Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This was shockingly bad journalism

Methinks the Washington Post is going the way of the New York Times:

1. The most important thing about the ethanol subsidy is that it is bad policy, as the Post editorial page and even previous supporters acknowledge.
2. The next most important thing about the ethanol subsidy is that it is a classic case of rent-seeking. The beneficiaries are relatively few but relatively well organized. It is in the interest of politicians to vote to keep it, even though it is against the interest of most of their constituents.
3. Finally, if you still think that the important issue in the vote concerns what it says about your willingness to raise taxes, then certainly the Democrats are being hypocritical by voting as a bloc to keep the subsidy. Why is it the alleged Republican hypocrisy that gets all of the focus?
4. In explaining the defeat of the Republican attempt to end the subsidy, the article focuses on the actions of Grover Norquist. However, Norquist's influence is presumably on Republicans. But most of those who voted to keep the subsidy were Democrats, and the story offers no insight into how they were persuaded.
Photo link here.

UPDATE:  Steve Landsburg has some good thoughts, too:
Here is Senator John Thune (R-SD), speaking on the floor of the United States Senate:
Ethanol producers have been ripping us off for a long time, and they’ve come to rely on that for a source of income. So it’s only fair to let them rip us off a little longer.
I’m quoting from memory, so I might have the wording slightly off, but that was the gist of it. Oh, wait, here’s the exact quote:
We have a lot of folks who made investments, you have people across the country whose livelihoods depend upon this. I think it makes sense, when we put policy in place and we say it is going to be in place for a certain period of time, that it be honored.
As you can see, my parapharase was accurate.

Senator Thune speaks in the great tradition of his institution. Back in 1848, senators by the score made exactly the same argument for preserving slavery. A lot of folks had invested in slaves, you know. And their livelihoods depended on it.

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