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Editorial: Romney’s empty bumper sticker proposal

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Extended Drought Pushes Corn Prices To Record Highs

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Updated: September 11, 2012 6:14AM

Sweeping generalities come back to bite, as Mitt Romney is finding out again in Iowa.

But our guess is that the lesson he’ll learn — don’t rile Republican voters by knocking a tax break they love — won’t be the lesson he should learn: Government sometimes plays a legitimate role in nurturing emerging industries.

Romney is catching grief from Iowa farmers because a spokesman last week said the presumptive Republican nominee for president would allow a tax credit for the wind energy industry to expire, calling it a “boondoggle.”

Romney no doubt felt sure this would go over well with conservatives, who frequently decry government “interference” in the market. But he failed to appreciate that this particular “boondoggle” has been of help to drought-stricken farmers, who tend to vote Republican. They are paid tens of thousands of dollars a year for the turbines on their land.

If Romney does not reverse course, he risks losing the swing state of Iowa, which is second only to California in its aggressive pursuit of wind energy.

If Romney does not reverse course, he also will be putting bumper-sticker ideology ahead of good government policy. Throughout American history, great industries and new technologies, such as the automobile, have thrived on sympathetic government support, including tax breaks and infrastructure investments. If we are to wean the nation off its dependence on fossil fuels, government must continue to support the development of other sources of energy.

Plenty of government programs are boondoggles. Consider ethanol subsidies. But not all.

It is the job of a serious candidate for president to quit playing to the peanut gallery and make those important distinctions.

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