Tuesday, May 6, 2008

And the winner is...

James Fallows conducted a contest amongst his readers to determine the "stupidest manifestation of bi-partisan public policy in the last 50 years."

Ethanol won going away. Fallows cites the reasoning of one of his astute readers,

"I think bi-partisan support for ethanol is more stupid [than the McCain-Clinton 'gas tax holiday' plan], because it's actually harmful and because it not only panders to the public ... worse it panders to a special interest group (Midwest farmers and their regional politicians).
It's harmful because: 1) it helped to catalyze higher levels of food inflation, 2) it consumes as much energy to make and distribute as it provides, 3) it deflects attention from developing trying sound policies to enhance our energy security, 4) it didn't allow for removal of taxes on the import of truly energy efficient ethanol produced in Brazil from sugar, and 5) it's a such an extreme example of government disfuntionality it causes people like me to become truly disillusioned with the political process."
I would add on my own that, to my limited understanding, most of the money for ethanol goes to large corporate farms and trickles down and around through agro-business, with only minimal impact on small family farmers (the ones our politicians claim to support), making the whole venture politically disingenuous in addition to economically-unsound and environmentally dubious.

Click the link and check out some of the other contenders. Including,

  • Recent farm bill and farm subsidies in general, not just for ethanol
  • Similarly, 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse act, which set up the harmful sentencing distinction between crack and cocaine violations
  • Airline deregulation
  • Anti-flag-burning amendments; also, though out of the date range, the Sedition Act of 1918, which outlawed "'contempt, scorn, contumely or disrepute' toward the army, navy, flag, or government"

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