Economists are warning that the current drought in the Corn Belt is going to result in higher food prices. That increase will hit consumers hard, reducing discretionary spending and further weakening an already fragile economy. With every scorching day that passes, the catastrophe mounts. But, as usual, the president is AWOL. There’s not been one word from Obama about how to address a food crisis that everyone knows is coming.
There have been Midwestern droughts from time immemorial, some of them (like those of the 1930s and 1956) as bad as or worse than present one. And no one — not even a president who thinks government should get credit for everyone else’s success — can perform a rain dance and make the drought go away. But there is one thing the president can do to alleviate the effects of the drought: suspend the nation’s ill-conceived ethanol program.
That program now burns up 40% of the U.S. corn crop. If he had exercised leadership, Obama could already have taken action to suspend ethanol mandates. That action would have spared 320 million Americans higher food prices this fall and helped to rescue the economy from further decline. Obama keeps saying he is focusing on jobs like a laser, but now, when he has a chance to actually do something about it, he can’t even be located. He’s off in Toledo or Roanoke or dining with Anna Wintour, where he probably was not thinking about food inflation. He doesn’t even seem to know that the American people are hurting — “the private sector is doing fine.” Yeah, right.