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Recap: President Obama in Iowa Last Week

Carol E. Lee provided a brief update in today’s Wall Street Journal regarding President Obama’s three day trip to Iowa last week. [Illustration from today’s Wall Street Journal].

Ms. Lee pointed out that, “In his speeches, he attacked his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, on policy matters, including a few of local concern: He stood in a field of windmills to accuse Mr. Romney of opposing alternative energy sources and, at a family farm, he blamed Republicans for stalling aid to those struggling in the drought. (Mr. Romney has said that wind energy should compete with other energy sources in the marketplace, without the tax credit. Republicans say a GOP measure on drought relief was blocked by Democrats in the Senate.)

“But it was Mr. Obama’s informal stops along the way—including the Iowa State Fair and a bar where he bought beers for 10 patrons—that the president’s advisers hoped would be devoured by local news outlets. Mr. Obama opened his wallet to buy snow cones for a pair of young kids in Denison, announcing, ‘It’s the president’s treat.'”

Today’s Journal article added that, “Republicans also paid attention to the state, sending Paul Ryan to Iowa for his first solo appearance after joining the Republican ticket as the vice- presidential candidate. Mr. Ryan, too, hit the state fair, though as a fitness buff, he bypassed the fried food. It will be no surprise if the GOP ticket returns to the state soon.”

More specifically on the energy issue, The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted today that, “Mr. Obama’s plan to eliminate oil and gas subsidies would lower the budget deficit by less than $3 billion a year, but creating a true level playing field in energy, and allowing markets to determine which energy sources are used, would save $37 billion. That’s an energy plan that makes sense.”

The Washington Post editorial board pointed out on Friday that, “Mr. Obama is also promising Iowans an extended tax credit for wind-energy production, which expires at the end of this year but to date has helped Iowa generate 20 percent of its electricity from that source. Not incidentally, Iowa farmers get $11 million a year renting their land to windmill operators. Mr. Obama argues that this is job-creating clean energy, and he is hardly alone in that. Supposedly fiscally conservative, free-market Republicans such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa tout the tax credit, which costs the Treasury well over­ $1 billion a year. Of course, that money might have created even more jobs elsewhere, or saved more carbon emissions, if the government did not steer it into Iowa wind farms.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney deserves credit for opposing an extension to the wind subsidy, a position that could hurt him in Iowa and in Colorado, another windy swing state.”

And on the drought / Farm Bill issue, the Post opined that, “Actually, almost nothing in the farm bill would affect drought-stricken farms one way or the other. About 80 percent of the bill’s nearly $1 trillion price tag (over 10 years) reflects the cost of food stamps, an essential part of the safety net. The rest is largely a grab bag of subsidies for producers, with the biggest benefits for the largest farms, i.e., those least vulnerable to drought and other risks. Existing law already provides subsidized crop insurance for more than 80 percent of the nation’s farmland; many dairy farms, too, enjoy subsidized insurance against rising feed costs.

“There are, indeed, modest reforms in the bill; it eliminates costly and wasteful ‘direct payments‘ but offsets that by expanding crop insurance subsidies. The bill would protect producers so much that they might lose their incentive to use land prudently, thus raising the potential for losses in the next drought. To really help livestock farms, which are most hurt by rising corn prices, Mr. Obama should heed elected officials in both parties — including Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland — who are asking his administration to waive ethanol mandates so that more grain would be available for animal feed.”

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