Monday, June 18, 2012

Walk the Talk

The WSJ on A Tale of Two Conservatives:

"I gave a speech to 400 Chamber members and everyone was for Ex-Im Bank," he says. "So I asked them: 'How many of you would sign your own name to this loan?' Not a single hand went up." Mr. DeMint says he voted as he did because he's concluded that "we've created a culture in Washington that has almost every major business in the country with its nose in the trough."

That includes the sugar lobby, which last week narrowly defeated a bipartisan attempt at reforming its egregious quota program that gouges American consumers to benefit a mere 5,000 or so farmers. The Senate voted 50-46 to table Senator Pat Toomey's reform bill, but the reform would have passed if not for the votes of 16 GOP Senators. (See the nearby table.)

The usual sugar beet and sugar cane state suspects dominate the list, but one name leaps out—Mr. Rubio, the freshman from Florida who won his seat in 2010 while running as a tea party favorite in opposition to the crony capitalism and government meddling of the Obama Administration.

Mr. Rubio nonetheless voted against consumers and for the big sugar-cane producers, including Florida's Fanjul family. Mr. Rubio thus voted to the left of the 16 Democrats who joined 30 Republicans in supporting sugar reform. Unlike Mr. DeMint, the Floridian was not a profile in courage on this issue, or even a profile.

The political habit of favoring big business is bipartisan, as the sugar and Ex-Im Bank votes show. If Republicans want the political credibility to reform middle-class entitlements, they had better be prepared to eliminate corporate welfare too. Kudos to Mr. DeMint for understanding this.

If Republicans want to continue warn about the fiscal cliff that the country is heading toward and the hard choices they need to be made in order to avoid plunging over it, they’re going to need to be consistent in backing those words with action when they have an opportunity. Supporting funding for the Ex-Im bank and sugar subsidies damages their credibility and impairs their ability to speak with integrity on the need for fiscal restraint. Apparently Jim DeMint gets it, while alas Marco Rubio does not.