Although I am usually quite pessimistic about the ability of policymakers and transfer-seekers to rise above well established pathologies, there were a few notable events at the end of the week that deserve notice.
Ethanol: Despite the odds, the Senate voted (73-27) Thursday to end ethanol subsidies (both the 45 cents a gallon tax credit and trade barriers). Although the measure may never make its way through the entire legislative process (the President has threatened to veto it in the name of developing alternative sources of energy) the New York Times suggests: “the lopsided ethanol vote showed that Congressional support for ethanol is eroding and signaled that many Senate Republicans who voted to kill the tax credits might favor some measures that reduce the deficit by ending a tax break.” From your lips to God’s ears.
Social Security: Laura Meckler, WSJ, is reporting that the AARP is altering its position on Social Security reform. She writes: “AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington’s debate over how to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs.” In essence, the AARP has concluded that reform is inevitable given the problem of the structural deficit and thus it would like to participate actively in the reform process. “If they come around and say they’re ready to do something, it will be like the Arctic icecap cracking,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chairman of a White House commission on the deficit. One can only hope that this is more than a strategic ploy on the part of AARP.
Yes, I know, we are still embroiled in two (or three) wars, the debt crisis in Greece is spinning out of control, our own fiscal trajectory is simply unsustainable, etc., but sometimes you have to celebrate the streams of light into the darkness, even if they are small. Have a great weekend and a Happy Father’s Day!