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23.9.08

On sugar issue, McCain principled, Landrieu hypocritical

The issue of sugar subsidies does a wonderful job of confounding ideological principle in Louisiana and in this year’s federal elections of all the statewide-elected officials in the state, or the presidential tickets running statewide, that issue reveals the most principled of the bunch to be – Sen. John McCain?

If you’re a “maverick” as McCain styles himself, that means you would be most likely to buck your party and/or ideological principles on issues, and subsidizing sugar or any other commodity might seem like an easy reach. But on both sides of the spectrum – Republicans and conservatives Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter, and Treasurer and Senate candidate John Kennedy; and Democrats and liberals Sens. Barack Obama and Mary Landrieu – McCain comes off the most principled by his opposition to sugar subsidies.

Like any commodity subsidy either where some quota is imposed to keep out imports or guarantees a certain amount of sales, or outright transfer occurs of taxpayers’ dollars into the pockets of producers to prop up prices, support programs that interfere with the marketplace have the deleterious effects of increasing prices on consumers, using taxpayer funds inefficiently, and causing undesirable spillover effects such as environmental degradation. For those reasons conservatives should oppose any of these, while liberals, who favor using government to reorder society to their ideological whims, would favor these as they increasingly adopt using alternative fuels such as ethanol from sugar under the cover of environmentalism to force inefficiency into markets as a prelude to greater government control of markets and peoples’ lives.

Yet Jindal, Kennedy, and Vitter speak in favor of controls favoring sugar, and Vitter gets special recognition for making the extra effort to justify why McCain too should be using the alternative fuels argument to endorse sugar support: if McCain generally favors alternative energy sources being subsidized by government, sugar he says should qualify on that account. But that misses the point that McCain consistently has been a critic of ethanol subsidies, besides the fact support of them violates conservative principles.

All of the Republicans mentioned venture into unprincipled territory on this because it does collect votes in Louisiana, even as the portion of those assisted makes up a small (but politically influential; Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon’s previous occupation was leading the American Sugar Cane League) part of the population. Political considerations also explain why Obama is against sugar support as well.

Obama, the most liberal senator in Washington, needs an inoculation point to deflect attention from that record (note: liberals frequently use an “inoculation” strategy where, to avoid a politically-troubling labeling, they find an exception to their rhetoric and/or behavior and on that basis declare that his views on the whole becomes subrogated to that exception, i.e. a liberal who almost always votes for higher taxes makes one vote against them, et voilà, he’s a tax-cutter). Sugar support is a great out for him especially given that Obama is one of the biggest champions of subsidizing corn for ethanol-making purposes.

Landrieu’s lack of principle here comes not from her support of sugar support, consistent with her liberalism, but in how her view contradicts Obama’s. Here the award for thinking you are clever but making yourself look stupid in the process goes to Louisiana’s Democrat Party flack Brain Welsh, whose parent national organization had criticized Landrieu’s opponent Kennedy’s support which contradicts McCain’s, but who argued Landrieu really wasn’t being inconsistent because she didn’t support Obama as wholeheartedly as Kennedy did McCain.

Of course, this totally ignores the embarrassing retraction that Landrieu made when she had removed her name co-hosting an East Coast fundraiser for Obama when it became public knowledge. Nobody believes the claim it was a mistaken listing; these events are carefully planned and hosting mention is intensely fought for. Landrieu simply is a very intense backer of Obama’s (who did attend the interestingly named, in light of future developments, “Lipstick, Laughter and Libations” event) who knows that public perception will cost her votes back home and disingenuously is trying to distance herself from Obama.

The dust settles, and on this issue only McCain comes out principled, most of the others as unprincipled, and Landrieu as unprincipled and a hypocrite. McCain’s status on this issue may surprise some, but Landrieu’s machinations on it should surprise no one.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so how principled is McCain of water and farm subsidies that make it possible to grow cotton in the deserts of Arizona? It all depends on whose ox is being gored.

I. B. Freeman said...

McCain has never voted for the farm subsidies. Jindal, Vitter and Landrieu all revealed themselves to be huge big government spenders in supporting the farm subsidies and ethanol subsidies.

Jindal has proven he is not a fiscal conservative and his vote last summer while a Congressman for the largest farm bill ever was the first signal to me that he was more than willing to spend taxpayer money to get votes.