Grassroot Perspective: Food is Fuel, Spending Sovereignty, and More

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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind 

By Malia Hill


Quote of the Week:
“You don’t pay taxes – they take taxes.”—Chris Rock

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

Our Food is Fuel.  Literally.

As unintended consequences go, this one might take the cake.  It’s definitely making that cake significantly more expensive.

Robert Bryce, writing in Slate, explains how the misguided ethanol subsidy has not only ended up raising the price of corn to an all-time high, but dragged other grain prices with it as well , leading to higher food prices, and a general waste of grain in a time of drought and recession.  These are the kinds of absurdities that government intrusion produces.

Subsidizing farmers to grow corn for ethanol is one of those rare actions that unite principled opposition from both sides of the aisle, but continues to limp on despite its lack of a solid rationale.   Now, approximately as many bushels of corn are spent on livestock feed as ethanol production.  In other words, Americans burned up as much corn in their gas tanks as we spent feeding all the chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, and fish in this country, combined.  But the madness doesn’t end there.  A rise in corn prices is accompanied by a rise in wheat as well, because bakers and other wheat users have to bid up the price relative to corn to keep the majority of the crop from being bought up for feed.  In fact, a recent study found that since 2007 (when ethanol mandates took effect), the price of grain-related foods like cereals, oils, bakery products, meats, eggs, and poultry have risen at twice the rate of inflation.  But what else would you expect when we are literally burning a large portion of our potential food supply?

Spending Sovereignty

When the average person makes a purchase, they factor in any number of considerations, from price to performance or aesthetics.  Of these, the energy efficiency of the item is one, but not the only factor.  But that’s not how the government thinks should be.  As this recent study explains, federal regulations affecting a number of products, like cars, light bulbs, and air conditioners, make it clear that the government intends to correct the way we shop.  The regulations act as an on-high correction of “irrational” consumer choice that puts other factors ahead of energy efficiency.  And as with so many other federal regulations meant to “correct” the free market, they are far more irrational than the behavior they attempt to correct.  As the authors explain, not only do the regulations assume that they can make decisions better than consumers, but they also have a negligible effect on the environment—the main rationale for their existence.  Constraining consumer choice while offering little-to-no tangible benefit—these unseen laws are the very definition of whittling away at liberty while expanding government power.

Competition vs. Regulation

There are plenty of things wrong with this world.  Heck, there are at least 3 things wrong with the computer I’m writing this on.  Where politicians go wrong is in thinking that we want the government to get involved wherever we have a complaint.

Consider it the other side of nanny-statism.  Most think of a nanny-state as one where a paternalistic government decides what is “best” for us and tries to enforce it.  But this is encouraged by voter behavior that sets up a tantrum at every single slight or boo-boo we encounter, demanding that our political guardians come kiss it and make it better—and make sure it never happens again.  Fortunately, as Scott Rasmussen explains in this column, Americans still stop shy of that extreme.  We still prefer free market/competitive solutions for our problems to federal regulation.  Still, it is important to keep an eye out for the creeping government intrusion on personal liberty—that instinct that has politicians saying, “Ooh, that must hurt.  Let me fix it for you.”

A Different Choice for Teachers

Those of us who have issues with the teachers’ unions are often unfairly painted as anti-teacher.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  As someone whose sister taught in Hawaii for several years, I have nothing but respect for the sacrifice and dedication with which so many teachers approach their jobs.  My problem with the teachers’ unions comes down to their similarities with other powerful, one-note unions—especially in the way that such organizations so often put the good of the union ahead of the goals (and even personal calling) of its members.  Which why I wanted to draw attention to this video from the Association of American Educators, a group that is attempting to broaden the view of what it means to be a union of teachers, including shedding some of the lockstep political stands that have helped the unions diminish the public’s view of educators, making us regular folk so much more cynical about their motivations.  The teachers—and the students—deserve better.

Opening Our Eyes to Voter Fraud

We like to pretend that voter fraud is a thing of the past—fit for pen and ink Nash cartoons and the bad old days. After all, we have these high tech machines, we learned our lesson in Florida in 2000, people have to show ID . . . why worry?  And besides, even if a few bad votes slip through, what difference does it make?  As Byron York explains in this article, those “few” bad votes (actually, often more than just a few) can swing a close election.  With so much on the line, voter fraud is as alive and well as every other kind of fraud.  And continues to disenfranchise legitimate voters.  If that’s not a reason to confront the truth and continue the effort to prevent voter fraud, than there’s nothing left but to question the real motivations of those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of it and the harm it causes.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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