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GOP Embraces Windborne Pork

As Mitt Romney is finding out to his dismay, Republicans have just as much of an appetite for green energy pork as do Democrats these days.

When Romney recently voiced his opposition to a $5 billion tax credit for wind energy projects, a number of Republican senators from wind-energy producing states in the West and Midwest set themselves at odds with their own candidate, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Romney’s opposition has thrown Republicans into disarray. Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and other wind-state Republicans are big supporters of the wind tax break, which has grown in popularity within the GOP as wind energy gains a toehold in many GOP leaning parts of the country.

This cuts against the grain of the usual narratives of red vs. blue, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Everybody wants a taste of other people’s money. Conservative, subsidy hating, Republican senators don’t hate all subsidies. It turns out that “wind state Republicans” want green energy subsidies that benefit their states. Ethanol too has its GOP backers.

Unfortunately, subsidies and pork-barrel projects are a key part of our politics that has been around since the dawn of the republic. Realistically, we are never going to get rid of all of them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.


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  • Art Deco

    It is Grassley, a Capitol Hill fixture (37 years and counting) who is also a booster of farm subsidies. We can still hope the rest of the Republican caucus puts him in his place (wan hope, I know).

  • Walter Sobchak

    Well, David Dewhurst won’t be among that number.

  • Michael K

    That is why I am pessimistic that anything substantial will be done. It’s going to take something horrific to get our political class to look out for the country as a whole instead of their little fiefdoms.

  • Bill Henderson

    The $500 billion tax cut is that, a cut. It’s not additional spending, a subsidy, or pork spending. It takes money away from the government not through spending, but reduced revenue. Via Meadia should applaud an effort to get away from the blue model and allow private companies to decide what to do with their money, not bureaucrats.

  • Corlyss

    “Republicans have just as much of an appetite for green energy pork as do Democrats these days.”

    They signed up to this faux science for two reasons: 1) there was money to be made from the private or the public sectors; and 2) to get the money they had to persuade themselves that it was principle and not greed that fired their enthusiasm. Mostly it was stupidity.

  • Jim.

    So do these specific subsidies have any kind of sunset clause, looking to the time when the young technology really ought to be on is feet and bringing in its own money, or should be abandoned as a funding sinkhole?

  • Corlyss

    @ Jim

    Remember the axiom that the closest thing to eternal life is a government program?

  • Kris

    Just as not all Democrats hate America, not all Republicans hate Big Government. [The previous sentence was definitely tongue in cheek.]

    (By the way, the Porkbusters effort started when the GOP controlled all three branches of government. Which proves that the Tea Party is motivated by racism, or something like that.)


  • Jim.


    Of course. I also remember after Reagan made that point, we’d occasionally hear about sunset clauses on spending programs.

    Sunset clauses are a good idea that should be pursued far more vigorously than they are now.

  • thibaud

    Subsidies are bad – except when they’re not.

    “Mandates” are good – except when they’re not.

    Deficits are bad- except when they’re not.

    Stimulus is bad – except when it’s not.

    “Culture” explains the Isr-Pal. conflict – except when it doesn’t.

    “No apologies!” is the best policy – except when it’s the other guy who’s attacking you.

  • Art Deco

    What is your point, thibaud? That a judgment cannot be contingent on some sort of qualifier. Yes, subsidies are bad, except in circumstances where a good or service has a feature not incorporated into price signals. Yes, stimulus is bad when it is an excuse to enact an existing wish list of patronage programs. Yes, culture is a driver of political conflict in the Near East, just not the solitary driver, and so forth.

  • thibaud

    Point: the starve-the-state looniness crashes the instant it actually has to deal with real policy in the real world.

    See for instance Paul Ryan’s comically hypocritical record of scoring millions in federal economic development money for his declining hometown. Lizza has his number in the latest New Yorker:

    The pattern here is pathetic, and entirely predictable.

    Examples from the tragicomic Ryan spectacle include the need for our representatives to actually deal with American industrial decline and its effect on real people in real communities like Ryan’s hometown.

    Or the need for the government to step in and fund advanced research into hard problems that industry doesn’t have the patience to address. Or the need for massive federal infrastructure projects like the transportation network that Ryan hopes will make his hometown into a transportation hub.

    And then there’s the really disturbing story – also from the expert reporters at The New Yorker, this time Jane Mayer – of libertarian sugar daddy and cancer victim David Koch’s furious lobbying to prevent the National Cancer Institute from acting on its conclusion, after a massive, multi-decade study, that one of Koch’s major product lines was indisputably linked to … cancer.

    And now Koch, having resigned in disgrace from the board of NCI, has the gall to implore fellow gazillionaires to try to replace lost billions in NIH and NCI funding – cuts that he and his “movement” argued for and made happen!

    Infuriating, sad, or probably both.

    In any case, the voices of experienced, sober, older conservative intellectuals and experts – like Volcker, Posner, and Fukuyama – are now being heard.

    They’re appalled at (Posner’s words) the “goofy” and “lunatic” starve-the-beast types who’ve hijacked the conservative party. Norquist and his ilk are a much greater threat to the republic today than even the greediest public sector union. It’s not even close.

  • Sam L.

    And that’s why the Tea Party folks are so upset.

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