Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tim Pawlenty Courageously Flip Flopping On Ethanol Subsidies

Tim Pawlenty needs to do a better job of telling the truth if he is going to make "Time for Truth" his campaign slogan. He launched his presidential campaign by calling for a gradual phase out for ethanol subsidies:
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.
Some people will be upset by what I'm saying.
Conventional wisdom says you can't talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead.
Tim Pawlenty is getting a lot of praise from many conservatives for beginning his campaign by being "tough" and "courageous" for taking a "risky" and "noble" position on a sensitive subject. He's bold for "speaking the truth to power" because Iowa is a state known for being a large recipient of federal ethanol subsidies and he went into the lions den by traveling to the state of Iowa and calling for a gradual phase out of government money for the ethanol industry.  
Even Tim Pawlenty is prasing himself on the back for his speech in Iowa. But as Michael Tomasky points out, "any time a politician feels the need to pat himself on the back that much, you should immediately raise your BS deflector shields."
Yet, if truth is the benchmark that Tim Pawlenty wants to be measured against and he makes truth his campaign theme, he falls short of his own standards by flip flopping on this issue. The real genuine truth is that 
Tim Pawlenty was a proponent of ethanol subsidies before he was "gusty" for speaking out against it:
In 2008, Alaska governor Sarah Palin got the vice presidential nod, much to the disappointment of one group: the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA). The group had been hoping that John McCain would pick Pawlenty, according to the trade magazine Ethanol Producer. Pawlenty, the MCGA said, had “more moderate views towards ethanol” than most Republicans. It was a telling endorsement, particularly when compared with the tongue-lashing the MCGA gave the GOP platform that year, which it considered anti-ethanol to the point of being “devastating” to the industry.
The endorsement was well deserved. Throughout his time as governor, Pawlenty has been a friend to ethanol. In 2004, Pawlenty created the JOBZ program, an innovative way to subsidize ethanol. While Minnesota was no longer approving producer payments (13 cents per gallon of ethanol) for new ethanol plants, the JOBZ program offered “a new incentive, one that many investors find nearly as alluring,” gushed Ethanol Producer. JOBZ, the magazine continued, “provides relief from corporate franchise tax, income tax for operators or investors, sales tax on business purchases and capital gains tax, and property taxes. It also provides an employment tax credit for high paying jobs.”
A year later, Pawlenty signed legislation mandating that all gas sold in Minnesota contain 20 percent ethanol by 2013, up from 10 percent. (Since the EPA has not yet approved the 20 percent blend, the mandate will most likely not go into effect in 2013.) In 2005, Pawlenty also urged other states, at a meeting of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition (which had 31 member states at the time), to mandate that all gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol by 2010.
The “E85 Everywhere” program, which promoted the 85 percent–ethanol fuel, was launched in 2006. Pawlenty wanted there to be plenty of stations where consumers could purchase E85. He requested $12 million in subsidies for gas-station owners to encourage them to offer it. State legislators balked at the sum; instead, the state began offering $1.75 million in subsidies starting in 2007. But even with the subsidies, Minnesota did not achieve Pawlenty’s goal of 1,800 E85 stations by 2010. As of 2009, the state had 351 gas stations that sold E85.
What amazes me is that top notch conservative bloggers are falling for Tim Pawlenty's slick political move of getting people to buy in to his false portrayal of himself as a politician who is taking on issues that other politicians are afraid to address. For example, Allahpundit falls in love with the the deceptive propaganda of Tim Pawlenty as a speaker of truth:   
Pawlenty’s ethanol gambit forces them to rethink that by posing the following question: If he’s willing to confront Iowa voters about their little ethanol gravy train in the name of fiscal responsibility — even though his candidacy probably depends on winning the state — then who wouldn’t he be willing to confront? He’s got guts. I’m not so sure about his risk-assessment skills, but he’s playing to win.
Not only are well seasons conservatives buying into the false advertisement of Tim Pawlenty, but many conservatives will praise some candidates for boldly flip flopping and scorn others for doing so. It appears that conservatives like to cherry pick which flip flops they like and which they don't like. For example, the best example of this comes from Ed Morrissey over at HotAir.com:

[Former Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty went to Iowa and told the truth — that the federal government’s subsidies of ethanol were bad policy that we can no longer afford.  Romney went to Iowa and pandered for big-government solutions in a market that should either be standing on its own two feet by now or putting resources into other solutions instead.  Which candidate showed political courage?
If Tim Pawlenty is going to be praised for anything, he should be praised for his political courage to flip flop so brazenly and openly while getting the masses to praise you for doing it. But the truth is that it doesn't take a lot of courage for a politician to flip flop:  
While endorsing its substance — as an advocate of smaller government should — I wonder how much “fortitude” this announcement actually took for him to make. Was it instead simply a well-calculated move in a chess game for Pawlenty? Had he already decided that he was willing to sacrifice the pawn of his Iowa Caucus votes for a better chance at winning the game of the Republican presidential nomination?
Did he see that, like his former support for cap-and-trade Legislation, another issue on which he reversed himself, his past endorsement of ethanol subsidies could become a roadblock for him in securing the sought-after support of his conservative base unless dealt with at the outset of his campaign? And was throwing Iowa farmers under the bus his way of dealing with it? Reasonable questions to ask, I think.
If conservatives are going to scorn candidates for flip flopping, then they ought to be consistent in meting out their condemnation. Here, T-Paw was pandering to voters by flip flopping on a key issue and lying to the Iowan voters and the rest of the nation about his false courage for taking on ethanol subsidies. Yet, Mitt Romney was being consistent in his support for ethanol. He supported ethanol subsidies during the 2008 Presidential campaign and he still supports it now.  Watch Mitt Romney give his position on ethanol back in 2007:

As I said earlier, if if truth is the benchmark that Tim Pawlenty wants to be measured against and he makes truth his campaign theme, then Tim Pawlenty is not a courageous man. And that is the pure and unvarnished truth.

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