November 12, 2008

Annals in Conclusion Jumping

There is growing consternation among the food crowd that former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa will get the nod for Agriculture Secretary. Why we should suddenly believe that Team Obama, the tightest run political ship ever, has begun leaking like a sieve, I'm not sure. Let's remember the Meese Rule, "People who know don't talk and people who talk don't know." So let's not make unwarranted assumptions.

But if we grant that Vilsack will get the nod, is outrage and despair really the answer? Ezra thinks so. And while Obama could do far worse than Vilsack, it certainly doesn't look good. Vilsack is a corn state governor from a state that is swimming in subsidies. You'd like to think that subsidy reform could only happen in a Nixon-to-China scenario and Vilsack is certainly trusted by the farm lobby. Indeed, much has been made of his comments regarding his support for corn ethanol subsidies. Though, according to an interview he gave to a Minnesota college newspaper, he is on the record for transitioning away from corn to cellulosic ethanol ASAP and putting climate change concerns front and center for agriculture policy. But many think cellulosic ethanol is no better than its cornish relation and phasing out subsidies can always be done over a nice long slow schedule.

I suppose our best hope is that a guy like Vilsack will be able to sell any reform Obama considers. But an even better hope is that this rumor, like just about every unsourced one that's come out so far, is just plain wrong.

Photo by Markus Schöpke used under CC license

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