CNN's Gupta: 'Cheap' Corn Should Be Taxed to Fight Obesity

     According to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, corn prices have been artificially lowered by government taxpayer subsidies, so they should be artificially raised with a tax on drinks sweetened with corn syrup.


     On the December 18 “American Morning,” Gupta was discussing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan to tax such drinks to fight “the obesity epidemic” by deterring those purchases.


     “There’s a lot of extra corn that gets turned into this substance and it’s now being used as a sweetener in lots of different products,” Gupta said. “That’s what makes it cheap. What Mayor Newsom and others have proposed is that you actually bring it back to what would be a normal price point for these substances. It’s going to be more expensive. People are going to be less likely to buy. It’s going to sort of offset, if you will, the subsidies.”


      Perhaps Gupta should have checked with his colleague Ali Velshi before reporting corn was “cheap.” About 20 minutes before Gupta’s story, Velshi reported that many commodity prices like wheat are skyrocketing in part because of the demand for corn-based ethanol.


     “As a result of that you’ve got corn prices up, soybean prices up, sorghum, wheat, milk, anything that has to do with livestock and farms is more expensive,” said Velshi.


     In fact, contrary to Gupta’s point, the price of corn is at an 11-year high according to Financial Times, and its $4.38-a-bushel price tag is fueling food inflation, according to the December 17 “CBS Evening News.”


     Gupta did not condemn the government subsidies on corn, calling them “a good thing,” but said “if there is a problem is all of this, it is that maybe we make too much corn and some of that corn gets turned into this high-fructose corn syrup.”


     He also didn’t suggest eliminating the subsidy – which is already funded by taxpayers – and passing that tax savings along to the consumer.


     This isn’t the first time Newsom has tried to engineer social behavior through government interference. Earlier in 2007, Newsom banned the purchase of bottled water by municipal government offices because he saw the containers as an environmental threat. He also has banned plastic bags from grocery store chains for a similar reason.