Nothing exemplifies the failure of Republicans to communicate more than the exit polling data regarding the public’s perception of the cost of living. A whopping 37% of voters selected ‘rising prices’ as their most important issue in the election, yet amazingly, they split their votes evenly between Romney and Obama. Hence, the arsonist behind the high prices for food, fuel, healthcare, and every other vital product and service affected by his tax and regulatory regime, was regarded as the firefighter by half the electorate.
The single most regressive market-distorting policy to ever emanate from Washington is the absurd tendentious treatment of ethanol. Over the past decade, ethanol has been the poster child for the worst aspects of big-government crony capitalism. The ethanol industry has used the fist of government to mandate that fuel blenders use their product, to subsidize their production with refundable tax credits, and to impose tariffs on more efficient sugar-based ethanol from Brazil. These policies have distorted the market for corn to such a degree that 44% of all corn grown in the country is diverted towards motor fuel blends. If we would literally flush half the corn harvest down the toilet, we would be better off than using it to make our motor fuel less efficient.
Now, consumers are stuck with higher food and fuel prices, while rich farmers enjoy the favors of free legislation forcing people to buy their odious product. Although the subsidy has expired, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which requires that 10% of all fuel be mixed with ethanol, is still in effect. There is no worse tyranny than using the power of the law to coerce citizens into purchasing an ineffectual product that costs more, and in turn, drives up the cost of everything else along the food chain.
Over the summer, the ethanol debate reached a new tipping point when the severe drought in the heartland destroyed much of the corn crop. At that point, even the obdurate knuckleheads in Washington began to wake up to the reality of the ethanol boondoggle. A bipartisan group of 156 representatives, 8 governors, and 25 senators petitioned the EPA to temporarily waive the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuels Standard until we recover from the drought. After dragging their feet for months, the EPA announced today that they have no intention on suspending the mandate for even one day.
Folks, this is the regressiveness of the progressives on display for everyone to see. The same man who rails against tax cuts for those who pay the most in taxes, has no problem forcing all American consumers to subsidize a boondoggle for the rich. I have a novel idea, Mr. President. Let’s not steal money from the rich, but let’s not subsidize them either; let’s not subsidize the poor and working class, but let’s not create the need for the subsidy in the first place.
There is a fierce debate taking place about the source of the GOP electoral loss this November. Many people are questioning how we can win when so many people are offered handouts from the government, irrespective of how eloquently we defend free markets and limited government. However, the real key to success is to find candidates who will complete their sentences and articulate to the American people how and why the cost of living has gone up. We need candidates who will harness issues like ethanol and hang them around the necks of the regressive progressives. This is a teachable moment for the average American, and it is ripe for anyone to come along and seize. These are the bread and butter issues that edify government interventions at their worst and how they engender the need for subsidization. We need to tell the American people that we will not subsidize them, but we will eliminate the policies that precipitate the need for those subsidies.
It’s not too late to begin our message of free market populism by hanging crony capitalism around Obama’s neck and passing a full repeal of the ethanol mandate in the House. That will change the entire trajectory of the debate over poverty, taxes, and the role of government. It is definitely superior to passing a special interest farm bill that is chock full of handouts for rich farmers.
Challenge your representatives to submit a bill that will repeal the ethanol mandate and begin rehabilitating the image of the Republican Party as the party that stands with individual liberty over Obama cronyism.