Federal spending on popcorn promotion comes under fire | McClatchy
This year the Chicago-based Popcorn Board, created by an act of Congress in 1996, expects to spend nearly a half-million dollars on international promotion. It will target trade shows, school classrooms and primary household food buyers, typically women ages 18-54 with children at home.
The issue is part of the talks as Congress tries to write a new farm bill that would determine how much taxpayers will pay for agriculture commodities. And while popcorn is a small-ticket item compared with wheat, rice, sugar and other mega-crops, opponents say it’s wrong to subsidize the advertising costs of any private business operating outside the United States.
The Free Market, much worshipped in the halls of Washington (and on the pages of the Washington Post) seems to be less important when the money is given out by our government. According to the Friedman Fundamentalists, an absolute reliance on choice will result eventually (the time table is vague) in a sort of market utopia. We’ll all be content and happy. It’s very similar to a religion without Sunday attendance.
There is certainly a role for the government in the economic life of the nation. Industry and finance need to be regulated. Let me give you an example from Think Progress from this morning –
Scotts Miracle-Gro, the company best known for its eponymous fertilizer, has been ordered to pay $12.5 million in civil and criminal fines for violating the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide laws, a judge ruled on Friday. The company plead guilty to “illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels and distributing unregistered pesticides.”
That’s right. They were selling wild bird seed that was poisonous to the birds! Unethical – I’ll go with that. I have visions of all those elderly retirees unknowingly wacking their feathered friends by keeping bird seed out for them.
But should we subsidize industries, farms or finance?
That’s a more interesting question. However, there is no doubt that popcorn is a profitable industry. The price has gone up about 40 percent over the last decade and Americans consume on the average 52 quarts of popcorn a year. So, what are we getting for our money? Is it in the public interest to make profitable businesses more profitable? That looks surprisingly like a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers to a successful business.
I believe there are circumstances in which an industry should be subsidized by the government. I can find any of those circumstances in this case.
Let the subsidy end.