I am simply amazed at this level of cronyism enjoyed by the sugar industry -- import restrictions on cheaper world sugar, price supports, and government loans that can be paid back with excess product rather than cash.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is likely to buy sugar in the domestic market this year in order to drive prices up and prevent defaults on loans made to sugar processors, according to a USDA economist.
The USDA estimates it would need to buy 400,000 tons of sugar to boost prices to an “acceptable level,” said Barbara Fecso, an economist at the department. A purchase of 400,000 tons would amount to about 4.4% of projected U.S. sugar production in the marketing year that ends Sept. 30.
Domestic sugar prices have been trading at about 20 cents a pound, their lowest level in nearly four years, putting companies that make sugar from cane or beets at risk of defaulting on loans they received from the USDA when prices were higher.
People talk about these supposed government subsidies for oil companies, but every time I see a list of them they are dominated by things like depletion allowances, FIFO accounting, and investment tax credits, which are either standard accounting rules that apply to all industries or tax credits that apply to all manufacturers. But Big Sugar gets real heavy-duty subsidies no one, except maybe ethanol companies and other farmers, get.
When the Left has talked about oil and gas subsidies, I have generally nodded my head and agreed that any such things should be eliminated, just as they should be eliminated for all industries. They have in the past thrown out huge numbers for such subsidies that seemed high, but I have not really questioned them. But then I see this chart at Kevin Drum's site
Seriously, nearly half the "subsidy" number is the ability of a company to use LIFO accounting on inventory for their taxes? Since the proposition is to eliminate these only for oil and gas, what is the logic that somehow LIFO accounting is wrong in Oil and Gas but OK in every other industry? In fact, at least the first two largest items are both accounting rules that apply to all manufacturing industry. So, rather than advocating for the elimination of special status for oil and gas, as I thought the argument was, they are in fact arguing that oil and gas going forward be treated in a unique and special way by the tax code, separate from every other manufacturing industry.
In fact, many of these are merely changes to the amortization and depreciation rate for up-front investments. Typically, politicians of both parties have advocated for the current rules to encourage investment. Now I suppose we are fine-tuning the rules, so that we encourage investment in the tax code in everything but oil and gas. I will say this does seem to be consistent with Obama Administration jobs policy, which has been to try to stimulate businesses that are going nowhere and hold back the one business (oil and gas drilling) that is actually trying to grow. I am fine with stopping the use of the tax code to try to channel private investment in politician-preferred directions. But changing the decision rule from "using the tax code to encourage all manufacturing investment" to "using the tax code to encourage investment only in the industries we are personally sympathetic to" is just making the interventionism worse.
This is really weak. Not to mention flawed. Unless I am missing something, a change from LIFO to FIFO or some other inventory valuation rules will create a one-time change in income (and thus taxes) when the change is made. LIFO only creates sustained reductions in taxable income, and thus taxes, if your raw materials prices are consistently rising (it actually increases taxes vs. FIFO if input prices are falling). Given that oil and gas prices are volatile, its hard to see how this does much except extract a one-time tax payment from oil companies at the changeover.
By the way, I am pretty sure I would be all for ending government spending on "ultra-deepwater and unconventional natural gas and other petroleum research," though ironically this is exactly the kind of basic research the Left loves the government to perform.