Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today in Republican America

They do not know which way is up. Republican guru Grover Norquist, who has led the party on tax reform for a generation, was brought down a few notches on Tuesday, as he went head-to-head with the Koch Brothers on the issue of government tax breaks for ethanol.

Seems Norquist holds the position that to end the subsidies, which the Koch brothers and several Republican candidates have vocally favored, would effectively be a tax increase on agribusinesses growing corn for ethanol. It's a big issue in Iowa, the site of the first presidential election test, the Caucuses.

Norquist has managed to get nearly every Republican in Congress and the Senate to sign The Pledge, which means that they promise never to vote to raise taxes. However, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has sponsored an amendment ending the tax breaks, and 34 Senate Republicans have joined him.

Norquist tried to lobby opponents of the amendment, including Jim DeMint (R-SC) to sponsor a different amendment that would end the subsidy, but cut estate taxes, thereby making the amendment non-revenue generating. No word on whether or not that will be effective.

Koch Industries, perhaps the biggest player in GOP politics today and a heavy player in oil refining, sent Coburn a letter backing his amendment. They are giving lots of money to Republicans who back their desire to end the tax breaks. Of course, increased use of ethanol takes money out of their pockets because it uses less crude oil, so it's not like this is some principled discussion of Republican philosophy going on.

I also oppose ethanol tax breaks, but for different reasons. Corn-growing businesses are huge, just like oil companies, and giant corporations neither deserve tax breaks nor do anything positive with the tax breaks they currently get. Further, ethanol production adds to the country's carbon footprint so that any benefits to ethanol use in vehicles is neutralized, if not overtaken. Further, the increased cost of corn resulting from ethanol production has added a host of problems for consumers and small businesses, adding to household expenses and business costs. In this case, what is bad for Main Street America is bad for America.

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