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Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables

  • okra Jul 25, 2011 07:44 AM
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Interesting concept put out by Mark Bittman in the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/opi...

Any thoughts, arguments, besides those he presents, as to why it wouldn't work?

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  1. My objection to it is to where, exactly, you draw the line at "bad" food? I'm also against subsidizing the "good' food. I think a compromise would be to stick with drinks, and just tax the sodas. That would be enough to provide a healthy tax income. However, I believe that diet sodas should be taxed as well as regular sodas. They are non-nutritive, and as far as I am concerned, a luxury, so tax away.

    2 Replies
    1. re: EricMM

      Washington State has a relatively high sales tax (but no income tax), but most grocery food is exempt. A couple of years ago the legislature dropped that exception for foods in the 'snack' category in an effort to raise a bit more revenue. A successful referendum restored that exception.

      While much of the advertising for the referendum was funded by vendors and producers (including out of state interests), its success indicates that 'bad' food taxes may not go over that well with voters. It's a bit like tell kids to eat this because 'it is good for you'.
      http://www.candyandsnacktoday.com/arc...

      1. re: paulj

        meh. we tax restaurants. ain't that enough?

    2. Maybe some leadership from our Surgeon General on this one? I'm not sure what she has done since she was appointed - she's all but invisible. Plus-size as she is, maybe she's eating Twinkies somewhere.
      However well intended, Bittman's notion of government manipulation of personal diets through fiscal policy is a slippery slope, and would encounter considerable resistance from lobbyists for the well-healed junk food and soft drink manufacturers. Doling out subsidies for the "good stuff" would be difficult to administer fairly as piggies of every stripe and color would come running to the trough.
      That free will in this country leads to reckless behavior is unfortunate.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        ... are you trying to slam her as being depressed, or as being fat? We do wonder. Metabolic syndrome has been linked to depression.

        1. re: Veggo

          "subsidize" as in "used in school lunches" might fly.

        2. I get about 95% of my calories from meat so I'm not too keen on subsidizing vegetables, I would prefer they subsidize meat.

          12 Replies
          1. re: redfish62

            Meat is well subsidized. Dropping any subsidy on corn, taxing salt and sugar, and applying those monies to subsidy fruits and veggies would go a long way to shifting diets -- and it would be revenue neutral...

            1. re: NVJims

              Fruits are unhealthy.

              1. re: redfish62

                That's quite the overstatement. I understand concerns about the effects of large amounts of fructose in one's diet, but there are basically no credible nutrition experts who claim that moderate amounts of fruit is unhealthy for someone who isn't already diabetic (or suffering from some other specific medical condition). And at any rate, find me 100 Americans who eat an unhealthy diet, and I'll bet that for 99 of them, the problem isn't too much fruit.

                ... though we do have to be careful we don't just wind up subsidizing juices.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  depends on the fruit. the common amounts eaten in south america appear to cause developmental abnormalities (specifically related to female fertility and menarche).

              2. re: NVJims

                US sugar is priced well above the world market due to import tariffs and/or quotas.

                1. re: paulj

                  That's true. It's also tangential to the point. Doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad idea to tax the price up even higher.

                  1. re: paulj

                    The sugar tax is certainly one of the highest tax we have, but is it due to import tariffs?

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      it's due to big sugar, the strongest lobby in washington.

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        CHOWRIN

                        But I thought we don't have a big cane sugar industry, which is why we import cane sugar so much....

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          We tax imported cane sugar to protect the domestic sugar beet industry. The rise of corn syrup use in the last 20 years or so is due primarily to the higher cost of sugar because of price controls.

                  2. re: NVJims

                    Well stated.

                    And frankly, Monsanto has done a great deal to hurt the potential of small, diversified organic farming in this country. If people want varied produce to have a fighting chance economically, antitrust action is long overdue.

                  3. re: redfish62

                    Meat is already heavily subsidized in many guises. Most people aren't aware of how expensive meat was up till WWII. In my grandmother's childhood in the UK in the 1920s, the annual butcher's bill for a family of four was higher than the maid's annual wages.

                  4. I don't like the idea of taxing "junk" food in order to subsidize "healthful" food, especially when the food we would be taxing is already so heavily subsidized. I would fully support a phase out of subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy. That alone would at least increase the sticker price of a lot of "junk" foods to match the actual cost of production, and might in turn make less processed foods more attractive.

                    1. How about a value added tax on all food, on the theory that the more hands it passes through, the higher the tax? More processed food would end up being taxed more, right? The devil's in the details, though.

                      1. First of all, just from a pure economic belief, I am ok wtih tax, but not subsidization. I know subsidization is easier from a political viewpoint because you are not punishing a specific person/industry on the surface, but I just don't like the subsidization.

                        Will it work? It depedns what you mean by work. Of course, a high tax will deterioate people from consuming those foods. The tobacco tax certainly did that. The question is that how much should government intervne of people choice even if they are inferior choice. For example, while the US math and science education is weaker than we should be, should the government allows to encourage student to major math and science and discourge them to study philosphy and music. What about government limiting the numbers of children for people who don’t have the mean to support the children? I am not drawing a slippy slope argument. Not at all. What I am trying to get at is the constant debate/balance between individual choice vs the social prosperity.
                        On the other hand, we are talking about public health, so the government does have a role in regulating public health. This is especially true with the increaing role of “universial healthcare”. With the expension of unversial healthcare, it means we are sharing the cost of healthcare to a greater degree. To put it in layman term: We are supporting each others’ healthcare cost, so your health is not just your business. It is my business too.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          ... who says it's government intervening? The gun is not the person who pulls the trigger, after all. Point the fingers at insurance companies.

                          Why okay with tax but not subsidization? [just curious]

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            CHOWRIN,

                            "... who says it's government intervening? The gun is not the person who pulls the trigger, after all. Point the fingers at insurance companies."

                            Hmm, well, if the government can put different tax rate or different subsidy rates among different industries, then it is intervening (intentionally or unintentionally). The insurance companies may have something to do with it, but it is far from a gun vs a person argument. In the case of a person vs a gun, the gun has no option and no thinking. The insurance companies do not have direct control of the government and the government is fully capable of making a different decision. I certainly cannot rob a bank and then tell the police that "Well, my girlfriend told me too".

                            Why okay with tax but not subsidization? [just curious]

                            I won't say I am ok with tax, I think it depends. Just an opinion on the tax and subsidy. I see at least two problems with subsidy. One is a pure economic reason -- something I learn when I studied economics. When you tax a product which you deem harmful, the resources are diverged from that to go to the other products. In other words, you let the market to decide the second best product, third best product..., you don't pick a winner. Subsidy does. In addition, subsidy, in effect, punish everyone else in the relative terms.

                            When it comes to foods (and many other things), we have a lot more confident (I think) of what is harmful vs what is beneficial. It is just so much easier to show what can cause cancer vs what can minimize cancer, right?

                            Second has to do with political reason. Yes, it is easier to put on a subsidy than a tax. You need more public support to put a tax on a product like taxing soft drinks than to put a subsidy on a product like green beans. However, the reverse is true as well. It is more difficult to remove a subsidy than to remove a tax. So it is much easier to reverse a mistake. Let's say I believe the subsidy on corn is wrong, well, it is pretty tough to reverse it now.

                        2. People talk about subsidies for corn and soybeans, but I suspect there are some significant subsidies for fruit and vegetables. I'm thinking in particular of irrigation water in places like the California Central Valley and Washington Columbia Basin (and Idaho/Oregon potato country). Most corn, soybeans and wheat are grown without irrigation, depending on rainfall in states like Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. But much of the produce grown in Western states and shipped back East is grown with water provided by large federally funded dams. Even Western cattle growers depend heavily on hay grown on irrigated land.

                          1. The problem is that we already manipulate individual food choices. For example, there is a huge tax on refined sugar. There is a huge subside for corn.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              You can trace the tax on refined sugar to the huge influence of the United States Sugar Corporation, and a deal to re-purchase a substantial portion of their land holdings in order to restore a portion of the Everglades.

                              As to corn subsidies, it took until this calendar year when more corn is harvested for fuel than for food in this country, to recognize the absurdity of the experiment and the destabilizing effect it has had on an essential food commodity, worldwide. Who knows how long it will take the geniuses in the Beltway to return it to normal. Corn was meant to be eaten, not driven.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                I think we are trying to fix one patch with another patch. For example, let say we realize the subsidy for corn is too much and unnecessary. Let's just say for now even if you disagree. Well, most likely it is a very difficult process to reverse due to the powerful lobby force behind the corn. The fact that Tall Corn State (Iowa) holds the first caucus does not help either. So, instead of removing subsidy for corn, we probably will just give other agriculture sectors like rice and wheat more subsidies. It will just be a mess.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Yeah, but the circle jerk must end, CUZ WE GOTS NO MORE MONEY.

                                2. re: Veggo

                                  Corn was meant to be eaten, not driven.

                                  It makes a good dwink too :))

                              2. Wouldn't work because of contradictions. The most obvious one being that sugary drinks like soda aren't being consumed by overweight people (who go with diet).

                                And, there's this one I like to ask: Exactly what types of healthy vegetables grow well in place like Nebraska and Idaho? Can't think of many dark greens and bright reds that would thrive in those environments.

                                29 Replies
                                1. re: ediblover

                                  We also need to distinguish between policies that promote healthier eating, and ones that promote localvorism, organic farming, vegetarianism, paleo-diet or other 'isms' and 'fads'.

                                  1. re: ediblover

                                    "The most obvious one being that sugary drinks like soda aren't being consumed by overweight people (who go with diet)."
                                    ______
                                    That sounds nice. But it probably isn't true. And it certainly isn't true with respect to children.

                                    "Exactly what types of healthy vegetables grow well in place like Nebraska and Idaho? Can't think of many dark greens and bright reds that would thrive in those environments."
                                    ________
                                    That's not true either.
                                    http://www.gardentimeonline.com/Idaho...
                                    That leaves a lot of options open. Also, the way you describe Idaho and Nebraska really makes one wonder how they grow anything at all in Canada. Strangely, they can grow a lot of stuff up there, and the majority of their crop land is directly North of Idaho and Nebraska.
                                    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/pr...

                                    The problem with growing varied crops in places like Idaho and Nebraska is that there isn't much of a local market for them and there exists no supply chain to ship them in bulk to other areas of the country. People grow what they can sell. Which is why price manipulation can be very smart.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      see starbuck's manipulation of the coffee market (someone wrote a book about it). Price Manipulation can be for the common good!

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Yeah, it does sound nice. Because that's the conclusion that researchers arrived at. You may also want to take a look at the study that looked at teens and fast food places near schools.

                                        Gardentime... Yeah. Hey, California is right next to Oregon, but they sure to put out better produce, no? They're also better than Nevada too! Probably because things like soil content, winds, water, insects and on and on vary so much, even though lands are so close to each other.

                                        1. re: ediblover

                                          "study that looked at teens and fast food places near schools."

                                          It is convoluted because schools which a lot of fast food places tends to be lower income too. We also knows crime rate increases with number of churches in a city too, but...

                                          1. re: ediblover

                                            "Yeah, it does sound nice. Because that's the conclusion that researchers arrived at. You may also want to take a look at the study that looked at teens and fast food places near schools."
                                            ____
                                            Diet soda being strongly correlated with incidence of obesity is not the same as obesity being strongly correlated with drinking diet soda. Obesity is also correlated with regular soda - I guess all those studies must be flawed, huh? The obvious take home point which you skip right over is that both regular AND diet soda are probably bad for you, or at least strongly correlated with bad diet and lifestyles.

                                            "Gardentime... Yeah. Hey, California is right next to Oregon, but they sure to put out better produce, no? They're also better than Nevada too! Probably because things like soil content, winds, water, insects and on and on vary so much, even though lands are so close to each other."
                                            ______
                                            Of course all these things matter. You're still overstepping - still incorrect. There are plenty of sites aimed at Idaho and Nebraska gardeners. And yet they seem to cover a lot more ground than just corn and potatoes.

                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                            There's a lot more than latitude that affects choice of crops. Market can be a factor, but with modern transportation it is a lot less of an issue than a century ago. If potatoes can be shipped in bulk from Idaho, so can bell peppers and lettuce.

                                            Decades ago the Gulf Islands near Victoria grew a lot of fruit for cities like Vancouver, a short boat ride away. Now the Okanagan and other inland valleys grow most of Canada's grapes and orchard crops. Why? better transportation, hotter summers, irrigated land. The Okanogan in Washington just to the south is not as developed, though areas along the Columbia from Chalan south are major producers of these crops.

                                            Wine people talk about microclimates that affect their grapes. Different sides of a single ridge or valley produce different crops, due to details like orientation to the soil to the sun, and flow of winds from the ocean or mountains.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              While all of these are true, I don't they are the major factors why some people eat more vegetables than others. If a person like to eat vegetables, he can eat in California as well as in Idaho. I think we are overestimating local produces with people eating preference.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                That's true and interesting but getting pretty far away from the point. Do you really think nothing but corn and potatoes can grow in Idaho and Nebraska?

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Do you really think a gardening site has anything to do with mass-scale farming of non-native plants? Interesting thing about corn - It's indigenous to North America. May, just maybe, some things are grown because it's the most sensible thing to grow, since foreign species generally cost a lot more since they require different conditions.

                                                  1. re: ediblover

                                                    Now you're arguing that where a plant originated 1000s of years and just as many mutations ago is the deciding factor? As though all over the world people aren't growing non-native plants perfectly well?

                                                    Strange that the soybean grows so well over here, huh. Perhaps we should grow more cranberries?

                                                    If you look around the internet, you'll see that these states already do produce many varieties of beans, fruit, and varied grains. As agriculture, not gardening. The market for beans, however healthy they may be, is not the market for corn and potatoes. If it was, you can bet the industrious farmers of said states would produce even more of em.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      No... I'm arguing that there are tons of factors outside of subsidies that comes into play with farming. One of the those factors is simply what's best suited to grow in what environment.

                                                      As for "look around the internet," I don't. That to me is being what is an "Internet genius;" one who thinks one is intelligent just because of "information and facts" quickly available with a search engine. (That's to say, if one needs to go wild on a search engine to have a discussion, one shouldn't be discussing that topic in the first place.) I tend to rely more on previously encountered (actual) facts and common sense/reasoning. For example...

                                                      A lot of produce require manual harvest. Most grains can be harvested mechanically. So, since you clearly believe that healthy produce is an option just about anywhere, tell us how you plan on harvesting all the crops (This is assuming that it's feasible and cost effective to grow it in the first place, which I doubt). Somehow, I doubt those areas have experienced field hands ready to tackle the field.

                                                      By the way, I'm fairly sure that beans don't qualify here, since it's widely available for extremely cheap prices.

                                                      1. re: ediblover

                                                        Imagine the cost of wheat if it was still cut and threshed by hand, ground by stone mills, sifted to separate bran from flour. Or the cost of corn if each ear was plucked by hand.

                                                        http://historicalfoods.com/medieval-a...

                                                        1. re: ediblover

                                                          I have to think subsidies play a significant role. I still wonder why Twinkies, with their 37 ingredients and the multiple processes needed to produce them, are cheaper than a bunch of carrots, which merely need the dirt shaken off them.

                                                          Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

                                                          1. re: Rmis32

                                                            Subsidies have some roles, but not in this example. It has to do with storage, shelves life. Fresh vegetables have a very short shelf life. The transportation cost and storage cost of twinkies are so much lower. Think about something very simple. Fresh noodles are sold at a much higher price point than dried noodles. You need to refrigerate the fresh noodle and they don't last more than 2-3 weeks.

                                                            1. re: Rmis32

                                                              How the **** did you type all that, without error, 2 hours into happy hour?

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                http://www.fooducate.com/blog/2010/06...

                                                              2. re: Rmis32

                                                                How did you ever think to compare Twinkies to carrots! You didn't crib the idea from Polan, did you? :)

                                                                I have a feeling I've looked at this comparison before.

                                                                How much are carrots? About a $1/lb, depending on quantity and quality.

                                                                How are Twinkies? $20/11 on Amazon, shipping weight 4lb, that's $5/lb. $5/lb seems about average for baked goods like cookies and snacks.

                                                                Yes, one Twinkie costs less than a bunch of carrots from the farmers market, but is that a fair comparison?

                                                                By the way, what is the cost comparison of items like this in Canada, or various European countries where there aren't subsidies, or the subsidies are structured in a different way?

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Man, you really looked into this already.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    .50 cents a pound for carrots at costco, right?

                                                                2. re: ediblover

                                                                  "I'm arguing that there are tons of factors outside of subsidies that comes into play with farming."
                                                                  _____
                                                                  Not until now you weren't. You were arguing that climate and soil is the deciding factor, damn near the only factor. And when did I limit the scope of my argument to subsidy? Heck, I don't think I even mentioned subsidy in response to any of your comments.

                                                                  What I'm saying, at its essence, boils down to a very simple idea - that demand and existing infrastructure drives production. Climate is a factor. Not the huge, all-determining factor you make it out to be in this case. You repeatedly made claims that don't stand up to reality.

                                                                  "As for "look around the internet," I don't. That to me is being what is an "Internet genius;" one who thinks one is intelligent just because of "information and facts" quickly available with a search engine."
                                                                  _________
                                                                  LOL. Let's not start commenting on each others' intelligence, OK?

                                                                  I appeal to the internet because you or anyone else can easily go and find the same information. If I can't argue against you with facts, and you're not willing to accept basic tenets of economics, what can I argue with?

                                                                  'Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true. Facts schmacts' - Homer Simpson

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    "What I'm saying, at its essence, boils down to a very simple idea - that demand and existing infrastructure drives production. Climate is a factor. "

                                                                    I'm reminded of BC Hothouse Peppers - grown in big greenhouse complexes year around on the outskirts of Vancouver. I heard rumors that the Quebec Hydro infrastructure makes similar greenhouse production possible in snowy Quebec. Even Moscow get produce from greenhouse complexes.

                                                                    Where there's a demand, and energy is cheap enough, fancy produce can be grown anywhere. That even applies to green leafy produce that usually consumed via burning.

                                                                    http://www.potato2008.org/en/world/as...
                                                                    is an interesting summary of potato production in Asia, an area we don't normally associate with potato growth. Apparently some varieties are suited to growth during the cooler winter months.

                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      fwiw those BC hothouse peppers aren't produced in the dead of winter. There's a shift somewhere around Dec/Jan and they instead ship peppers in the same bags but stamped "Product of Mexico." I'm not really sure which is worse.

                                                                      1. re: maplesugar

                                                                        Do the BC greenhouses shut down during the winter? I am aware that a lot of the fancy bell pepper and English cucumber production has shifted to Mexico, but my impression is that when brands like BC Hothouse became established their greenhouse production was year around. But I could wrong about that.

                                                                        I wouldn't surprised if some of the Mexican crop comes from greenhouse because they provide a more controlled environment. It is evident from satellite photos that a lot of the cut flowers production in the mountains of Columbia and Ecuador comes from large greenhouse complexes.

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          I'm not positive they shut down -- but they definitely don't ship to us here in Alberta. My observations come from changes in our local grocery's produce dept. Mid winter those bags are the same color, same bags, but product of Mexico is there in small type. Same goes for tomatoes at Costco - I forget the brand now, but they sell grape tomatoes in large clamshell containers-in the winter they're product of somewhere else, in the summer product of Canada.

                                                                          1. re: maplesugar

                                                                            http://www.bchothouse.com/about-faq.html
                                                                            BCHothouse FAQ
                                                                            "During [winter], BC Hot House Foods Inc. aligns itself with a few high quality greenhouse growers in Mexico."
                                                                            The reasons they give are lack of light, and high heating costs in the Canadian greenhouses.

                                                              3. re: ediblover

                                                                http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts/ID...

                                                                USDA data for Idaho. While Idaho accounts more than 20% of the US potato crop, dairy is its largest agribusiness. Cattle are up there with potatoes. Potatoes probably account for most of the 'vegetable' exports.

                                                                By the way, no one has established that vegetable/fruit prices are too high, or that more needs to be grown. Most of us can afford all the vegetables that we want, and where prices are too high, it most likely has to do with distribution issues (small poorly stocked produce stores in inner city (or small town) neighborhoods.

                                                                Another thing to keep in mind is that fresh fruits and vegetables (the 'healthy stuff') are much more labor intensive than most grains, sugars and fats. Many of the so called 'junk foods' are shelf stable (cheaper distribution and sales), and produced by highly mechanized methods. A large ripe tomato needs to be handled gently, and Twinky never gets touched by human hands until eaten.

                                                                I bet the cheapest way to lower produce costs is to freely import it (or labor) from countries with much lower costs of living.

                                                                1. re: ediblover

                                                                  Being indigenous is not a strong factor in determining whether a crop is commercially viable in an area, much less a whole continent. There are plenty of examples of crops that are widespread outside the area where they were developed.

                                                                  The English settlers in North America were meat and bread (no potatoes in England) eaters. Wheat did not grow well in the colonies, especially the southern ones, so they learned to adapt their bread to the native corn. It wasn't until the mid 19th c. that wheat production took off - largely in the Midwest, using wheat varieties that eastern European settlers brought with them. By then railroads made long distance transportation of food like this possible.

                                                                  Potatoes are indigenous to the South American Andes, but have done very well in other cool climates, whether Ireland, many other parts of Europe, and some cooler states (Idaho and Maine being the big US producers).

                                                          2. re: ediblover

                                                            Uhm...have you ever heard of the Jolly Green Giant? He lives here in Minnesota with Sprout.

                                                          3. Holy Cow! What about freedom? What about individual liberty, personal responsibility?

                                                            I find myself INFURIATED by those would decide that they know what is good for me, and propose to manipulate me via taxes/subsidies. Oh, that's right, "experts" will decide. Will these be the experts that told us to eat margerine instead of butter in the 80's? And who would decide how to fairly administer the plan? the people who wrote the tax code that's more than 13,000 pages long?

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: danna

                                                              All sorts of stuff you buy has already been subject to price manipulation. Often for much more arbitrary and silly reasons than that it is bad for people and costing this country billions and billions of dollars. How is this any different?

                                                              And what the heck does freedom have to do with it? No one is talking about banning anything. You think paying more for soda is infringing upon your rights?

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                It may not be different, but it's EXTRA manipulation. I'd be happy to reduce taxes and end subsididies in many other areas as well. Two wrongs don't make a right, and all that.

                                                                Not talking about banning anything? well not yet, anyway. slippery slope, and all that.

                                                                I don't drink soda, because I'm slim and snobby. But I don't let my elitism infringe on other people's choices. Yes, paying more for soda is f-ing with somebody out there's rights.

                                                                1. re: danna

                                                                  "Two wrongs doesn't make a right, and all that"

                                                                  But is "Two wrongs" better than "One wrong"? While at it, (please don't answer), think (don't answer) on affirmative action. Is it two wrongs?

                                                                  1. re: danna

                                                                    sad, that. you'll never have a true cherry coke that way (made with sour cherry juice)

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      What's sad is a 5 year old at a birthday party who won't eat hot dogs or Coke. I dunno, I was just born this way ;-)

                                                                    2. re: danna

                                                                      two things: do other people drinking soda affect you in any way? If so, then their choices are infringing on your "freedom."

                                                                      if drinking soda has societal consequences, don't the producers of soda have to take just as much responsibility?

                                                                2. People always have a choice. You can eat what you want the government should not be providing any incentives either way. People need to take responsibility for there own lives. No one forces you to eat fast food or drink sugar filled juices. The fact that people should want to live longer healthy lives should be motivation enough.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: dryrain

                                                                    "People need to take responsibility for there own lives. No one forces you to eat fast food or drink sugar filled juices. The fact that people should want to live longer healthy lives should be motivation enough."
                                                                    ________
                                                                    Respectfully Dryrain - the problem I have with this line of thinking is how completely and utterly un-pragmatic and unproductive it is. Yes, people SHOULD take responsibility for their own lives and health. But they don't. Just saying so doesn't change anything, doesn't make a single person take a little bit more responsibility for them and theirs. And I'm paying for it. And probably you're paying for it.

                                                                    So the question is what to do about it. Bemoaning lack of personal responsibility changes nothing. Nothing. It's possible that the right/privilege to cheap empty calories is somehow sacred; that maintaining that principle somehow outweighs the very real damage people do to themselves and this country via extremely poor nutrition. That sure seems like a stretch to me though.

                                                                    1. re: dryrain

                                                                      Does the same argument apply to tobacco?

                                                                    2. The whole issue of taxing "bad foods" has been raging here in Denmark as well, and it really frustrates me because I do not agree with the good/bad categorizations. For example, products high in animal fat are more heavily taxed than low fat products. It seems that we are moving farther and farther away from having any sense of personal responsibility and personal choice. It might be different if we could trust those making the determinations, but my feeling is that we are really vulnerable as long as the politicians are making those calls.

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Transplant_DK

                                                                        Why do the DK politicians favor the low fat products? Since Denmark is well known for its dairy and ham, I would think economic pressures would sway political opinion in the other direction.

                                                                        http://www.just-food.com/analysis/den...
                                                                        It looks like industry is fighting this. It also says salty and sweet snacks are already heavily taxed in that country.

                                                                        http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/article/32...
                                                                        talks about Spain, Denmark and Romania.
                                                                        A liberal Spanish paper is quoted: ": ‘The European Union, which is at times more sensitive to the pressures of the food industry than to public health, has not legislated in this area. "

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          I really don't have the answer as to why the politicians are going after high fat products--they say it is for public health, naturally, and based on research showing links between animal fat and hear disease. I do know that industry is fighting it, but in Denmark that is sometimes enough to make the politicians do something (something like the rebellious teen).

                                                                          But I can also tell you that the bulk of Danish products are exported. The pork in the stores is more likely to come from Germany or elsewhere than DK.

                                                                          The public is generally fat phobic as well, so there are tons of low-fat products on the shelves.

                                                                          And you're right about snacks already being heavily taxed, although it's still cheaper to buy a bag of potato chips than a bag of apples (which we also grow tons of here).

                                                                          1. re: Transplant_DK

                                                                            Are potato chips cheaper by the bag or by weight? Potatoes are lot less dense. Even comparing costs per calorie or nutritional measure is tricky. A lot of the calories in potato chips comes from energy rich fats, while a lot of the weight in apples is water.

                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                              that's right. the useful comparison would be between a bag of chips and 1 apple.

                                                                            2. re: Transplant_DK

                                                                              Transplant_DK

                                                                              I think PaulJ and Danna have a very good point. It is not desirable to compare a bag of potato chips to a bag of apples. They are very different in weight. A single apple is heavier than a bag of chips. On top of that, we can also look at it from a layman view.... many people can consume a bag of chip in one sitting as lunch. Not many people will eat a bag of apples in one sitting.... A bag of apples should last you 1-2 days if that is all you will consume. A bag of potato chip probably cannot fill you up for a single meal...

                                                                              If you really want to compare apple to apple or potato to potato, then probably it is best to compare a pound of potato chip to a pound of potato, or a pound of apple chip to a pound of apple. I am sure you will find the a pound of the raw produce to be much cheaper.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                ... 140 cals per oz of Grandma Utz potato chips. Half a bag is a decent meal, at 4 oz.
                                                                                But you have to walk away afterwards... you will not feel full until the lard catches up with ya. ;-)

                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  True of course. I wasn't thinking of it in terms of weight, only making an off the cuff comment that speaks to a major gripe here, namely that fruits and vegetables are very expensive. I realize it's the same everywhere--there are tons of cheap foods that are not good for you, but good quality food with higher nutritional content is expensive.

                                                                                  1. re: Transplant_DK

                                                                                    Why is 'food with higher nutritional content' more expensive?

                                                                                    In what sense is an apple more nutritious than a potato?

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      pure carbs is cheap. food with nutrients (like calcium) is expensive. Have you looked at the price of collards lately? How about beans?

                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                        You are using 'nutrient' in a restricted sense, one that excludes sources of the energy that a body needs (i.e. the calories in 'pure carbs' and fats).

                                                                                        Beans? What kind? The green immature pods we eat as 'vegetables', or the dried ones? I just paid $1.30/lb for peruanos, though I've paid up to $3 for fancier ones, and seen prices like $6 or more for 'heriloom' online places. That's same sort of price range I've seen for cornmeal (grits, polenta). Apples are around $.80/lb, potatoes less if bought in 5lb bags, more when buying fingerlines. Ordinary green cabbage can be as low as $.40/lb. Greens are more, but they require special handling, aren't as dense, and are more perishible. Plus in my area there isn't a high demand for them. The higher price of Melissa's produce has little to do with how nutritious it is.

                                                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                                                        Look at the Wiki articles for potato and apple. Both have a sidebar with nutritional value per 100g. In many areas the values are higher for the potato. The potato has more calories, but the apple has more water (85% v 75%), enough to account for the difference in calories (2/3). But the potato calcium is 2x the apple's. Iron is nearly 10x. Even vitamin C is higher.

                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                          Aren't apples worse because of FRUCTOSE?

                                                                              2. re: Transplant_DK

                                                                                Just an update from Denmark. Starting tomorrow, consumers will now be taxed more for products with high animal fat content, e.g. butter and cream. Not sure what the whole list includes, but the word from the dairies is that prices will be about 20% higher and the product line will be decreased dramatically in the upcoming months. It's already very difficult to find full fat products here--the shelves have mostly been filled by low fat dairy products for the past 10 years. Not a development I'm happy about.

                                                                              3. Another ivory-tower musing from somebody not connected to the Real World. Bittman is a dweeb.

                                                                                22 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jmckee

                                                                                  The incidence of obesity & diabetes is rising at alarming rates. Is that real enough for you?

                                                                                  1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                    But Bittman is on the wrong side of the prevention plan... he should read Taubes.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      Which one is advocating more sugar? :)

                                                                                      Bittman is closer to being a vegetarian than Taubes, but does that really put him on the wrong prevention plan?

                                                                                      Looks like a 3 way battle is heating up - vegetarians v. (pseudo)paleo-dieters v big-business processed foods. As long as the vegetarians and meat eaters are at each other's throats, the rest of us will continuing as we think best.

                                                                                    2. re: Rmis32

                                                                                      Bittman's suggestion does nothing for that. Nothing. You're going to have to change people's behaviors. You can't do that easily.

                                                                                      And incidentally -- years of running around like Chicken Little warning about obesity and diabetes has resulted in continued increases in obesity and diabetes. Again, you can't change people's behaviors.

                                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                                        If obesity and diabetes are increasing, then something IS changing people's behaviors, whether a change in diet or a change in activity level.

                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                          ... or stress. or continued descent into poverty. or lack of decent medical care.

                                                                                        2. re: jmckee

                                                                                          "years of running around like Chicken Little warning about obesity and diabetes has resulted in continued increases in obesity and diabetes."
                                                                                          _____
                                                                                          This statement taken literally would imply that the warnings themselves have made people more obese and diabetic. I assume that wasn't what you meant to say. Right?

                                                                                          "Again, you can't change people's behaviors."
                                                                                          _______
                                                                                          Except when you can. Take a look at smoking trends.

                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                            Since most of the data upon which this entire debate relies is predicated upon identifying correlations, this seems like an interesting spot in the discussion to note another (albeit as a bit of an aside). That being the distinct correlation in the US between the rise in obesity rates and the decrease in tobacco use.

                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                              It is interesting, but how significant do you think it is? Offhand, quitting smoking is associated with mild weight gain. But for the most part that correlation would strike me as incidental.

                                                                                              I mean, I could also correlate increase in obesity with the disappearance of full service gas station pumps. But that doesn't seem a very promising avenue for further study.

                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                Mostly it's interesting that a society in which a majority of individuals consumed an appetite suppressant on a daily basis has been replaced by a society where a majority of individuals are overweight or obese. It's certainly incidental, but I would posit that at least some of the correlations guiding the debate at hand will prove to be as well. For instance, the cholesterol to heart disease conclusions may not be proving out so well. Anyway, it seemed more interesting than offering a more direct "post hoc . . ." warning.

                                                                                                Personally, I don't give a sh*t if taxes on things I don't eat are implemented which result in a decrease in the cost of things I do eat. I traded my Libertarian idealism in order to help the government finance its "acquisitions" of the auto makers. (I almost sold it for Lehman Bros. stock in 2006, but a wise friend talked me out of it.)

                                                                                                Funny thing, here in NJ you still can't pump your own gas and my neighbors still keep getting fatter.

                                                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                  "here in NJ you still can't pump your own gas and my neighbors still keep getting fatter."

                                                                                                  That is/was the strangest thing I experienced when I moved here in NJ. I cannot pump my own gas. There was even a poster which read something like "It is a dangerous to ... it requires professionals to ...etc"

                                                                                                  What a bunch of BS! So what is it? The people from the rest 48 states (aside NJ and OR) are risking their lives everyday by pumping their own gas? That somehow we need professional/trained expert to pump our gas, but they don't? Is NJ residents IQ level that low?

                                                                                                  "Personally, I don't give a sh*t if taxes on things I don't eat are implemented which result in a decrease in the cost of things I do eat."

                                                                                                  Yeah, but I do care.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    I suppose I care a bit as well. I care in the way I care whether the Yankees win tonight. It'd be cool if they do, but I gotta go to work tomorrow either way. Sadly, I'm afraid the past couple years (days) have turned my naturally jaded complexion even darker.

                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                      MGZ. Sorry that it came off like an attack. You don't have to care. I am just saying that I do care.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        I assure you I took no offense. In fact, I respect you, your opinion, and your position on this issue. I am afraid that I have become quite politically apathetic, leaving my crusading days behind me. Luckily, my passions for rhetoric, critical thinking, and food are still vibrant.

                                                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      'Can't pump your own gas' used to be the norm in the USA. Oregon has just hung on to that. There is a formal list of justifications, but mostly it's because Oregonians prefer it that way, have rejected a referendum at least once.
                                                                                                      http://www.ktvb.com/news/i-wonder/I-W...

                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                        I know, but it is just silly to say it is for safety. What? New Jersey protects me by stopping me from pumping gas, but if I drive to Pennsylvania, then I am suddenly risking my life by pumping gas? Really? Who can possibly believe this, let alone print these nonsense on a poster/sign.

                                                                                                    3. re: MGZ

                                                                                                      Then does a lack of secondhand smoke explain the significant increase in childhood obesity?

                                                                                                      Now kids, no more video games until you finish your cigarettes...

                                                                                                      1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                        I make no pretense of explanation.

                                                                                                  2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                    FWIW - http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archi...

                                                                                                2. re: jmckee

                                                                                                  "you can't change people's behaviors."

                                                                                                  Of course, you can change people's behaviors. If anything, that is a fairly easy thing to manipulate. Like cowboyardee said, smoking is one. People change the way they dress based on movie star icon. Microwave change the way we cook and prepare dinner, just look at how many people eat microwave dinner now.

                                                                                                  The real question is can you change people's eating behavior by a few tax dollar here and there. Would increasing a bag of chips from $2.00 to $2.20 makes any real difference. Probably not at all. That is probably your best argument.

                                                                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                    More like you *can* change people's behaviors and promote obesity and diabetes by launching a starch based, fat and protein restricted food pyramid. Shortly thereafter, adult onset diabetes became an epidemic and a pediatric disease.

                                                                                                    Smoking behavior was changed by public education, too. But that time the information was correct.

                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                      public education? it was changed by corporations, for corporations. In propaganda we trust.

                                                                                              2. The fact that various European countries are further along in talk and implementation of 'sweet and fat' taxes, suggests that the existing agricultural subsidies (on corn and soy) in the USA are not at the root of our obesity problem. There may be some good fiscal reasons from cutting back on those subsidies and/or price supports, but the public health arguments are weak.

                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                  "The fact that various European countries are further along in talk and implementation of 'sweet and fat' taxes, suggests that the existing agricultural subsidies (on corn and soy) in the USA are not at the root of our obesity problem."
                                                                                                  ____
                                                                                                  For one, I don't think anyone is really claiming that's the root of our obesity problem. Just a factor.

                                                                                                  But more basically, you made a jump in this post that I'm not following. How does one thing suggest the other?

                                                                                                  Really, the direct argument against subsidy from a health standpoint is mainly that these subsidies make corn syrup especially cheap, which leads to it being used to excess in processed foods and drinks, which in turn results in people eating more of it (btw, before this post draws angry rants - I don't find corn syrup to be significantly less healthy than sugar in equal amounts). I realize that is only a small part of our national nutritional problem. But it is a part.

                                                                                                  The indirect argument is at least as interesting and compelling to me. Mainly the argument goes that these subsidies have the effect of propping up large companies (processed food companies, big companies that control the shipping and storage of produce, seed companies). These companies exert such supply side control and advertising influence that they actually dictate to a large extent how the market for food is structured, what's in demand, what farmers can grow and how they can sell it and what kinds of prices they can get. These companies and the foods they produce and promote are the central cause of America's dietary problems. And continually propping them up makes no sense when their products do more damage to this country than they can offset with economic impact (jobs - many of them shitty, exports, etc).

                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                    Cheap corn syrup is not common in Europe; so why are they worried about excessive sweets?

                                                                                                    Exactly how to 'these subsidies' prop up large food processors? There's a lot of talk about subsidies, but few of us understand how they are structured, much less understand what effect they have, if any, on prices. The original intent was to protect farmers from excessively low prices, prices that could drive them out of business. The structure of those payments and price supports has changed over the years.

                                                                                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricult...
                                                                                                    has a table and graphic illustrating where those subsidies have gone. Why feed grains like corn have the highest percentage, soy is below wheat and rice.

                                                                                                    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/...
                                                                                                    an academic paper on the effect of subsidies on diet and obesity - claiming there is little effect. Though there is a 2009 Tuffs study that claims that the subsidies lower production costs for corn syrup makers.

                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                      "Cheap corn syrup is not common in Europe; so why are they worried about excessive sweets?"
                                                                                                      ____
                                                                                                      Because degree of alarm and severity of danger aren't strictly coincident.

                                                                                                      "Exactly how to 'these subsidies' prop up large food processors?"
                                                                                                      _________
                                                                                                      By 'these studies,' let's limit our focus to the corn subsidy. Basically the subsidy keeps large companies in access to huge amounts of very cheap raw materials. Another way of looking at things - the problem is that there is no longer a price floor to protect farmers, so subsidy simultaneously keeps farmers in business but also keeps em completely dependent on the companies that buy corn, and also the companies that sell their seed. When those companies get so big that they can manipulate prices on their own, farmers, the market, and the food supply are pretty well screwed. Right now, 3 companies are responsible for 90% of the corn trade. Globally. Like I said in a post above, antitrust action is overdue.

                                                                                                      So it might seem heartless to talk about ending subsidy and leaving farmers who have already been screwed to fend for themselves. But in truth, ending subsidy is only part of the solution, and not the first one to enact.

                                                                                                      I can't read enough of that study to comment. But I'll grant you that subsidy is only a small part of our national nutrition problem.

                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                        Are you claiming that corn prices are artificially low?

                                                                                                        July 2, 2011 article on large corn crop and prices
                                                                                                        http://www.examiner-enterprise.com/ar...

                                                                                                        "Surging corn and soybean prices are showing up at the grocery store this summer. In May, a sirloin steak cost about 7 percent more than last year, according to the most recent available Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. The price of pork chops jumped 9 percent. The price of spaghetti and macaroni noodles, which often contain soybean meal and corn syrup, jumped 13 percent."

                                                                                                        No mention of surging soft drink prices!

                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                          You're looking at one blip in a market when I'm talking about a 30 year trend. And it's not just prices, but how the market is structured that's important.

                                                                                                        2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                          "3 companies are responsible for 90% of the corn trade. Globally"
                                                                                                          What's your source for that claim? I see that quoted almost word for word across the web, but there's no clear indication of the origin, the actual numbers, and the year when it is/was true. According to the Wiki article on corn as commodity, USA produces 40% of the world crop, China 20%. Of course there may be a difference between production as used there and 'trade' as your source uses it.

                                                                                                          http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/corn...
                                                                                                          USDA 2010 Corn baseline report

                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                            As you said, that figure is repeated often. And I took it at face value. Which is not to say that it's incorrect. If you find any evidence that it's incorrect, I'd love to see it. And yes, I'm pretty sure production and trade are two different things.

                                                                                                            BTW the three companies are Cargill, Bunge Limited, and Archer Daniels Midland. I know, for example, that Cargill buys and trades in Chinese corn.
                                                                                                            http://www.cibmagazine.com.cn/Feature...

                                                                                                  2. I'd be happy with disincentives for totally non-nutritive foods like sodas, but although I agree with Bittman in principal, the rest is a slippery mess. Fruit juices? Doughnuts but not white bread? Frozen fried chicken? Big food can slide by almost any barrier to sales, short of illegality, and choices are shaped not just by ads or media but by social, family, cultural, and other factors. Studies in Mediterranean Europe, home of supposedly healthy eating, show enormous increases in obesity and illness in young people--not so much from eating junk, but also from dangerous levels of inactivity. Also, I wonder if there's been any reporting on trends in fresh produce sales--we assume no one buys anything that's not packaged and processed. Found this: http://www.fruitnet.com/content.aspx?...

                                                                                                    1. It may work to some degree, but there's something of a flaw to this general idea.

                                                                                                      With smoking, there's basically two options - you either pay the extra tax to smoke or you don't smoke and don't pay the tax.

                                                                                                      Here, someone not eating the "bad" stuff because you don't want to pay the extra tax does not necessarily mean that someone will buy and eat the "good" stuff (in this case, vegetables), regardless of its price.

                                                                                                      In defining the "bad" stuff, who's exactly determining this? I'm sure anything at a fast-food place will be defined as "bad", but does that mean mom & pop food trucks or establishments get the same treatment for their similar products? A similar question could be applied to store-brand vs. locally-produced and/or in-house versions of "bad" things like ice cream.

                                                                                                      How about ubiquitous things like coffee? Coffee is a huge potential source of tax revenue and at least some benefits aside from the caffeine jolt (like antioxidants) - do you leave the fresh brewed, non-adulterated version untaxed, but if you throw in all sorts of sweeteners, whipped cream, etc. in there, does it get taxed?

                                                                                                      I see the article says the standards should be on the federal level - if a locality wants to exceed those standards laid out, should they be allowed to do so?

                                                                                                      It may have a positive effect sure over the long haul, but at least initially (and maybe longer) it's going to be a bureaucratic nightmare of sorts.

                                                                                                      1. I don't like his recipes for food, either... now this.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                          Ha ha ha.... this is the funniest comment.

                                                                                                        2. Apart from taxes, junk food packaging needs to carry George Romero-esque pictures rotten teeth, morbid obesity, bariatric surgery, and sick people who ate themselves to death. Works for tobacco, why not chips and pop?

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                            I was thinking the same thing. Warning labels that consuming this may lead to all of these health conditions. In Canada, the cigarette packs have very graphic disturbing pictured of lung disease etc. I doubt this would fly because I don't think there is quite the clear direct correlation between eating a candy bar every day and diabetes as there is with cigarettes and cancer. You can eat 95% whole grain high fiber etc etc and have a little dark chocolate or small dessert or fried item and still be healthy. Too many other lifestyle factors and aspects of diet, so any warning would have to be so general as to be too easy to ignore. The surgeon general has determined that a diet high in fat and sugar and low in fiber and exercise has been linked with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease? And the increasingly poorly educated citizen is supposed to know what that means and do the math on their own?

                                                                                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                              In Ontario, cigarettes are totally concealed behind blinds wherever they're sold--totally invisible till they're plunked onto the counter. Kinda doubt Pepsico would dig that treatment!

                                                                                                            2. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                              The trend is going in the opposite direction. When I was a kid, Aunt Jemimah was heavy & not particularly attractive. In today's packaging, she's a hottie.

                                                                                                              1. re: Rmis32

                                                                                                                That's funny.

                                                                                                              2. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                                Y is harmful. It really doesn't do your body any good in any amount.

                                                                                                                X is harmful in certain (high) amounts. It's used by the body in a variety of ways.

                                                                                                              3. The NY Times hasn't found a tax they dislike.

                                                                                                                1. Maybe the government could stop subsidizing corn that is used to make HFCS and factory farms that produce low quality food instead of having to subsidize veggies. We are allowing corporations(such as Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto) to control our food supply for profit and it is time to end their feast on the taxpayer dollar.

                                                                                                                  Ive had enough of corporate welfare and subsidies.

                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                    Have you thought of it the other way around. Corporate subsidies (or you call corporate welfare) is to help drive the extremely low cost of foods, making foods very affordable for poor people. We are the very few countries where poor people are literally fat. I had a colleague from China, and he said when he first came to US as a student, he was absolutely confused when his American friends said "You see those people over there? They are overweight because they are poor"

                                                                                                                    That statement won't make any sense in most of world.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                      Few of us understand how farm programs (to use a more general term than subsidies) affect price, either at the raw corn or soy stage or derived products. Some programs like tariffs and import quotas limit imports, protecting inefficient domestic producers from cheaper foreign products. That's what kept the US sugar prices above the world market. On the other hand, corn had price supports, money that was paid to farmers if the market dropped below some level. The idea was to protect them from wildly swinging prices from year to year. The effect of such supports on consumer prices is less obvious. If it encourages farmer to grow more corn, then it may lower prices. But by how much? And what would they have grown instead And if I'm not mistaken, in recent years the price supports have changed to a more direct subsidy to the farmers. And subsidies to encourage biofuel have added to the demand for corn, driving its price up.

                                                                                                                      Other countries (e.g. Egypt) try to control grain prices at the consumer level, either by imposing price controls, or buying wheat on the international market. That kind of action can placate the masses, but has the effect of discouraging domestic production.

                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                        "Some programs like tariffs and import quotas limit imports, protecting inefficient domestic producers from cheaper foreign products. That's what kept the US sugar prices above the world market."

                                                                                                                        Agree.

                                                                                                                        "And subsidies to encourage biofuel have added to the demand for corn, driving its price up."

                                                                                                                        True.

                                                                                                                        In the first case, limiting import or rising imported price point has the effect of limiting competition and therefore increases market price.

                                                                                                                        In the second case, the corn ethanol initiative has increased the demand. This shifts the demand curve to the right and increases the market price point as well.

                                                                                                                        You are correct that subsidies do not always lower the market price point. In fact, often increases it. Yet, subsidies can lower the market price especially for immature/developing section where the infrastructure cost is high. In addition, the method to apply the subsidies can have a very different effect. For example, the price of a hybrid electric car would have been higher had it not been its subsidy.

                                                                                                                        At the end, you are correct. It is not clear how our agricultural prices would change have we not had these subsidies. So my previous statement was incorrect.

                                                                                                                        That said, I like to bring up a different point, not the previous point. I remember that one argument for agricultural subsidies is for national security. In short, to ensure a sufficient agricultural output in the case of time of war.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                          I would NOT tax bad choices. Your shopping bill would increase because the store would be taxing the bad product but repeat but they would need the gross sales reported to the State Agency. It would require more record keeoing and costs for the shop.

                                                                                                                          My two dents
                                                                                                                          Feed students breakfast and lunch for free. It would create more local jobs in this crummy economy.
                                                                                                                          Instead of sending money overseas give each person a voucher for the good stuff. You would have a card or coupons that must be used locally at small stpres......promote local business and yes...more local jobs.
                                                                                                                          Our srudents should get money credits that can be used toward United States colleges or techical schools. it would benefit the economy and keep the young ones off the streets.

                                                                                                                          1. re: laura10952

                                                                                                                            Hi laura,

                                                                                                                            I have not made my mind on this because it is complicated. I suppose we can tax the bad food before they made them to the store. For example, an ice cream manufacturer need to pay a higher tax.

                                                                                                                            "Feed students breakfast and lunch for free. It would create more local jobs in this crummy economy."

                                                                                                                            I am more of tax than subsidy person. I believe it is already controversy enough for government to pick losers, and it is worse for it to pick winners. I have not made up my mind on this. It is very complex for me.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                              Cbemicakinetics-
                                                                                                                              If all the students eat in the schools they are not subsidising, It would create more local jobs and it would prevent any child from going hungry. My son has friends that live in mansions and there is NO food, not even peanut butter, Some parents do not feed their kids, and it does NOT matter on their income. It is truly serious.

                                                                                                                              When I worked as a temp at a high school and to my surprise so many teenagers came to school and some did not even have bucks for lunch, I was sick at what I saw,

                                                                                                                              1. re: laura10952

                                                                                                                                Hi Laura,

                                                                                                                                I mean if the government is providing free lunch programs for kids, then the government may have come up with a list of foods to buy to make lunches like carrots, milk, tomatoes...etc. So these foods being chosen are being chosen over than other foods. Maybe it is not a true subsidy, but the government would be choosing winners here. I rather government choose losers than winners.

                                                                                                                                Or do you mean the government just fund the breakfast and lunch programs and let the local schools pick whatever they want to serve. I thought we have free lunch program for low income kids, no?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                  Chem,

                                                                                                                                  We do give free lunch to low income students but their parents have to fill out the forms. Some of the students claim it is a handout. We had a horrible situation where the student was starving. If all students are given free kunchs ab=nd breakfasts then the hungry and the rich who do not feed.

                                                                                                                                  I am married but did date a fabukous guy whose dad purposely feed him only oatmeal to make hin strong. He was a nice guy. I had thought he told me the story so we would break up. He was successful person but he would flake out when he would tell me.........I was frightened and dated others.

                                                                                                                                  We NEVER know what is going on behind closed doors............so as a country at least we know that the students are eating nutritiously. As for purchase of food for them.........high school students could purchase for college credits.