Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Cranberry Caucus: another example of capitalist inefficiency

We are inundated with propaganda about the so-called free market and how efficient it is.  The intensity of this ideological assault is perhaps greatest in the US.  But capitalism is incredibly wasteful and inefficient.  Efficiency to the apologists for capital is about the rate of return on investment, GDP figures and profits.  In Ecology and Socialism, Chris Williams gives an example of how wasteful and inefficient capitalist production is:

"...the waste and pollution under capitalism is enormous.  This includes not only the toxic by-products of the production process, that are routinely dumped in to the surrounding environment, but also the production and distribution of useless products, the preponderance of inefficient transportation systems based on cars rather than effective public transportation systems, the wasted labor and materials spent on military spending, the explosion of redundant bureaucracy, and the creation of mounting piles of garbage as a result of planned obsolescence and single-use products".

We can add to this the massive cost of cleaning up the pollution that industry leaves as capital is withdrawn from one sector of production for more lucrative application in another.  With the exception of the fringe elements of the capitalist class, the more astute section of the US bourgeois that argues at times for "small government" has no problem with government intervention when it comes to such matters as cleaning up the negative consequences of capitalist production, including warfare.
How sweet it is

Another example of the wasteful and inefficient nature of capitalist production is the bribery and corruption that goes on politically as sections of capitalist industry compete with each other for legislation that favors their industry and the manipulation necessary to block pressure from the general population (workers' organizations, environmentalists, the aged etc.) aimed at protecting the public or the environment from the ravages of capital.

The cranberry offensive

The coupon clippers who have their capital in the cranberry business have now formed their own congressional caucus, after all, their buddies that have their capital employed in bourbon, rice, shellfish and all other foods and beverages have one; why shouldn't they?  This is in response to an increased concern about obesity in the US as well as diseases associated with it like diabetes, which is severe among children.  Alongside the general public becoming more aware, there are also competing capitals whose owners are concerned about the health costs of bad nutrition and diet cutting in to their bottom line. 

"This caucus will provide a platform for the cranberry industry to educate members of Congress and the public about the health benefits of cranberries." says Sen Scott Brown of Massachusetts where the cranberry industry is strongest. The caucus is led by Sen John Kerry who is married to the billionaire heiress of the Heinz corporation. They are very kind and dedicated in making this effort to educate us about foods that will make us healthier.

The problem is that not everyone agrees with them that cranberries are special.  "All juices have antioxidants and vitamins.  The research shows that none do anything special" says Marion Nestle, a professor of public health at NYU.

Those who have put their capital to work in cranberry production are concerned as pressure from below might lead to the USDA to include banning "sugary drinks" from school vending machines.  And cranberries are made tolerable only due to the massive amounts of sugar added.  "Ocean Spray's cranberry juice cocktail is only 27% juice" Bloomberg Business Week writes with a 12 ounce class containing 12 teaspoons of sugar and 200 calories.  That's more than cola and orange juice at 10 teaspoons of sugar and 160 calories. (Harvard School of Public Health)

The response to this is to increase taxes on sugary drinks as some states are considering. The manufacturers don't like this but it will also hit workers and the poor most as those with money and resources (including better access to nutritional education etc) tend to have better diets.   The real problem lies in capitalist production not individuals within it.  Agriculture, food production, like all capitalist industry is determined not by what people need but on the profit of capital.  The same politicians developing nutritional guidelines are closing schools, giving bankers rights to throw people out of their homes, waging predatory wars abroad among other wasteful ventures; they don't care about the health of some "fat kid" in Chicago or NYC. until it hits profits. "We have free choice in this country, if it's bad for you don't eat it." Hell, people knew all along that the tobacco industry's ads were lies didn't they but still executed their freedom of choice to smoke em'. Free choice is more important than a corporation's false advertising.

The cranberry caucus wants to work with the state to ensure they are not slandered and the people are fully educated as to the benefits of "their" cranberry juice. Pepsi, another health conscious outfit which distributes cranberry juice for Ocean Spray also wants us to know the truth about health.

The caucus is pulling out all the stops even writing to Michelle  Obama who is big on the child obesity issue. Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack was also included, "We want to work with you to create appropriate standards to ensure wholesome cranberry products are not mislabeled as unhealthy or empty calorie foods" the letter claims.

Ms Nestle the public health professor doesn't buy it, "This is about marketing not health" she adds.

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