Questions for Earl

Steve Novick

I'm very pleased that Earl Blumenauer will be speaking at the City Club Friday, and there are all sorts of questions I'd like to ask him. Since I'm only allowed one question at the event, I hereby offer these up as possible questions for other Blue Oregon-reading City Club members to ask:

1. Last week David Cay Johnston wrote in the New York Times that in 2004, three years after George Bush's tax cuts that were supposed to make the economy explode and pay for themselves, the total reported* income of all Americans was below 2000 levels and income tax revenues were below 2000 levels. (In fact, income tax revenues only recovered to 2000 levels - in RAW DOLLARS, not adjusted for anything - in 2006. It is unheard of for income tax revenues not to grow for that long a period, other than in the Great Depression.) Will the new Congress hold hearings on the obvious failure of supply-side economics? Will Gordon Smith apologize for voting for those tax cuts?

[* Note: I should have said "total reported income." This post originally said total income, but commentor Bill Holmer pointed out that was wrong, the proper stat is total reported income.]

2. A recent IRS study showed that in 2004 publicly traded companies reported $554 billion in profits on their financial statements but told the IRS that for tax purposes they earned only about $394 billion. Will Congress look into this odd discrepancy?

3. Recently PacifiCorp took some heat (pun intended) for proposing to build new greenhouse-gas-producing coal plants. Coal plants are bad, horrible, but they produce 50% of the electricity in America and wind isn't going to replace that overnight. There is a possibility, though, that with new "integrated coal gasification combined cycle facilities" (I think I have that right) we could strip out the carbon and bury it somewhere. People aren't sure that will work, but it's a hope. PacifiCorp actually said that they'd try to make one of its new coal plants an ICGCCF, if they could make the financials work - the plants are more expensive than traditional coal plants. Why couldn't Congress just mandate: No new coal plants other than these gasified thingamabobs?

4. Speaking of global warming, corn-based ethanol doesn't help, because it takes about as much energy to produce it as it generates. But ethanol from sugar is much more energy-efficient; it's actually worthwhile. But tariffs on sugar, backed by our domestic sugar industry and corn ethanolites, prevent the U.S. from developing a sugar-ethanol-fuel industry. I am not against all tariffs per se, but this one is insane. And, according to a recent New Yorker article, Barack Obama of Illinois has stood with other Midwesterners in supporting the sugar industry. Doesn't this prove that Obama is just another captive-of-special-interests fraud who doesn't really care about global warming and doesn't deserve to be hailed as some great Kenya-Kansas hope?

5. Sunday's New York Times magazine had a fascinating article suggesting that immigrants commit FEWER crimes than non-immigrants. The article cited one researcher who attributed America's violent culture to the Scotch-Irish heritage of many of us (myself included - I'm more Scotch-Irish than anything else except the Jewish half). I'm conflicted on the whole immigration issue: On the one hand, I think illegal immigration depresses wages; on the other, aren't we supposed to let in anyone who's tired, poor, or is now or ever has been part of a huddled mass? But that aside, this evidence on crime is very interesting, and raises this question for Earl: To reduce crime, should we deport the Scotch-Irish? If that's what has to be done, I guess I'm willing to take one for the team.

Comments

  • Immigration Johnny (unverified)
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    So, Steve, you want to let in all 5 billion of the world's huddled masses?

    I think that might have some effect on Oregon's land use laws.

  • o'dwyer (unverified)
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    i don't think perpetuating "one researcher's" stereotypes about the irish is the way to go, however not-100%-jewish you may be.

    i'd say that if blumenauer's on a financial committee, the first two questions are good. if he's going all environmentacular (as i'd predict), three and four are both good.

  • Stilch (unverified)
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    I would suggest political blogs to avoid dabbling in topics that include genetic links between crime and other social issues, as this is a very slippery slope towards things such as eugenics. It has been proven, many many times, that the environment in which someone grows up in, and their family, has a far larger influence than any other factor.

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    Dudes, you're completely missing the sarcasm in Steve's #5 question. You don't seriously think he's advocating deporting Irish people, right?

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    Amen Brother! The problem is getting the Main Stream Media and the Punditocracy to start questioning supply side nonsense.

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)
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    I can't hide my Scott-Irish heritage (big red head, thick kneck, big attitude) and wouldn't if I could. My wife is Irish, my daughter has the glowing red hair to die for, I love my Irish heritage, and have a tendacy to fight others fights. I'm hopelessly Scott-Irish.

    The nation was happy to have us off the boat so much so they stuck a musket in our hands, and sent us to battle the South. We were so happy to make our name for our new country that we willing fought and died for a country we only just step upon. Watching their generations starving, and persecuted in Ireland for the centuries after William of Orange made us the ultimate combatants for the times.

    We are your cops, prosecutors, and politicians as a result of that deap seaded sense of persecution that works for our fellow man as often atleast as it works against them.

    The prospect that anyone is going to deport anyone is to be sure it's not going to be the Scott-Irish among us! That my dear Steve is a fight you don't want anything to do with.

    Fueds are an art form in my bloodline and you don't want to start anything you don't plan on finishing. I can assure you we'll be there at the end no matter! That having been said, we'll lay our lives for the good ideal. We'll stand and fight for principle before most, and you'll not be seeing the back of our heads when the fight starts, we'll stand with our friends, and lend no quarter to our foe.

    Let's not start another Hatfields & McCoys, in cyberspace, or anywhere else as some fights aren't worth the starting.

    Happy Thoughts;

    Dan Grady

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    Oh man...I think Steve had better stop trying to be humorously ironic. Its clearly not sinking in with some of the commentors here.

    Lawdy.

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)
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    Dudes, you're completely missing the sarcasm in Steve's #5 question. You don't seriously think he's advocating deporting Irish people, right? // Kari Chisolm

    No, it's just too much of a temptation for any Irishman to avoid bragging, and the blather. We are after all Irish!

  • DAN GRADY (unverified)
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    Ah yes the "Trickle On Us Economic" or the "Sublime Side Economics" of giddy as a little girl Rich People.

  • Deborah Kafoury (unverified)
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    Steve Novick for President!

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    Geez, isn't the question obvious? Am I going to have to go and ask it myself?

    "Congressman Earl--can you rule out a run for Gordon Smith's Senate seat in 2008?"

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)
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    "in 2004, three years after George Bush's tax cuts that were supposed to make the economy explode and pay for themselves, the total income of all Americans was below 2000 levels"

    Huh?

    Total personal income 2000 - $8.430 trillion Total personal income 2004 - $9.731 trillion Total personal income 2005 - $10.239 trillion

    But as Steve likes to say, "you can look it up." http://bea.gov/bea/dn/nipaweb/TableView.asp#Mid

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    Bill - are those inflation-adjusted numbers?

  • The Great Kenya-Kansas hope (unverified)
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    great Kenya-Kansas hope

    Dude. WTF is that supposed to mean? What is it with white people?

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    On total income, below is what Johnston says the IRS says about total REPORTED income, so Bill, you're absolutely right, I should have made that distinction and added the word 'reported' - Kari -- could you post a little edit/explanation in the piece since I don't know how? -- although the difference puzzles me ; maybe there's been an epidemic of tax cheating? I think MOST of these posts got the irony, but I am surprised how many people seem to be confusing Scotch-Irish and just plain Irish. Anyway, it's not a eugenics argument about us Scotch-Irish, it's a cultural argument. As to "Great Kenya-Kansas Hope," I almost used the traditional "great white hope," then realized wait a minute, the man's black, and then remembered the articles saying that part of his appeal is that he's both black and white, Kenya and Kansas, so I used that. (And if anyone ever wants to refer to me as a "great Jewish / Scotch-Irish hope," I'd be honored.) So here are the reported income stats:

    Despite significant gains in 2004, the total income Americans reported to the tax collector that year, adjusted for inflation, was still below its peak in 2000, new government data shows.

    Reported income totaled $7.044 trillion in 2004, the latest year for which data is available, down from more than $7.143 trillion in 2000, new Internal Revenue Service data shows.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Although I agree with Steve that sugar subsidies are wrongheaded, producing fuel from cane is not much better than using corn. Both require intensive, resource depleting agriculture. To get sustainable bio-source energy, we need to perfect technology for producing alcohol [or hydrogen] from cellulose, which is abundant in agricultural waste products and easily grown crops like grass.

    Also, wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energy will not make a big contribution to the energy supply until we put serious money into them. Since Jimmy Carter left the white House, the fossil fuel lobby has prevented this. The important question is: will the Democratic led Congress thumb their noses at the oil and coal companies and move forward, or will they be as intimidated by Big Energy as they are by AIPAC.

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    2000 - the year of irrational exuberance where everyone made ridiculous amounts of money. The stock market hit stupid highs that, at least for the NASDAQ, won't be seen for a long, long time.

    It would seem statistically appropriate to look at either 1999 or 2001 than to look at the peak of an unsustainable boom. It's like saying GWB caused the market to crash. It seems to me the economy has recovered quite nicely. Tax receipts are higher than ever, and higher than predicted. Yes, the GOP blew the surplus faster than a coke fiend who finds a roll of $100s, for which they have been punished (thank God). But the deficit has been cut (not as much as I'd like, but once we're out of Iraq - oh please, oh please - that should get even better), and the economy is growing nicely with inflation in check.

    i can't see how you can objectively bash the tax cuts. Say what you will, but they've done their job. The real solution is the FairTax, but that's for another day. The rich simply avoid income taxes. Making the rates higher increases the reward for avoidance. If it costs $1 to avoid $1.05 in taxes, most people won't go to the bother. But if you can save $.50 or $1 net of costs, that looks attractive, and you get the tax cheating you're talking about.

    Go ahead. Raise taxes. See how that plays out in 2008. I dare you.

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    Tom:

    Nuclear. That's the technology of the future. Research ALMR's. The new breed is inherently stable, (meltdowns can't occur because of a negative feedback loop in the process) the energy is abundant and clean, and the best part is that you can actually burn nuclear waste in these reactors. The result is plutonium, which of course has nuclear proliferation risks, but if it's sited properly, and security is appropriate, that can be mitigated.

    Imagine burning the nuclear waste from Trojan to create more energy! And, you can even burn our current stock of nuclear weapons! Energy security through nuclear disarmament. How blue is that?

    Click here for more info from Berkeley.

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    Don, the idea that the collapse of tax revenues after 2000 was a normal reflection of the business cycle is absurd. In 1990 (top of the business cycle) Federal income tax revenues were $466 billion. In 1991 (recession year) they flattened out at $467 billion. By 1995 they were up to $590 billion. That's normal: Tax revenues grow at a steady pace. The Bush years, where it took until 2006 for income tax collections to recover to 2000 levels, are completely, historically out of whack, and it's because of the tax cuts. And no, the rich do not completely avoid income taxes; as the right likes to say, they pay a major share of them. Although not as much as they should, largely because they re paying 15% on capital gains, which make up most of the income of the very rich.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Don,

    Nuclear power will not be sustainable until a permanent solution for dealing with waste is developed. I have doubts that this will ever happen.

    Also, as long as uranium remains the fuel, prospects are limited. The supply of easily obtained ore is not that great. If someone can make hydrogen fusion work, I would have hope for nuclear power. Fission has too many problems that safer reactors will not solve.

  • peter (unverified)
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    On the one hand, I think illegal immigration depresses wages; on the other, aren't we supposed to let in anyone who's tired, poor, or is now or ever has been part of a huddled mass?

    good point, that's why would should open up avenues for legal immigration, which solves both of your problems.

    ... ethanol from sugar is much more energy-efficient; it's actually worthwhile. But tariffs on sugar ... prevent the U.S. from developing a sugar-ethanol-fuel industry.

    yes, it is efficient, but is it worthwhile? brazil is having huge success with their cane based ethanol, but it is happening at the expense of rainforests. i think these sugar tariffs are absurd, but if we drop the tariffs, and then mandate more ethanol i fear the logical result: more labor arbitrage, and less rainforest.

    one strange bonus of the ethanol mandates in combination with the corn subsidies is that it has increased demand for corn, thus making corn more expensive. that's a good thing??? yes, because when there is a glut of a food commodity like corn you'd better believe it shows up in our food, and it does; mostly as extrmeley unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup, which ironically is a replacement for sugar. since we're probably stuck with both corn subsidies and sugar tariffs, it is likely that ethanol mandates will get the price of corn high enough that we might start seeing actual sugar in or food products again.

  • M.H. Wilson (unverified)
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    Questions for Earl: The Unisted States has approximately 270,000 military troops stationed around the world in some 120 plus countries on about 750 bases. This does not include those in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kuwait. How much has this cost us over the years? What per cent of the defense budget is this? How many more years can we expect to bear this burden? How do you explain this to an American worker who is going to lose her job to foreign competition? Given the economic problems facing the country in the near future is it wise for this policy to continue? M.H. Wilson

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    Also, as long as uranium remains the fuel, prospects are limited. The supply of easily obtained ore is not that great.

    Tom - this is simply not true. There is enough easily obtained uranium to last 50-60 years with the 3% efficient reactors that currently exist. The ALMRs noted in the study are 97% efficient and can burn plutonium as well as our existing wastes. (The reason they can burn waste is because the waste still has 97% of the fissionable material from the old plants)

    Turning wastes into fuel seems pretty sustainable to me. Google around and you'll find loads of info on the subject. The only reasons we aren't prusuing these now are political, not technical. The NIMBY problem as well as the regulatory uncertainty make the investment too risky for private enterprise and until a bigger chunk of the population gets comfortable with it, politicians won't want to spend money to subsidize it.

  • Don Smith (unverified)
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    Steve:

    I'm sorry, but your characterization of the 1991 recession as normal as compared to 2000 is laughable. The recession of the early 90's was nowhere near what we saw in 2001. You might remember the little financial disturbance we had about that time in NY.

    You will note that it wasn't until 2002 that current tax receipts dropped $163BB. Big drop, but it was recovered quite quickly if you care to look at it. From 1994 through 2000, year over year tax receipt growth was an average of 7.09%. Receipts dropped 8.8% in 2002, were up 1.42% in '03, then 6.05% in '04 and were up a whopping 10.94% in 2005, when all of the EGTRRA cuts were fully implemented. The curve looks pretty good for tax cuts, I'd say. The tax cuts did not cause our receipts to drop in and of themselves, and the recovery our reciepts have made since 9/11 has been pretty steep.

    Do some real analysis before posting about how bad the cuts are. Sorry for the snippy tone here at the end, but don't get up in my grill about absurdity unless you've got something a little more fact based to throw at me.

  • o'dwyer (unverified)
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    oh, i understand sarcasm. jonathan swift was an irishman, recall. i suspect that if "one researcher" studied the SAT verbal scores of the scotch-irish instead of anecdotes of bar fights, we'd have a different impression of them.

    it's just that inclusion of new-york-times scienciness in steve novick's um, joke about the non-english british made it sound a little over-sincere. on reading it, i seriously did hearken back to dick cheney, judith miller, and "mobile weapons labs." for humorous-question purposes, it's only necessary to prove with the new york times that the irish really should be deported if you think they (kinda just a little) really deserve it (just a little, because they're such violent brutes, according to "research").

    all that said, i'm sorry to have helped derail the conversation. all of mr. novick's other questions were very worthwhile. i hope we'll get details of earl blumenauer's visit with city club, even though i certainly haven't earned it with my nattering negative nitpicking.

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    Don -- here's some "real anaysis' for you: The 1991 recession was WORSE than the 2001 recession. See link below. GDP growth was actually POSITIVE IN 2001 overall, while negative in 1991. The difference in the revenue trends is due to the fact that George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were fiscally responsible, and the current guy is not. I am rather stunned that you would say that the 2001 recession was worse than the 1991 recession WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP in a post in which you are accusing me of not being "fact-based." Now, looking at these numbers, I might have been a year off in terms of business cycle peak -- might have been 1989, when Federal income tax receipts were $445 billion. In 1990, they were $466 billion. In 1991, during a real recession, $467 billion. By 1995,$590 billion. In 2000, about $1 trillion. Then beow that level until 2006. If the Bush tax cuts had "worked" as well as George H. W. and Bill's tax INCREASES had "worked," we should have seen a 26% increase in revenues over 2000 levels by 2005.
    http://investintaiwan.nat.gov.tw/en/env/stats/gdp_growth.html

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    The Scots-Irish have a long history of fighting for the "freedom" to be oppressed by members of their own ethnic group.

    James Webb (newly elected from Virginia) wrote Born fighting: How the Scots Irish shaped America which covers centuries of the behavior of the tribal groups that surrounded England and were ultimately exported en masse to the "New World".

    <hr/>

    My comment for Earl:

    Thank you for your history of supporting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in particular. Please continue this good work as the document on which this nation was founded lies shredded in the wake of Republican rule.

  • Backrow Nerd (unverified)
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    Here's a live but bad paraphrase of Novick's actual question: The country’s heading toward bankruptcy… Gordon Smith stands with the big guys/financial industry, :is his defeat in 2008 a fiscal priority for the United States?"

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    The recession in 2001 was one of the shorter, milder recessions in US economic history. The best demarcation of a "recession" is done by the National Bureau for Economic Research, and you can review their analysis of the 2001 recession here.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Steve Novick: Speaking of global warming, corn-based ethanol doesn't help, because it takes about as much energy to produce it as it generates.

    Bob Tiernan: It may be worse than that. The number of acres of corn needed to make just a dent in the annual consumption of gasoline would require clear-cutting that you wouldn't even want to contemplate, not to mention inroads into acreage currently being used to grow something we'll eat.

    Steve Novick: But ethanol from sugar is much more energy-efficient; it's actually worthwhile. But tariffs on sugar, backed by our domestic sugar industry and corn ethanolites, prevent the U.S. from developing a sugar-ethanol-fuel industry.

    Bob Tiernan: A classic case of interference in the market squashing (if unintentionally) innovation. But such policies derived from the New Deal mentality, not from free enterprise -- make no mistake about that

    Steve Novick: I am not against all tariffs per se, but this one is insane. And, according to a recent New Yorker article, Barack Obama of Illinois has stood with other Midwesterners in supporting the sugar industry. Doesn't this prove that Obama is just another captive-of-special-interests fraud who doesn't really care about global warming and doesn't deserve to be hailed as some great Kenya-Kansas hope?

    Bob Tiernan: It proves that Obama has been conditioned to accept corporate welfare New Dealerism as American as Apple Pie, which it isn't. We have maybe a handful of elected officials in Washington who have the guts to oppose all of these subsidies. But they've become ingrained into our system of managing the economy under the guise of "protecting" the people and/or "saving" free enterprise, while fat cats laugh all the way to the bank and politicians gain more power by being able to pick winners and losers and use this for their incumbent protection machine so they can retire as multi-millionaires and have buildings and stuff named after them.

    The trouble with you so-called progressives is that you always see this sort of sleaze as being the work of businesses while you never address that as deriving from the power of government to pick winners and losers. That's a problem with government. But you won't address that, so enamored are you with that power when it's used "for the common good", or at least when you think so. Are you willing to go cold turkey on these subsidies?

    But Obama has a good page on this sort of thing -- he has apparently joined Republican Coburn who opposes earmarks.
    Whether Obama would oppose all of them has yet to be determined, but if he does take a strong stand on opposing earmarks, he will no doubt clash with his own Democrat Party's establishment which caters to all sorts of unions that are on the earmark/pork barrel gravy train (and no, I don't believe the Repubs are an alternative - the now-ending twelve years of Republican House of Reps rule, and more often than not Republican Senate dominance, proved that.
    .

    Bob Tiernan

  • howard (unverified)
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    "4. Speaking of global warming, corn-based ethanol doesn't help, because it takes about as much energy to produce it as it generates. But ethanol from sugar is much more energy-efficient; it's actually worthwhile. But tariffs on sugar, backed by our domestic sugar industry and corn ethanolites, prevent the U.S. from developing a sugar-ethanol-fuel industry."

    Include U. S. producers of corn sweeteners with the sugar industry and "corn ethanolites" among those opposing U. S. development of a "sugar-ethanol-fuel industry."

    I'm surprised that Cuba is not converting sugar to ethanol.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Howard: Include U. S. producers of corn sweeteners with the sugar industry and "corn ethanolites" among those opposing U. S. development of a "sugar-ethanol-fuel industry."

    Bob Tiernan: Hmmmm...not sure about that inclusion. Those who produce corn sweeteners, such as Archer Daniels Midland, support the sugar subsidies even though they don't get that money -- that's because the sugar subsidies help keep the price of sugar higher than corn sweetener and thus makes corn sweeteners the choice of all those large bakery firms. ADM chief freely admitted to giving donations to members of both parties (he'd be stupid if he didn't, if you understand all of this). However, I'm not sure if all of this is still accurate regarding the levels of subsidies.

    Howard: I'm surprised that Cuba is not converting sugar to ethanol.

    Bob Tiernan: I don't know why you'd think that. That would smack of big bad capitalism is Castro the left wing tyrant intended to sell such a comodity to foreign buyers, and if intended as an example of domestic efficiency, where are they gonna use it? Is there actually that much car use there? I think Castronomics demands that sugar be saved to make the tree bark and grapefruit rinds taste better.

    Bob Tiernan

  • howard (unverified)
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    "Those who produce corn sweeteners, such as Archer Daniels Midland(ADM), support the sugar subsidies even though they don't get that money -- that's because the sugar subsidies help keep the price of sugar higher than corn sweetener and thus makes corn sweeteners the choice of all those large bakery firms."

    ADM is involved in making ethanol from corn as well as supplying corn to other ethanol producers. That is why they oppose the more economical production of ethanol from sugar cane and support high tariffs on imported ethanol from low cost producers in brazil and, potentially Cuba.

    Socialist Cuba is involved in capitalist joint ventures and pharmaceutical product licensing. Why not ethanol?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Bob Tiernan: I don't know why you'd think that. That would smack of big bad capitalism is Castro the left wing tyrant intended to sell such a comodity to foreign buyers, and if intended as an example of domestic efficiency, where are they gonna use it? Is there actually that much car use there? I think Castronomics demands that sugar be saved to make the tree bark and grapefruit rinds taste better.

    TC: Is it the tyranny or the leftist quality of Castro that bothers you?

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