The Sweetest Racket

 

shutterstock_202875223My wife and I have different approaches when it comes to the kids and dessert. She, in some attempt to instill “discipline,” rations out the sweets as if we were under a medieval siege. I — being a liberty-minded person, as well as a spineless spoiling squish — play the part of Willy Wonka without the army of creepy Oompa Loompas. There are good reasons for my approach. For one, I figure there is only going to be enough money for one of us in our old age and I don’t want the kids voting me into the government-run home. Second, my childhood meals were a bit like Lord of the Flies (without the bloodthirsty murders) and I was allowed to consume Pixy Stix as a palate cleanser in between courses of Fun Dip. This contributed to my juvenile cavities, but has turned me off to sugar to the point that I’ll opt for an after-dinner drink over any sort of sweet (though this comes with its own risks, as quickly-ordered slices of cake are less likely to run to $65 each than certain kinds of cognac).

Even as someone who passes on dessert, however, I can’t help but have my blood sugar boil over America’s sugar tariffs. These ridiculous taxes began in the late 18th Century — talk about a government program we can’t get rid of! — and have resulted in U.S. sugar prices often being twice what the rest of the world pays. Now, you might think, “Who cares, Pants? I can see the size of those pleats, and you don’t need any additional cheap carbohydrates in your diet.” Fair enough. But in typical government fashion, this market distortion causes inefficiencies and makes artificial winners and losers. The winners are the roughly 5,000 U.S. sugar producers ,while the losers are the remaining 319,995,000 or so of us. The worst hit are U.S. candy manufacturers and those who they’ve laid off since moving their factories overseas, where sugar can be purchased at market rates. Add to this all the bakers, corner candy stores, Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, and kids who just want to enjoy a Twinkie between their extremely low-calorie, public school-sanctioned lunch and their fifth period class on historical grievances, and you can see how the losers in this game pile up.

Not to mention the unintended consequences. Thanks to stupid policies that jack up the price of sugar and subsidize the costs of corn production, we end up with unholy products like high fructose corn syrup added to our soda instead of sugar — the way the Good Lord intended it to be sweetened. The other side may like to talk about income gaps, but the sugar protections they support prop up the income of a privileged few at the expense of millions of working Americans.

Is sugar so vital to our national interest that we must artificially inflate its price to support a few domestic producers? If we cannot tell several thousand sugar plantation owners that they are on their own, what hope do we have of returning to a liberty-minded republic consisting of individualists?

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.”

There are 13 comments.

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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    In the global economy and with non-sugar options such as HFCS, do these plantations even see a benefit from the tariffs? I can’t imagine it’s anything more than marginal since the rest of the world still buys sugar, and we only reduce our use by replacing it with other products.

    • #1
  2. user_1029039 Coolidge
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    Back in the GWB days someone at NR had a piece on the sugar racket (K Dubs? C C W Cooke? Don’t remember) to the effect of “surely the Republicans can get rid of THIS.”
    But it will be forever with us. Seriously the Union will break apart before the sugar subsidy getsceliminated.

    • #2
  3. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @PleatedPantsForever

    The King Prawn:In the global economy and with non-sugar options such as HFCS, do these plantations even see a benefit from the tariffs?

    They benefit with every 12oz can of high fructose corn syrup we buy :)

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Jason Rudert:Back in the GWB days someone at NR had a piece on the sugar racket (K Dubs? C C W Cooke? Don’t remember) to the effect of “surely the Republicans can get rid of THIS.” But it will be forever with us. Seriously the Union will break apart before the sugar subsidy getsceliminated.

    JR – I like to bring it up every 10 years. Next post on sugar……2025.

    • #4
  5. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    The protectionists will tell you that if we allow more foreign sugar in, the furriners will drive the price down so much that all the American sugar farmers will go out of business.  Since all the sugar beet farmers will have starved to death or committed suicide (and taken their knowledge of how to grow sugar beets to the grave), there will be no way to grow our own sugar again and we’ll be at the mercy of un-American sugar.  Then those foreign devils will have us where they want us and jack the prices way up.  How those crafty Central and South Americans will get us to pay more than the going world market price for sugar, I can’t figure out.

    I live in sugar beet country and people really do believe this.  Even conservatives are for government control of the market when it puts cash in their pockets.

    • #5
  6. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Thanks for the picture of your kids.

    • #6
  7. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    The tariff is more about fighting overly subsidized foreign sugar interests, at least that is the argument.

    BTW, a decade ago the world sugar price was higher than what producers could charge in the U.S. as the world turned to ethanol production from sugar cane for export to the U.S.  Ethanol traders (especially Cargill) avoided the ethanol tariffs by “finishing” the ethanol in Caribbean dehydration plants (merely a molecular sieve unit) before importing.

    • #7
  8. user_129539 Member
    user_129539
    @BrianClendinen

    What I don’t get is around half the domestic sugar comes from Florida.  Yet no one in Florida actually cares about the sugar industry unless they live down in these very low population rural counties. I mean they give a decent about of political contributions but it is not like it matter to anyone other than the one or two congress seats in those counties. Of which one is a swing seat I believe. In a close election for the control of the U.S. house I can understand the rest of the time it does not matter for power purposes.

    I think this more shows how hard it is to get anything done in the U.S. congress even on issues that have little political fall and not a lot of political upside  but are principle good policies that are good for America.

    It is also just laziness because a vocal minority is so outspoken.

    • #8
  9. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    No Oompa-Loompas?!?!  Seriously?!?!?  That’s just lazy.

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    Brian Clendinen:What I don’t get is around half the domestic sugar comes from Florida. Yet no one in Florida actually cares about the sugar industry unless they live down in these very low population rural counties. I mean they give a decent about of political contributions but it is not like it matter to anyone other than the one or two congress seats in those counties. Of which one is a swing seat I believe. In a close election for the control of the U.S. house I can understand the rest of the time it does not matter for power purposes.

    I think this more shows how hard it is to get anything done in the U.S. congress even on issues that have little political fall and not a lot of political upside but are principle good policies that are good for America.

    It is also just laziness because a vocal minority is so outspoken.

    Who owns the sugar plantations in Florida?  I know that after the merger of Dow Chemical and Union Carbide, Dow became the largest owner of acreage under sugar cultivation in Louisiana.  The land was purchased by Union Carbide in the 1950’s and 1060’s along the Mississippi River as sugar plantations going belly up and the lower river was being industrialized with all the inexpensive natural gas nearby.  Dow leases out the land to local farmers.

    • #10
  11. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    don’t have time to read this, and all the comments, but by typing this comment, you’ll show up in My Feed, and I’ll check back.

    I’m intrigued.

    fyi: I have sugar cubes in a crystal dish in the china cabinet. One of the first places nieces and nephews go when they are unsupervised in my house. something about the cube. :)

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Thatcher
    Ricochet
    @VicrylContessa

    Like any decent hipster, I use raw sugar. Would you expect anything less from someone as exceedingly young as I?

    • #12
  13. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Vicryl Contessa:Like any decent hipster, I use raw sugar. Would you expect anything less from someone as exceedingly young as I?

    I use raw sugar when I make my own candied ginger. Otherwise, I’m old fashioned white sugar. Would expect anything less from someone as exceedingly old as I?

    :)

    • #13
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