I understand why free market advocates are opposed to the U.S. sugar program of modest tariffs and import quotas that don’t cost taxpayers a dime. I’m a free marketer myself and want the sugar program to go away, as well.
However, I live on Planet Reality, not Planet Nirvana. And the reality is we now live in a global economy and you can’t have a free market when your competitors are playing with corked bats.
And it does the debate no good when opponents use false and misleading arguments to buttress their case. For example…
In a recent column, Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste claimed American consumers are paying for the sugar program “through a hidden tax on sugar-containing products – including everyday staples like bread, pasta and peanut butter – that are more expensive as a result of the high cost of sugar in the United States.”
But that claim is simply and demonstrably not true.
The fact is, the cost of a pound of sugar in the U.S. today – though arguably higher than some other countries whose governments provide generous and direct subsidies that distort the true cost – is right about where the cost of a pound of sugar was 30 years ago.
On the other hand, the cost of, for example, of a Hershey’s chocolate bar is now more than THREE TIMES the cost of Hershey’s chocolate bar 30 years ago.
Clearly it’s not a “hidden tax on sugar-containing products” that’s driven the cost of a Snickers through the roof.
Here on Planet Reality it’s the rising cost of not-so-hidden government taxation and regulation, with a healthy side order of profit-taking, that has resulted in Oreos costing more on super market shelves.
And, let’s not forget the hidden costs of skyrocketing wages and mandated benefits on the American labor force. How else but raising prices are U.S. manufacturers, including candy manufacturers, supposed to pay for minimum wage hikes now moving into the $15-per-hour-range?
No, the way to eliminate the U.S. sugar program isn’t to fall for the false argument that the cost of domestic sugar is responsible for soaring food prices, but to persuade other sugar-producing nations to eliminate their market-distorting subsidies for their own sugar industries so that a global free market can truly be free.