Sen. Barack Obama’s only legislative accomplishment in Washington so far is the passage of “the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate,” which was designed to “to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” Well the lobbyists didn’t get the message. Since liberals took over Congress, profits for the top lobbying firms in Washington have soared. The reason is simple: liberals want to increase government control over the economy through mandates and regulation to achieve their social engineering goals. This market intervention inevitably ends up picking winners and losers in the marketplace. Firms, therefore, have a very strong incentive to spend money in Washington to make sure they aren’t crushed by Congress.

The fight over ethanol mandates is a perfect case in point. Supported by an alliance of environmentalists and corn growers, the use of biofuels in motor fuels was first mandated in 2005. Then in 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act more than doubled the amount of biofuels mandated for 2008 and more than tripled the number for 2015. These mandates have diverted 25% of the U.S. corn crop from food to fuel in 2007 and will divert almost 35% in 2008. Since the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was enforced, the price of corn has jumped from $2.06 a bushel to $4 a bushel.

These rising food prices are exacerbating the worldwide food crisis and negatively impacting the economy here at home. Texas Gov. Rick Perry writes in his letter asking the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver from the RFS: “The difference of $1.94/bushel equates to a negative impact on the Texas economy of $1.17 billion since the RFS has come about. And now, with the implementation of the new RFS, some estimates peg corn prices at $8.00/bushel for the 2008 crop, which would result in a negative impact to Texas of $3.59 billion.”

Not everybody is hurt by these higher corn prices, though. The mandate works as a transfer of wealth from American consumers to the nation’s corn farmers, who love the mandates. That is why the American Farm Bureau has attacked Perry’s waiver request and it is why Obama, again this Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” defended the Illinois corn growers’ ethanol business.

But ethanol mandates are just an appetizer for a much larger big business feast should a liberal Congress be paired with a liberal White House. There is a reason major corporations like General Electric extend Earth Day into an Earth Week scare fest. GE already spends more than $20 million lobbying the federal government and a global warming cap-and-trade system, properly written to GE’s advantage, could score the company billions in profits from subsidies and mandates for its alternative energy businesses. By co-opting the environmental movement, savvy businesses like GE can end up as huge winners while the American consumer loses with sky high energy prices.

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to catch on to this game. A Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 54% of American adults believe that the push for alternative energy sources is driving up food prices. Tired environmentalist arguments against new oil exploration are becoming punchlines. And even Obama is admitting that nuclear power should be part of the policy fix for high energy prices.

Quick Hits:

  • Decreasing violence in Iraq has inspired about 30,000 Iraqis to return to their country from abroad through March of this year.
  • To win International Brotherhood of Teamsters support, Barack Obama promsed the union he would end the strict federal oversight imposed to root out corruption.
  • The Iraqi government said Sunday that it has “concrete evidence” Iran is fomenting violence in Iraq and that a high-level panel had been formed to document the proof.
  • The inspiration for the movie “Stand and Deliver,” Los Angeles teacher Jaime Escalante still supports ending bilingual education in public schools.
  • Newsweek reports that Oprah left Barack Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ in the mid-1990s because she “was never comfortable with the tone of [Rev. Jeremiah] Wright’s more incendiary sermons.”