Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama's Petrol Populism

I am with Ryan Avent, Obama is wrong (very very wrong) on ethanol and wrong on "windfall profit taxes" for oil companies. But he is still better than McCain on almost every issue.

Ethanol subsidies are a disastrous policy that has been an important pander in presidential politics for some time because of the Iowa caucuses. The rural parts of Obama's home state Illinois would also be difficult to hold without the ethanol policy but the centrality of Iowa to his primary strategy made it pretty much inevitable.

Watchers of The West Wing will remember that the inspiring young Latino candidate Matt Santos makes the ethanol pledge in Iowa prior to the caucuses, and sort of regrets it, while the McCain-like Republican candidate stands firm. The parallels between the last two seasons and current US politics are somewhat spooky but apparently not entirely co-incidental. I learned recently (maybe from the NYT?) that David Plouffe, a key Obama operative, was already working for him when his friend Eli Attie was developing the Santos character and they corresponded on the matter.

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