Paul Jacob

Yes, Joseph Stiglitz and the Democratic Party — along with most of the intelligentsia and the very opposite of that crowd, the Bush administration . . . as well as Ye Olde Guarde GOP — have embraced absurdity. They smile, knowingly, trying to play it both ways. Yes, it's absurd. And yes, it's the best they can do.

Behind their smirks, they mouth aspersions: We who object are lowbrow morons.

Well, if you keep arching your eyebrows at your own policy, I guess that does make you a highbrow. Like your mother said, if you insist on making faces, some day your face will freeze that way.

While traditionalists wait for the Second Coming, these proud folk appear merely to wait for Godot. And they act the part, playing clowns amidst the wreckage. There appears to be no absurdity they won't embrace.

Example? You need an example? Take one of the latest bailout discussions, the proposed bailout of ethanol production operations.

Yes, ethanol producers.

And yes, I have to repeat that: The makers of ethanol.

They may be the biggest recipients of idiotic federal largesse in our age — until the recent subprime mortgage failure, ethanol subsidies were the federal policy that most closely mimicked legal insanity — but today ethanol producers are hurting. Many played the futures market. And took a huge loss.

Who said the market is never just?

And yet Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, speaking at something called the World Food Prize symposium breakfast (what that is, I don't even want to know), stated that "Some plants are under pressure because they've been speculating on corn . . ." and he went on to say that the USDA may use its Rural Development office to provide up to $25 million to keep the system going.

Now, a wiser man would have taken the occasion as an opportunity to let the ethanol industry sink into deserved obscurity. But there are no wise men in the Bush Administration. If you had some hope for fiscal responsibility from these "compassionate conservatives," that hope must now be as dashed as the salt from the grimiest saltshaker in the greasiest of greasy spoon restaurants.

There are, however, a few reasonable congressmen left. It's a pity that one of them has the last name of "Flake," a moniker better suited to a Christopher Buckley comedy than to actual politics. Rep. Jeff Flake has taken an almost heroic stance. Which means, today, not much more than pointing out the painfully obvious:

Flake said tax breaks and credits for ethanol producers should be repealed. "The high price of corn has had a ripple effect over our entire economy. Instead of trying to bail out every industry hurt by it, the federal government needs to take a serious look at reforming our ethanol policies," said the East Valley Republican.

The only problem with the statement is that term, "reform." Ethanol subsidies should not be reformed. They should be repealed.

As should every last bit of insanity now pushing our economy into the corporatist, Mussolinian monstrosity so beloved by (a) Bush, (b) Bernanke, (c) Paulson, (d) a majority of Democrats in Congress, and (e) far too many Republican solons, too.

Oh, and let's not forget Agriculture Secretary Schafer, who apparently suffers from bailout envy. He just has to put his two cents in.

And our $25 million.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.