By Chuck Muth, President, Citizen Outreach
It’s not a matter of if Big Candy’s propagandists will use the Christmas holiday to attack the U.S. sugar program, but where and when.
Indeed, the perennial “candy cane” columns – which argue that the U.S. sugar program is forcing Americans to pay higher prices for Christmas sweets – are so predictable that I think there’s a template filed somewhere that someone just pulls out of a drawer, changes the date and submits to willing publications.
So let’s avoid the Christmas rush and address the bullet-point attacks in bullet-point form…
- Americans are not paying more for American sugar today. The fact is the price for a pound of sugar this Christmas is almost identical to the cost for a pound of sugar 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan was president.
- The oft-quoted lower “world price” for sugar does not include the transportation expense necessary to get the sugar from, for example, Brazil to our shores. Free shipping is available from Amazon.com, not the Amazon rain forest.
- The cost of American-made candy canes today is not artificially high because of the U.S. sugar program; foreign sugar imports are artificially low because of foreign government subsidies.
- “Free trade” shouldn’t mean other countries are free to break trade agreements and undercut U.S. farmers by flooding our market with artificially cheap, government-subsidized sugar. To truly be “free trade,” it must be fair and balanced, as well.
- Manufacturers of sugar-infused products are not moving their operations to third-world countries because of the price of U.S. sugar; they’re moving their operations because of the high price of U.S. labor, mandated benefits, taxes, insurance, regulations and, of course, profit-taking.
This is not to say the U.S. sugar program shouldn’t be reformed. It should.
However, you don’t fight the unfair trade practices of competitors by unilaterally disarming and hoping they’ll appreciate your benevolence and voluntarily lay down their weapons, as well. You’d have to believe in Keebler elves to think that’s the way the world works.
No, the solution can be found in Rep. Ted Yoho’s “zero-for-zero” proposal in which we’d end our sugar program only if and when they end theirs. That’s the fair and balanced free market approach. And that’s the only way these standard-issue annual “candy cane columns” will once and for all be relegated to File 13.