Winning the War on Sugar: How Taxpayers Subsidize the Sugar Industry

Thanks to science writer Gary Taubes and his new book, The Case Against Sugar, we now have a driving force for a new War on Drugs that we are calling The War on Sugar.

In the last three blogs, we’ve revealed three facts about sugar. First, the prevalence of added sugars in our American diet are the root cause of type 2 diabetes and the ever-burgeoning growth of latent insulin dependent adults.

Second, refined sugars are powerfully addictive; as addictive as hard-core recreational drugs. Since they appear in 3 out of every 4 domestic consumer packaged food products, this is a national crisis.

Third, the government has been complicit with the sugar and food industries in covering up the harmful effects of added sugars. For most of the 20th century, they have cited overeating and lack of exercise as the real causes of type 2 diabetes. According to government-sponsored medical and scientific authorities, a calorie is a calorie and the omnipresence of sugar in our western diet is a mere coincidence.

If these three arguments are not enough to convince the 29 million Americans with type 2 diabetes (as well as the 86 million with prediabetic conditions) to wage an all-out war on sugar, here’s one more that should send everyone over the top

We, as taxpayers, pay almost $2 billion per year to the sugar industry in tax subsidies, so that they can double the price of sugar at over twice the world price per pound. This means that we as consumers pay twice the amount for our sugar and food products at the store compared to the rest of the world!

That’s right, we subsidize the sugar industry so that they can raise prices on us! 

The U.S. Sugar Program that exists today was created in 1934 with the intention of reducing sugar production in favor of raising sugar prices. It is a scheme of protectionist policies that may have been critical for saving the agricultural sector during the Great Depression, but since then has only benefited the sugar industry at the double-whammy expense of Americans as taxpayers AND consumers. 

iStock-638008808 us dollars.jpgA 2011 Iowa State University study showed that if the Sugar Program was vacated in favor of a free market scenario, American consumers would save between $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion, as sugar prices would drop by 26-33%. The research also concluded that there would be an increase of 17,000 to 20,000 new jobs in industries that depend on sugar.[i] 

Proponents of the Sugar Program – which included 109 Democrats and 92 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2014 election cycle[ii] – will argue that the Sugar Program saves American jobs. Those same elected officials receive significant campaign contributions to a point where the sugar industry is one of the top five industries in campaign financing. The reality is that since domestic confectioners are already moving production beyond our borders to take advantage of lower foreign sugar prices, abolishing the Sugar Program would reverse this trend.[iii]

There are several key organizations leading the fight to reform the Sugar Program, including The Coalition for Sugar Reform, The Americans for Tax Reform, and E21 Manhattan Institute. However, type 2 diabetics and the millions of Americans with prediabetic conditions CANNOT count these groups as brothers and sisters in arms in our war on sugar. Their ultimate goal is a free market condition that lowers our tax burden and saves the average American $125 per year in consumer spending (not to mention thousands of more new jobs).[iv] A healthier economy is good for everyone, but it does not solve the omnipresence of added sugars in our western diet and their addictive qualities, which are the root causes of type 2 diabetes.

Our greatest weapon in the War on Sugar is to "JUST SAY NO" to added sugars in our diet.

Vote with your wallets and conduct your own personal trials. Publicize your projected improvements to anyone who will listen or read on social media. 

Let’s use the Sugar Program to our advantage, as our ammunition to enrage fellow diabetics and prediabetics, as well as family, friends and fellow citizens who are also at risk of this national health crisis. 

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[i] “The Impact of the U.S. Sugar Program,” by John Beghin and Amani Elobeid, Iowa State University November 17, 2011.

[ii] June 23, 2014  Jared Meyer, Preston Cooper 

[iii] “Cheaper Sugar Sends Candy Makers Abroad,” by Alexandra Wexler, Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2013

[iv] “Congress Should Dump the US Sugar Program this Valentine’s Day,” by Daniel Uzi Freedman, Americans For Tax Reform, February 14, 2017.

Sean Browne

Sean Browne

Former Chief Revenue Officer, CCS Medical

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