He probably could do without a serving of added sweetener. But, this June, heart-attack surviving talk-show pundit / self-styled patriot Rush Limbaugh launched Two If By Tea, a beverage sporting him as a fat Paul Revere, shouting: “The Liberals are coming!” A 16 oz bottle contains 30 grams of sugar (nearly 8 tsp). Somehow this is supposed to help our great nation.
True, in the US, we rely heavily on our agricultural ambrosia. America’s sugar farmers, processors, and refiners create 146,000 jobs and generate nearly $10 billion a year for the U.S. economy. As the American Sugar Alliance touts: “America’s sugar is produced in 18 states so we don’t have to depend on unreliable foreign countries for this vital ingredient.” God forbid we need a pipeline of dates from the Middle East.
But sweet-dependent we are. The average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar each year per capita, according to the USDA. And the U.S. Department of Commerce tells us sugar is an “essential ingredient” used in 70% of our manufactured food.
The Hand that Feeds U.S. – an “educational resource for urban media on the importance of U.S. agriculture to the security and future of our country,” brought to you in part by the American Sugar Alliance – asks us: “What is an inexpensive source of energy, is 100% natural, good for the environment and is a fun ingredient in your favorite foods?” American sugar, of course, you sour commie rat.
In these hard times, we need a little sweetness more than ever. No matter what the cost. While most industries limped through the economic doldrums, one thrived, according to “Confectioners’ Sweet Recession,” a report released this summer at the 28th International Sweetener Symposium by the American Sugar Alliance. Stories of job creation, facility expansion and record sales pepper the pages.
“Candy companies make money in good times and in bad,” agrees the National Confectioners Association, which posted a 3.7% sales gain this year. Hershey’s posted a 20% increase in profit during just the first quarter. So, who’s paying for it?
According to the Cato Institute, you are. They claim the U.S. government spends close to $1.68 billion a year buying and storing excess sugar to maintain artificially high domestic prices. (Note: they also advocate auctioning off Yellowstone National Park.) By some measures, U.S. sugar prices have averaged twice the world price since the 1980’s, when Ronald Reagan reinstated Sugar Act quotas that sought to create an artificial shortage of sugar and drive up U.S. prices.
Sugar certainly keeps lots of folks busy on Capital Hill. Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH) and Republican Mark Kirk (R – IL) recently presented the Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions (SUGAR) Act. “The sugar support program costs consumers $4 billion a year – to disproportionally benefit a limited group of wealthy sugar producers,” Shaheen said. “The SUGAR Act protects consumers, saves American jobs, and allows U.S. confectioners, bakers, beverage companies, and food manufacturers to stay in business.” There’s a reason why Pepsi is red, white and blue.
Another day in the land of stars, stripes, yellow moons and green clovers (they’re magically delicious) – where freedom isn’t sugar-free. And Uncle Sam has diabetes.