. And despite the high tax rate, there was no where near the griping about how high taxes are, as there has been since Reagan slashed the max rate and created the mindset in Americans that anything related to the government, and especially the IRS, were something evil.

        Today, even though the average multi-millionaire pays an average of 20.4% on his or her total income in taxes, and people earning $50,000 to $100,000 pay an average of 8.7% in federal tax, the way people talk, you’d think we were back in the days when many Americans actually paid over 50% of their income in federal taxes because there were no where near all the exemptions and deductions that people get today.

        • TZToronto says:

          I’ll place some of the blame for the 1% vs. 99% issue on the MBA degree. There are a lot of MBAs running around loose, and, to be quite honest, a lot of them have no idea what they’re doing. A colleague of mine, maybe 25 years ago, made a customer service presentation to a bunch of MBAs at a large bank in NYC. Customer service (again) was the topic, but all of the newly-minted MBAs in the audience (most of the audience) couldn’t have cared less. They were just putting in their time, waiting to get into a position where they could make “the deal.” “The deal” is the bane of the American economy because “the deal” is all about ME and how much my commission will be. The ultimate impact of “the deal” is of little consequence. In fact, it seems that the more “common people” who can be relieved of their money, the more successful “the deal” is. Just look at credit default swaps. Whose idea was that? An MBA, I’m sure.

      • Dominick Vila says:

        …and those who support the status quo don’t hesitate to accuse 47% of Americans of taking handouts!

      • Allan Richardson says:

        First of all, those top 1% “job creators” do not have paying wages to others as their goal; it is a means to an end, making more and more profit for the corporate treasury, and keeping more and more of THAT for themselves.

        A business only “creates jobs” when there is no other alternative: that is, when someone outside that business wants MORE of their product, or a more IMPROVED product, than they can produce with the existing staff, and offers MONEY to buy it. Only THEN (or at least when the business managers EXPECT it to happen soon) does any business invest in new facilities, new or upgraded capital equipment, and (LAST) hiring new people.

        In other words, the REAL job creators are the CUSTOMERS with money to buy things. But the middle and lower income people are the ones who spend a high proportion of their earnings (and savings, if any) on consumer goods and services. If you impoverish the middle class, which is what layoffs, denying health care, raising prices of those consumer goods via oligopoly, and other effects caused by “trickle down voodoo economics,” you are cutting the size of the market to which you want to sell.

        Money bubbles UP, rather than trickling DOWN, and when it reaches the top 1%, it behaves like the water flowing into the Dead Sea: it stagnates rather than circulating, and becomes toxic to life.

        • TZToronto says:

          You’re right, of course. Those people who tout the benefits of low taxation on the wealthy try to make the case that when these people have more money in their pockets, they’ll go out and start hiring people or start spending their money on consumer goods. That’s not the case. If it’s personal money, they try to stash it offshore where the IRS can’t find it. If it’s corporate money, they invest it or save it or pay it out to their C-level executives and top performers in the way of huge bonuses. Oh, I suppose there are some companies that use the money to hire much-needed employees, but if they can avoid paying salaries, they’re more than happy to do so. And if they can hire people in third-world countries and pay poverty-level wages, they’ll do that. Henry Ford paid good wages because he knew that his employees wouldn’t buy his products unless they had money to do that. Executives today seem to have lost that concept.

  2. bobnstuff says:

    Its a foolish man who burns his food.

  3. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    “Fiscal” …the new CON word for “greed.” Conservatives like Nixon didn’t fight spending for things tax dollars are supposed to pay for. CONS fight for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Military and Prison Industries…and all for the Big Payoff at the end….Millions in campaign funding.

    Thanks to the idiots on the SC, now not only do CEOs get a single vote, they get two..one as an individual voter and the other as the “corporation” the SC considers a Person…More BS than this you can’t find in a cow meadow loaded with cow flops. Worse, now the SC has given corporations religious rights under that idiotic Hobby Lobby decision.

    The joke is now any employer can deny a woman a raise because she might spend the money she earns on a contraceptive. How’s that for jerking taxpaying women around?

  4. Perhaps if we stopped THIS:

    Recipients of good ol American Aid dollars in 2012

    Top 25 Recipient Countries of U.S. Foreign Aid FY 2012 Reported in $US millions, Obligations [6]

    Country
    U.S. Total Economic and Military Assistance FY 2012, $US millions
    Economic Assistance FY 2012, $US millions
    Military Assistance FY 2012, $US millions
    US Economic and Military Assistance per Capita, $US

    Afghanistan
    12,885.50
    3,325.50
    9,559.90
    423.59

    Israel
    3,100.10
    25.10
    3,075.00
    408.40

    Iraq
    1,940.10
    783.50
    1,156.60
    62.32

    Egypt
    1,404.00
    102.60
    1,301.40
    16.78

    Pakistan
    1,214.90
    1,137.70
    77.20
    6.38

    Jordan
    1,135.30
    831.60
    303.70
    174.42

    Ethiopia
    870.10
    864.60
    5.40
    9.54

    Kenya
    749.20
    745.60
    3.60
    17.42

    Colombia
    644.30
    543.90
    100.40
    14.24

    Haiti
    510.40
    510.20
    0.20
    52.07

    West Bank/Gaza
    457.40
    457.40

    105.57

    South Sudan
    444.30
    395.50
    48.80
    41.81

    Russia
    440.90
    339.00
    101.90
    3.09

    Somalia
    419.60
    274.90
    144.70
    41.61

    Tanzania
    402.00
    399.20
    2.80
    8.57

    Congo (Kinshasa)
    388.40
    370.50
    18.00
    5.28

    Uganda
    352.40
    349.40
    3.00
    10.48

    Nigeria
    335.90
    330.90
    4.90
    1.97

    Sudan
    298.10
    298.10
    0.00
    8.72

    South Africa
    274.70
    272.60
    2.20
    5.63

    Mozambique
    274.00
    273.50
    0.50
    11.65

    Ukraine
    273.30
    207.20
    66.10
    6.09

    Yemen
    258.50
    237.40
    21.10
    10.44

    Bangladesh
    256.80
    246.50
    10.30
    1.59

    Liberia
    247.10
    233.80
    13.30
    63.56

    • bobnstuff says:

      They won’t because most of that money goes to American companies. Foreign aid is another form of corporate welfare.

    • Independent1 says:

      Keep in mind that all that foreign aid is about 1% of the U.S. budget. Cutting back on foreign aid would not only accomplish very little with respect to a budget impact, it would actually negatively impact the U.S. economy. Studies have shown that the U.S. actually gets back $4 in economic benefit for every $1 in foreign aid it provides to other countries.

  5. David says:

    Anyone who owns an almanac can easily see that GOP goes on outrageous spending sprees under Republican presidents, and hand out tax money to corporations like it was Halloween candy.

  6. ericlipps says:

    Joni Ernst’s position is that of may people, conservative and liberal alike: cut someone else’s favorite programs and/or tax giveaways, not mine or those of my friends and supporters. It’s always someone else who has to sacrifice.

    Someday, just once, I’d like to hear someone say in all sincerity, “Hey, I really support this program, but it needs to be cut as part of any honest effort to balance the budget.” But since that would be political suicide, I’m not holding my breath waiting.

  7. ExRadioGuy15 says:

    ericlipps is probably a Firebagger (Libertarian) employing the “false equivalency” argument to support his point. Pathetic 🙁 ssmdh

    Conservative fiscal policies can be boiled down to one term: upward wealth redistribution. That’s it. Cons are psychopathically greedy.

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