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Subsidizing Sickness – U.S. Tax Dollars at Work

Subsidizing Sickness – U.S. Tax Dollars at Work
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Twinkie lovers can thank U.S. taxpayers for helping keep the price down on their sweet treat. To show how that works, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) has published a new report: Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food. †It argues what critics have been saying for a long time: “Americans’ tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients.”

According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Farm Subsidy Database, Americans forked over $261.9 billion between 1995 and 2010. Huge industrial farms benefited most from this largesse, with 74% of the subsidies going to 4% of U.S. farmers. Commodity subsidies gobbled up $167.3 billion. Some of the money went to dairy and livestock operations, but the largest share was spent for corn and soybeans.

According to the USPIRG report, most of the U.S. corn and soybean harvests end up as “additives like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products.” Apples to Twinkies blames these manufactured ingredients and the subsidies that support them for contributing to the obesity epidemic.

As a cultural icon, Twinkies are a good illustration. With at least 14 of 37 ingredients made with federal subsidies, “Twinkies are sweet, fatty, and calorie-rich but utterly lacking in nutritional value. And they’re cheap, too, in part because consumers have already made a down payment on many of the ingredients with their tax dollars.”

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Photo credit: Photo from Christian Cable via Flickr Creative Commons

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52 comments

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4:01PM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

hmmmm

4:01PM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

hmmmm

12:33PM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

Thanks for the article.

12:09AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

The REASON for Government is to support the NEEDS of the CITIZENS. Food is obviously a need HOWEVER the explosion of factory scale farming has completely changed the dynamics.Lawyers and lobbyests are now regular staff in agriculture.Instead of corn being a vegetable it is now an additive.We need to COMPLETELY OVERHAUL the outdated subsidy system.Not only does it seem STUPID to subsidize Junk but we're subsidizing huge corporations at the same time.I'd like to start by taxing NON-NUTRICIOUS ITEMS at the grocery store the same way they now tax can openers and plastic bags. The Fresh fruit and vegetables should be subsidized. Food stamps should emphaze fresh fruit and vegebles and stear away from all the boxed "Helpers",processed meats and chips. WIC need to eliminate the emphasis on FRUIT JUICE and exchange real fruit. The POVERTY diet is not only a disservice to the taxpayers who pay for it but the children who are eating three times as many calories as they need and getting NO NUTRITION.It isn't fair to THEM to let them grow up unwell . We need to get our priorities straight.

6:21PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Thanks

1:50AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

This is something that I have always believed - all the food that gets subsidies - but not good healthy food - NOW CAN YOU SEE WHY ORGANIC IS SO EXPENSIVE?

12:02AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

The answer to the poll is of course "no"; but the question is stupid. That's not the point.

The point is that Agribusiness has managed, over the decades, to get money flowing in their direction (or at least pay out less) for their products, which includes the typical staple crops of corn and soybeans.

What they do with those crops, such as making high fructose corn syrup, is just that - their business. It is not a gov't decision or rule that makes them do it. It is not a condition of the subsidies to "make junk food."

The questions that need to be asked (and this is true for any gov't program) need to be the following:

1) What were those subsidies for?
2) Are they still serving those purposes?

If they are serving no useful purpose, then they must be eliminated. If they are serving some purposes, but others are no longer useful, then the rules need to be changed accordingly.

12:02AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

The answer to the poll is of course "no"; but the question is stupid. That's not the point.

The point is that Agribusiness has managed, over the decades, to get money flowing in their direction (or at least pay out less) for their products, which includes the typical staple crops of corn and soybeans.

What they do with those crops, such as making high fructose corn syrup, is just that - their business. It is not a gov't decision or rule that makes them do it. It is not a condition of the subsidies to "make junk food."

The questions that need to be asked (and this is true for any gov't program) need to be the following:

1) What were those subsidies for?
2) Are they still serving those purposes?

If they are serving no useful purpose, then they must be eliminated. If they are serving some purposes, but others are no longer useful, then the rules need to be changed accordingly.

10:45PM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

Get the corporations out of GOVT- that is the real problem.

10:24PM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

One more thing in which the federal government has absolutely no business. Read the Constitution, do what it says, don't do what ti doesn't say. Problem solved.

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