FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Marco Rubio, Big Sugar’s Parrot

In Florida’s political circles, criticizing Big Sugar is about as popular as whining about coal in Kentucky. It never happens. Suddenly, though, the tectonic plates are shifting around Florida. It is because of a GOP presidential primary completely scrambled by outsiders who are topping the charts.

A month ago, front runner Donald Trump bumped up against Big Sugar when he condemned the closure of a midwestern candy factory and the loss of jobs to Mexico. He didn’t quite get the reason, right, or the outrage.

The one who does get it right isn’t even on the stage: Grover Norquist. Earlier this year, my eyebrows lifted when I read that Norquist, arguably the most effective conservative firebrand in American politics, declared that ending the sugar subsidy in the Farm Bill was his top priority, after cutting taxes. Norquist called the sugar subsidy, “cronyism in its undiluted, inexcusable majesty.”

The reason my jaw didn’t drop is that for decades, the sugar subsidy has been lambasted as the worst form of corporate welfare from conservative news organizations like the Wall Street Journal to conservative foundations like the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. And nothing changed.

Big Sugar’s perks amount to legalized corruption of the campaign finance system. In Florida, Big Sugar money influence is so great that the industry acts in the state capitol as a shadow government. What Big Sugar wants, it gets. These days, a solid GOP majority in the state legislature, Gov. Rick Scott, and Adam Putnam — the agriculture secretary aiming to replace Marco Rubio in the US Senate — are so deep in Big Sugar’s pocket, you can’t even see them. Not that Floridians are looking.

So it comes as a shock, at least to this jaded observer, that the rest of the nation is suddenly looking at Big Sugar. It is almost as though Donald Trump has served the purpose of Indiana Jones in the Raider of the Lost Ark, showing the treasure hunters — the rest of the GOP field — that you won’t disappear off the face of the earth if you challenge Big Sugar.

It is Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas, who pushed through the door first.

In Tuesday’s Republican debate, Ted Cruz pointed to sugar subsidies as a prime example of crony capitalism — a semi-subtle dig at Floridian opponent Marco Rubio, the sugar industry’s man in Washington. Rubio argued yesterday that doing away with our subsidies would mean surrendering American jobs, but neither liberal nor conservative commentators are buying that defense. “It’s hard to credibly criticize the welfare state without trying to take down the corporate welfare state first,” the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s Tim Carney tells Greg Sargent at The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog. “The argument for free enterprise doesn’t have a foundation if you also tolerate corporate welfare.” (Bill Moyers and Company)

It is a sign of desperation that Jeb Bush, trailing his dispirited exclamation point like a wet blanket, has called for the end to the sugar subsidy that keeps domestic sugar at nearly twice the price of world markets and provides profits to sugar billionaires like the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach with seed for next season’s crop of political hopefuls. In eight years as governor, Jeb Bush was as unfailing a friend to Big Sugar as Mitch McConnell to Big Coal in Kentucky.

Celebrating the marriage of corporate welfare and crony capitalism in the US Farm Bill: Alfie and Pepe Fanjul

Marco Rubio owes his political existence to Big Sugar. He carried the industry’s water in the 2003 attempt through the state legislature to up-end the Everglades settlement agreement, helping Jeb Bush in passing a new law that was subsequently over-turned through federal litigation by environmentalists, derided as “The Everglades Whenever Act”. After Gov. Charlie Crist tried to buyout more than 130,000 acres of US Sugar lands, the Fanjuls threw their full weight (and money) to Rubio — then fighting Crist for the US Senate.

So it is no surprise that Marco Rubio will parrot whatever Big Sugar lobbyists feed him. Most recently, their line of defense was that protectionism is necessary on grounds of “national security”. Rubio complained, “We will not unilaterally disarm”; meaning surrender profits to Brazil. For the first time, though, blowing Big Sugar’s smoke doesn’t seem to be holding.

Rubio’s specious argument is not just an easy target for Cruz. Conservatives who fund political campaigns are being asked — through this disruptive GOP presidential primary — to take the litmus test themselves. Their only defense of Rubio is that he is bought and paid for by Big Sugar.

Although we have been saying that and more for a long, long time — Big Sugar poisons people, poisons democracy and poisons the Everglades — the only way to describe what it feels like in Florida to have the sugar subsidy in the spotlight is: OMG.

More articles by:

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail