Republicans in Congress have taken giant steps forward to restore American economic vitality but, as the current tax legislation, up for a cloture vote in the Senate on Monday proves the GOP has yet to prove that they are serious about cutting spending. Nestled within the legislation that extends the Bush tax cuts for another two years is a 45 cents per gallon subsidy for ethanol, as well as a retroactive $1 per gallon credit for bio-diesel fuel. Continuing these subsidies costs taxpayers approximately $5 billion a year.
Budget-busting subsidies and bailouts of failing industries have been a mainstay of the Democrats in Congress over the last two years, but the tax legislation reveals that there are GOP senators who are not immune from the temptations of pork.
Folks familiar with Iowan Senator Charles Grassley are aware of his characterization as a deficit hawk, tough on waste, fraud and abuse, and yet, he’s the last hold-out on ethanol subsidies, an enormous source of government waste.
Even Al Gore has faced the inconvenient truth that ethanol “is not a good policy.” Corn-based ethanol is expensive and has dubious environmental benefits. Moreover, huge subsidies for corn-based ethanol drive up the cost of food as large amounts of U.S. farm production is diverted to make expensive fuel. Americans are then forced to buy a product that they do not want, because of government mandates for ethanol inclusion in gasoline blends. At the same time, protectionist measures prevent the importation of cheaper forms of ethanol made in Brazil, from sugar cane. These decisions, that enrich the Iowa corn industry, cost taxpayers dearly.
The good news is that the ethanol subsidy and the bio-diesel subsidy were due to expire at the end of this year. But, sadly, Grassley has placed parochial politics above the good of the GOP and the good of the country, and insisted that the extension be tagged on to the tax-cut legislation. So, there goes another 5 billion.
The fact that wasteful pork comes from a GOP Senator that bills himself as a budget hawk is disconcerting. Hopefully, GOP leaders, eager to show voters that they heard them this past November, will strip continued ethanol subsidies from the bill.
Why not let the Bush tax cuts stand alone? Why allow pork, such as the ethanol subsidy, to besmirch GOP efforts to restore fiscal sanity?