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Lobbying Dollars Put Corn in Your Coke
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.