Limiting sugar imports transfers wealth from 335 million Americans who consume sugar and products containing it, to, primarily, about 4,000 producers of beet and cane sugar. The quotas are a residue of “temporary” commodity supports instituted during the Great Depression. Not even the New Deal’s measures that were intended to end the Depression could make that calamity last forever, so it ended. Some purportedly ameliorative measures did not.
Federal policy essentially guarantees 85 percent of the U.S. sugar market to domestic producers, and minimum prices for beet and cane sugar. And import quotas make the U.S. price of sugar two to three times the world market price, a boon to U.S. confectioners’ foreign competitors.
The Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome adds a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up detail about the government’s sugar nonsense: The Agriculture Department can also prop up U.S. sugar prices by buying domestically produced sugar, thereby keeping it off the market. The department “then sells this sugar to U.S. ethanol (of course) producers, often at a big loss (of course).”
The survival — the probable immortality — of sugar import quotas is a crystalline illustration of the phenomenon that explains much of what the federal government does, but especially the protectionism component of industrial policy. The phenomenon is: dispersed costs and concentrated benefits.
Congratulations, of a perverse sort, to President Biden and his Congressional comrades. The latest budget figures show that they are breaking peacetime, non-crisis records for spending and deficits. And there’s no respite in sight.
The Beltway brethren racked up a deficit of $1.62 trillion for the first 10 months of the fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s monthly review for July. That’s up from $726 billion a year earlier. If not for shifts in the dates of some payments, CBO says the deficit would have been even higher at $1.7 trillion, or a 131% increase.
What’s astounding is that this Beltway blowout is happening when the economy is growing, the Covid crisis is past, and there are no domestic emergencies to address. This is when deficits are supposed to decline, as they did during the economic expansions of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Deficits also fell under President Obama after Republicans regained control of the House in 2010.
CBO lays out the gory details. Revenues have fallen about 10%, despite the Democrats’ increase in corporate taxes. Individual income-tax revenue is down 20%, or about $442 billion, and CBO speculates one reason is smaller capital-gains realizations. Soaking the rich doesn’t work when the rich aren’t making money in the financial markets.
The pivot is a welcome—and probably necessary—change that gives DeSantis an opportunity to talk about actual conservative policies rather than seeking new ways to threaten to use state power against private entities the governor dislikes. In recent campaign speeches, an op-ed published Monday in USA Today, and the “Declaration of Economic Independence” published on his campaign website, DeSantis has pivoted toward talking about the worrying size of the national debt, the growth of regulatory burdens, and how both are crushing growth.
But even as he switches gears, DeSantis still seems stuck in that frame of mind that defined his culture war antics—a mentality that could stall the candidate’s attempted reboot.
The best example comes in bold text right at the bottom of DeSantis’ new economic declaration. “The goal of our declaration of economic independence is simple: We win. They lose.”
Trump and Biden also happen to be the two men who DeSantis probably has to defeat if he’s going to win the White House. What does DeSantis have to lose by calling them out directly for their fiscal malfeasance?
That, in a nutshell, is what makes DeSantis’ economic pivot so unsatisfying. Even when the facts are on his side, the governor can’t seem to let go of the language of class warfare and populism.
During a lockdown, Melbourne shut in ~3000 residents of low-income housing for 14 days. Police put ring-fences around the buildings to prevent escape. A court awarded each resident $2220 compensation.
How much are your basic civil liberties worth?