The other day on Facebook, a friend posted one of those perennial whines about hard-working Americans who resent watching their tax money being wasted on support for slutty welfare moms and assorted lazy bums. This one was attributed to Bill Cosby, despite the fact he has repeatedly denied authorship, but it doesn’t really matter how many times Snopes.com “debunks” this and similar aggrieved diatribes–the myth that we are working to support legions of welfare queens persists.
I’m sure there are poor people who take advantage of “the system,” but they can’t hold a candle to the big boys–the sophisticated corporate welfare recipients who’ve been milking the taxpayers for years. For every single mom making minimum wage who depends upon our diminishing social safety net to feed her children, there’s a well-connected industry costing taxpayers and consumers billions.
Before you dismiss that assertion because it came from a “bleeding heart liberal,” it might be enlightening to hear what noted liberals Richard Lugar and Pat Toomey recently had to say about one of the most egregious offenders: big sugar.
In a blog post published by The Hill, Lugar, Pennsylvania’s Toomey, and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen wrote of their support for reforming “an extravagant sugar price-support program that costs consumers and businesses an estimated $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs each year.”
Sugar is the most tightly controlled–read “subsidized”–agricultural commodity in the country. The favorable policies that operate to keep sugar prices artificially high benefit approximately five thousand wealthy farmers at the expense of the rest of us. These aren’t family farmers, either–they are large corporate farmers like Archer Daniels Midland and United Sugars Corporation. In 2000, we taxpayers forked out more than a billion dollars to keep the price of sugar high enough to protect their profit margins.
Sugar subsidies artificially inflate the price of candy, breakfast cereals and other foods that use sugar, ensuring a price for sugar that is about three times as much as its price on the world market. Americans’ bodies may be getting fat from sugary foods and beverages, but our wallets are getting much, much thinner; the General Accounting Office reports that thanks to sugar subsidies, U.S. consumers pay in excess of two billion dollars per year too much for our sugary foods.
We’re not only paying extra–we’re depressing job growth. A 2006 study by the Commerce Department found that for each job the program saved in the sugar industry, it cost three jobs in food manufacturing.
The Agriculture Department guarantees sugar growers a set price, and protects domestic sugar interests from competition through the imposition of import barriers and domestic production control. If that isn’t welfare, what is? (It’s sure as hell not market capitalism!)
If the financial costs of this welfare program aren’t outrageous enough, sugar subsidies are also causing environmental degradation–large areas of the Florida Everglades have been converted to cane sugar production as a direct result of the sugar protection racket, causing damage fro drainage, runoff of chemical fertilizers and destruction of the natural habitat.
The next time someone complains about the “culture of dependency” and the costs of welfare, ask them about sugar.