Planet Gore

On Pork and Tea Parties

A bill to keep the Bush tax cuts in place has, in the words of the Associated Press, become a “Christmas tree,” for every special-interest handout, earmark, and give away imaginable. Sadly, when Congress trims a Christmas tree, its the one time you’d rather have something that looks like Charlie Brown brought it home. 

Though there is plenty in this bill for everyone to hate, as an environmental analyst, the continued subsidies for green pork (i.e., renewable-energy grants, tax credits, payouts, and mandates) are especially egregious. 

The bill is expected to contain about $5 billion in subsidies for corn-based ethanol and continues the tarrifs blocking cheaper, more environmentally friendly ethanol from abroad. Even Al Gore has seen the light on the ethanol boondoggle, but apparently, Congress — even after the last election — has not.

Billions more in direct grants and mandates are being given to solar- and wind-power manufacturers, installers, and energy producers (including a bunch to some of the biggest companies in the world, and companies in China). As I’ve detailed elsewhere, these energy sources are unreliable and expensive and often kill more jobs than they create. 

The question is, where is the Tea Party’s vocal outrage over this bill? The Tea Party movement was supposed to be about shrinking the size and scope of government, getting back to Constitutional principle and forcing the government to live within its means. It was not about keeping taxes low at any cost — or so I thought.

Why is the Tea Party not calling on Republicans to block the tax bill — and the funding bill even if it means temporarily shutting down some government agencies — and start over with the new, more conservative, Congress? The next Congress could write a clean tax bill, without all the add-ons and special-interest provisions — and even back-date the tax cuts. The only problem is generating the will to do so in Congress.  The Tea Party should be able to apply pressure and make it clear that the tax bill as written is unacceptable to them — not because, as liberal Democrats claim, it gives away to much to the rich, but because it continues the same profligate spending, via credit, that brought this country to the economic brink.

H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education institute in Dallas, Texas. While he works ...


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