Lobbying Dollars Put Corn in Your Coke

Stan Oklobdzija
united re:public / News Analysis
Published: Tuesday 18 December 2012
It's not such a sweet deal for the free market.
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While the exact recipe for Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most closely guarded trade secrets, it’s no mystery that the nation’s most popular soft-drink is sweetened with processed corn starch rather than actual sugar. Why exactly does most of our food contain high-fructose corn syrup rather than the naturally occurring cane sugar that the rest of the world seems perfectly happy to use?

The answer has to do with a complex nexus of lobbying and influence peddling, a new video from the Institute from Humane Studies explains.

American sugar farmers lobbied for tariffs, which cause Americans to pay nearly twice as much for sugar as people in the rest of the world, said Prof. Diana Thomas, an IHS scholar and a professor of Economics and Finance at Utah State University. At the same time, American corn farmers receive massive subsidies from the federal government, to the tune of more than $8 billion per year, according to the Cato Institute. These massive market distortions cause corn to be much cheaper than sugar, causing soda makers to switch to high-fructose corn syrup about 20 years ago, Thomas explained.

Annually, these subsidies cost American consumers about $3 billion per year, Thomas said. But dispersed among the nation as a whole, these costs only add up to about $10 per person.

“Meanwhile,” Thomas explained, “the benefits of the quota are very concentrated. Between 1980 and 1998, each American sugar farmer made roughly $3 million per year extra as a result of the quota. So each of them is willing to spend a lot of time and money to make sure the law stays that way.”

There’s a legitimate debate to be had between those on the right and those on the left about the proper role of government in society. However, everyone across the political spectrum can agree that forcing Americans to purchase an inferior product just because that industry can fill campaign coffers is a clear abuse of state authority. The drive for campaign finance and lobbying reform is an issue that should unite all Americans who are tired government hand-outs for the privileged and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

United Republic’s Represent.us campaign is seeking an end to the pay-to-play favoritism that allows special interests like farm lobbies to buy access to lawmakers and legislation. Following passage of the American Anti-Corruption Act, members of Congress would be expressly prohibited from taking any action to benefit any group that raises money on their behalf.

Markets are not fair, free nor efficient when government steps in to declare who wins and who loses. Reforming the way business is done in Washington means not only restoring the ideals of our democracy, but the integrity of our economic system as well. It might just make your Coke taste better, too.



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ABOUT Stan Oklobdzija

Stan Oklobdzija is a former journalist who quit his job as a California political consultant to travel South America. He holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the University of Southern California.

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5 comments on "Lobbying Dollars Put Corn in Your Coke"

brad roon

December 18, 2012 8:58pm

You guys caught the big ones for sure. Sugar takes about 1-2% of it's calories and makes fat somewhere in the body. HFCS takes about 40% of it's calories and turns it into fat, almost all in the abdomen (the worst area) and much of it IN THE ORGANS. What ANDYMANDYM refer to is the fact that if a pretty good percentage of your carbs come from HFCS you can develop Non - Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease within 3 weeks. This will act just like cirrhosis of the liver.

The big corpse-orations get the subsidies, not the good farmers. Otherwise organic would be cheaper than junk food. Look at this sideline too: we pay an exhorbitant fee for gas. Sometimes more than 10% of that "gas" is ethanol. That not only boosts corn prices, but they charge you and i full gasoline cost for that cheap additive instead of dropping their price for that 10 or 15% that is ethanol! Since they are selling us our own minerals (the govt gave them away, but they are a national resource, no?) shouldn't we see ANY benefits from them?

Boris Badenov's picture
Boris Badenov

December 18, 2012 8:58pm

Please stop with the recipe being about corn sugar versus cane sugar.
It's about the coca in the recipe, now you know how cocaine became an illegal drug.
It was about protecting a recipe not a patent.
Coca-Cola sucks with it's new recipe and everyone knows it!

anono

December 18, 2012 6:13pm

Elistist welfare. No doubt the real motive for cutting social welfare programs for the working or not poor is a simple one. That would add up to bigger welfare checks for the banks, wallstreet moneychangers and rich and getting richer do nothing outta touch with reality folks in general.
Remember the 80's and Farmaid fighting back during Reagan's reign of terror and treason when most of the Family farms in America were raped and pillaged by wallstreet and sold off to the moneychangers for pennies on the dollar?
So who's really drivin' the Welfare Cadillacs these days? Just some 'noble' prick growing fat on the taxpayer's dole who's entitled to more, more, more.

AndymAndym

December 18, 2012 3:55pm

You neglected to add that the fructose in corn syrup is as bad for your liver as alcohol is.

Unconditional1

December 18, 2012 10:36am

Why should American's be expected to have to consume cane sugar and stevia when they are already paying (with corn subsidies) for free radical corn syrup just loaded with endocrine disrupting herbicides, germicides, fungicides and pesticides and all "sweetly" gift-wrapped up with GEOs and GMOs (genetically engineered organisms and genetically modified organisms) just waiting to burst forth within people as pathogens and carcinogens!?