Quad City Times – McIntosh: Cruz is right to question ethanol subsidies

Doug Sachtleben - January 11th, 2016

Op-Ed available online here.

Desperate and out of touch. That’s what comes to mind when lobbyists who want ethanol mandates are driving around in an RV, stalking and criticizing Sen. Ted Cruz as he campaigns in Iowa.

If there’s one message Americans are sending this campaign season it’s that they want Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers. Yet, that’s exactly what the ethanol mandate does. And the losers are every American who pays higher prices.

For decades the federal government has either subsidized the production of corn ethanol or mandated that American motorists pay for it at the gas pump. Subsidies and mandates put power in the hands of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and Members of Congress; it’s the power to show favoritism to a particular industry and give it special benefits.

And benefits come with a price. It’s been estimated that those subsidies and mandates have cost taxpayers and motorists $170 billion since 1982.

For years, a number of Iowans have made support for the ethanol mandate a rite of passage for presidential candidates. Democrats, being all too happy to embrace big government, have lined up in lockstep for subsidies and mandates.

What’s troubling is that more than a few Republicans have been eager to pander to voters with the ethanol mandate in Iowa, even as they’ve tried to make the case for less government and less burden on taxpayers.

And now one candidate, Cruz of Texas, is drawing the ire of an ethanol lobbying group for his clear opposition to forcing ethanol on the American people.

The issue here isn’t corn or farmers, or any other industry that benefits from subsidies and mandates. What’s wrong is the federal government artificially creating a market for an industry by requiring that Americans buy whatever the product is. That’s what needs to stop.

Free markets work by a simple principle: if consumers want your product they’ll buy it. And when there’s a level playing field, some products will thrive, others will not.

Subsidies and mandates distort the free market by socializing certain products, and letting certain industries reap the profits.

It’s time to end the ethanol mandate, and the fact that Ted Cruz, the leader in most Iowa polls, holds that view should send a clear warning to the subsidy-hunting lobbyists that their days are numbered.

McIntosh is president of the Club for Growth and former member of Congress from Indiana.