Before we allow the government to make more health care decisions, let’s look at some of the ones they’ve already made. Take the decision to spend billions of dollars to subsidize farmers growing corn. What–you don’t think that was a health care decision? Of course it was, even though it was sold as a way to help out the corn farmers in the Midwest. Nobody actually thought (or cared) about the unintended effects of making corn cheaper than just about anything else we could ingest.
Sure, we could have just paid corn farmers to grow nothing, which has served us well in other parts of the country, even though it pisses us off. But cheap corn has given us high fructose corn syrup, a processed food additive that has replaced sugar with something even worse and has probably made as big a contribution to the decline of our national health as the Big Mac. Granted, sugar isn’t good for you, but we have plenty of choices when it comes to artificial sweeteners. Most of them, at worst, may give you cancer later in life after you have already become a burden on society. But a sweetener made from corn? That will take you down slowly but steadily starting when you are young, with diabetes and a fat old belly. It is bad enough to be pissed off at the thought of wasted tax money, but it is even worse to be sick, fat, or dead.
If we have to subsidize anything, hemp is a much better product than corn, since hemp seed is actually good for you, with all the essential amino acids and fatty acids necessary for a healthy life. It can even be used for paper (e.g. the Declaration of Independence was written on it), thus reducing the need to cut down trees, and is a good replacement for cotton clothing. Best of all, it requires few pesticides and no herbicides, making it a naturally green, healthy product. Have you seen anyone wear clothing made of corn lately? Hah! Hemp has you beat!
Besides, when more states decide to legalize marijuana, and they eventually will, we’ll probably also have a corresponding increase in the supply of hemp crops. Actually, hemp plants are not the same plants used to produce marijuana. That association was contrived by William Randolph Hearst and the forestry industry in the 1930s so they could ban hemp and reduce their competition for the production of paper. By the way, banning marijuana was another health-related decision the government made. It’s a much better alternative to alcohol from a public health perspective, yet it gets the worse rap. Have you ever heard of someone getting into a bar fight or beating his wife after smoking a few joints? Or getting a huge gut from the munchies? It just doesn’t happen. At worst, you’ll have a relaxing evening and lose a few brain cells, though the evidence is questionable on the brain cell loss and it hardly compares to what alcohol can do to you.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to remove a subsidy once granted or to legalize something that has been banned for years. Possibly the only way to reverse the effects of a subsidy is to enact a tax with equal but opposite force. As in physics, every action has a reaction and so it is with politics. I’ve never met a politician who didn’t love a new tax at least as much as a subsidy. They both result in a happy constituent or two and some very confused taxpayers. So, instead of removing the corn subsidies, we could impose a tax on high-fructose corn syrup, ethanol, and any other corn byproduct that has nothing to do with the nutritious vegetable we know and love. The tax proceeds could be used to fund health care to mitigate the adverse health effects of corn subsidy-induced diabetes and overall weight gain.
It could also be used to fund green energy projects that have to deal with the competitive threat of subsidized ethanol, which is not even environmentally friendly when you add up all the energy that has to be expended to convert corn into fuel. Ethanol harms lawn mowers and other small engines, drives up gasoline prices, reduces automotive mileage, and corrodes engine parts. Across its life cycle, ethanol production and use also releases more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline. The fertilizer and pesticide runoff causes algae blooms and marine dead zones. The US Geological Survey estimates that 153,000 metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer and other nutrients flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in May 2013. That was 16% more than the average amount over the previous three decades and is primarily from the use of corn for ethanol.
Since the price of corn has risen dramatically now that Congressional mandates and subsidies have caused it to be put into everything from gasoline to cookies, taxing it will cause demand to drop and prices to fall as manufacturers go back to products that were previously more expensive but actually make more sense. Eventually, the corn farmers will find something else to grow that will yield a higher price, which is what should have happened decades ago.
On second thought, this is all too complicated. Let’s just force Iowa to move its presidential caucus from January to February so that when our political leaders get the courage to cut the corn subsidies, farmers (or rather, agricultural conglomerates) will be free to scream all they want and nobody will care. Could it really be that simple? Could our leaders be so shallow? I’d like to find out for sure, but my sense is that they are. New Hampshire should always be first primary state because they never want anything except to live free or die!
You see, I just figured out how to save billions of dollars while simultaneously improving the health of the nation after only about an hour of research. If only we had one or two government employees working on this full time, imagine what we could do! We just have to keep in mind that politics isn’t about finding the best way to improve the well being of the citizens. It is to acquire power in order to woo women and skim as much money off the taxpayers as possible. Nevertheless, whatever is given away by our dear leaders can be taken back in some other way, so I think the best solution to a bad subsidy may just be an equal and opposite tax.