Santorum calls to cut ethanol funding

BY IAN STEWART | JUNE 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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OSKALOOSA — Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum attacked Iowa’s “sacred cow” on Tuesday when he called to cut federal support for ethanol.

At a meet-and-greet with approximately 50 supporters, Santorum called for the elimination of energy subsidies, including those for ethanol, and condemned the Democrats’ health-care overhaul in 2010.

Santorum also said the United States should return to the “basic principles” of morality he said he finds embedded in the Declaration of Independence’s first clause.

That’s what Steve Boender, who hosted the event, said he was most attracted to.

“I appreciate the fact that he stood for social and moral values,” Boender said. “I just felt compelled to have social conservatives meet good Iowa people.”

One of many farmers in the audience, Boehner said he was also interested in Santorum’s comments about ethanol subsides.

“Believe me, the ethanol industry is a huge market for the crop I raise,” Boender said. “But that doesn’t mean that phasing out subsidies won’t allow it to stand on its own two feet. I’m totally OK with him getting to the point where farmers stand on their own.”

Santorum said he supports the phasing out of all energy subsidies as a way of cutting the federal budget. He said since visiting Iowa, he has seen that ethanol “can and will be a competitive industry.”

“My position is that we should phase out all energy subsidies and create a level playing field,” he said. “Our economic situation is dire with respect to the deficit.”

Sam Roecker, the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said he thinks there’s “bipartisan support” for an eventual elimination of federal subsidies for the plant-based fuel.

But on other issues, such as repealing “Obamacare,” two-party support for Santorum’s plans might be harder to garner. Santorum campaign staffer Jamie Johnson said the candidate and his supporters fear the current government poses a threat to liberty.

“I think he’s concerned about the loss of personal freedom of choice such as how one spends his money on health care,” Johnson said.

Indeed, Santorum sharply criticized last year’s health-care bill, listing it among the bailouts and the stimulus package as one of his key reasons for getting into the race. Santorum recently called for greater cuts than are put forth in United States the deficit-reduction plan penned by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan’s plan would cut the budget in part by reducing Medicare funding. Roecker said that is something Iowans will have trouble understanding.

“Why should their bill for Medicare go up $6,000?” Roecker said. “I think it’s an issue that’s going to come up, not just for him but for other Republicans.”

Those are the kinds of policy points that will work in President Obama’s favor, Roecker said.

“Iowan are going to be out there supporting the tremendous progress and leadership he’s shown so far.”

But Santorum had a different spin on the result of the last presidential election.

“You gave us Barack Obama,” Santorum said referring to candidate Obama’s victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. “It’s your obligation to give us the antidote to Barack Obama in this election.”

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