Mitt Romney, Prisoner of the Tea Party
Just about any electoral map will tell you that Iowa is a swing state, and that Mitt Romney needs to win it if he hopes to capture the Presidency.
Just about any political observer in Iowa will tell you that the wind energy tax credit, enacted as part of President Obama’s stimulus package (but with previous antecedents), is very popular in the state; it is strongly supported by Iowa’s Republican Governor, Iowa’s Republican Senator, and GOP officials throughout the Hawkeye State. And little wonder: Iowa is the state that produces the most wind energy jobs.
Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.
“Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the president believe the investment will produce results.”
This makes no sense. The entire point of credits for renewables is that, because there is no price on carbon, no level playing field exists. It’s economics 101: you can put a price on the fuel that causes externalities, or you can subsidize the fuel that does not cause them, but it’s straightforward Pigou.
Romney must know this. And he certainly can see the political implications. But he doesn’t care. Why?
The best theory is that the man has by now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tea Party. And the Tea Party has a pure, remorseless logic:
1) President Obama is a Kenyan Islamist Marxist Impostor;
2) President Obama supports the wind credit;
3) Thus, the wind credit is the mark of a Kenyan Islamist Marxist Impostor, and must be destroyed.
Any time Romney strays an inch from Tea Party orthodoxy, he gets hammered by Republican Party Monarch Rush Limbaugh. He can’t do anything else; when King Rushbo says jump, Mitt says, “how high?” Even if it could severely injure his chances of election.
Just the kind of strong leadership we need.
UPDATE: To get a sense of how transparently false Romney’s justification is, consider that he supports subsidies for corn-based ethanol (a thoroughly revolting policy that Obama also supports). Romney has also been quiet about ongoing subsidies for nuclear power. Somehow, wind power has to stand on its own, but not corn or nukes. This is all about appeasing the Right, not about energy policy.