Tim Pawlenty (see below post) is only one day into his presidential campaign, but he did something today that impressed me. He went into Iowa, and said that ethanol subsidies have to be phased out.
For 30 years, candidates of both parties have been trudging into Iowa and promising support for ethanol. The truth is, corn-based ethanol isn't simply a questionable idea, or a shaky idea, or an idea needing further study. It's flat-out a HORRIBLE idea that has wasted billions and billions of dollars and done untold environmental damage, but politicians supported it because they thought they had to in order to curry favor with voters in Iowa, Minnesota and other corn belt states. Bob Dole was one of the most shameful practitioners, with Bill Clinton running a close second.
The fact that Pawlenty was willing to do that shows a certain amount of courage that most risk-averse politicians lack.
Rumor has it that Pawlenty is going to go to senior-laden Florida, and say that Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) need to be means-tested. It's a reasonable idea that needs to be done - Does Warren Buffet really require an annual increase in his Social Security payments? - but one that politicians have been afraid to touch. (If we had adopted a very minor COLA adjustment plan put forward in 1989 by my old boss Rudy Boschwitz, there would be no Social Security problem now.)
This tells me that Pawlenty is ready to tell the truth to the American public about the incredible depth of our current fiscal crisis. Whether the American public is willing - or smart enough - to listen to that truth will be one of the key questions affecting the success of Pawlenty's candidacy.