I tend to disagree with Jonah Goldberg about practically everything, but he raised a point about ethanol subsidies this morning that I liked and wanted to echo.

If I understand the Norquist-pledge-purist position, a pledge-taker cannot vote to get rid of an idiotic, market-skewing, statist, tax credit (or if you prefer tax expenditure) because it will amount to an increase in taxes. […]

I’m sorry but that’s nuts. I understand why [Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform] has to write the pledge in as binding and exhaustive a form as possible so as to keep tax-hikers from playing games. But this is simply one of those areas where if the pledge is the law, and the law says you can’t kill an ethanol subsidy, than the law is an ass. […]

I’m generally sympathetic to Norquist’s pledge, but I think it’s crazy for it to be turned into a tool to defend the statist status quo (statist quo?). Yes, abolishing some market skewing bad policies will increase revenues for the Treasury. Is that really a reason not to abolish them?

Remember, the Washington Post talked to Norquist at some length two weeks ago, and he conceded that Republicans are expected to protect breaks that GOP officials “view as bad public policy.”

And why should Republicans fight for policies they don’t like? Because as far as these far-right activists are concerned, public policy isn’t really the point of the endeavor. What really matters is ideology and “brand identity.” That’s not my knee-jerk liberal assessment; that’s what Norquist freely admits.

“I’m sorry but that’s nuts”? I’m quite certain I’ve never agreed with Jonah Goldberg more.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.