The Hour of Norwalk (Conn.), Feb. 24, 2014
There's hardly an ingredient in that candy bar you just unwrapped that the government didn't have a strong, distorting hand in producing — the peanuts, the sugar, the milk, to name a few. U.S. sugar companies, for example, benefit from a series of overlapping trade protections that the last "reform" farm bill left untouched. If you're drinking a soda while reading this editorial, you're probably consuming large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. Corn farmers are unfairly coddled, too. This supposed economic policy, with its roots in a time when large numbers of impoverished farmers were perpetually one bad harvest away from ruin, is now socialized agriculture that largely benefits wealthy agribusinesses at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.
Getting rid of these supports is the right thing to do economically. But what about public health? The distress, diminished quality of life and premature deaths associated with obesity, diabetes and other related ailments demand a government response. Eliminating the subsidies for corn would raise the price of corn syrup, which might help. Eliminating the sugar program, though, would lower the price of that ready substitute for corn syrup. Obviously, the government shouldn't stop there.
An effective anti-obesity policy would include taxes on certain bad-for-you foods, which would tend to discourage unhealthy habits without objectionable restrictions on consumer choice. This is preferable to current sugar policy, which nudges prices up but channels the difference to companies that haven't earned it, in part because the federal Treasury would benefit from the tax revenue.
Some public health advocates favor new taxes on products such as sugary drinks, which account for a large chunk of Americans' consumption of refined sugars. Several states and cities are considering the idea. But a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research highlights that going after just one class — sugary drinks — might encourage people to replace those drinks with candy bars rather than cut back on refined sugars altogether. The researchers from Cornell and Stanford found that applying a 20 percent tax to soda would reduce calorie consumption by about 4 percent, the equivalent of about 16 cans a month, and decrease people's satisfaction with their diet by about 2.5 percent. But they also found that a general tax applied to refined sugars at the ingredient stage would reduce calorie consumption by nearly 19 percent, with the same hit in satisfaction and with sizable effects on salt and fat intake.
In other words, people will eat more apples when all products with refined sugars are more expensive.
The Valley News of Lebanon (N.H.), Feb. 22, 2104
Normally, we are skeptical when a celebrity/politician/entertainer/athlete announces that he is resigning/retiring/withdrawing/walking away in order to spend more time with his family. Perhaps that's because such announcements are so often followed by sordid disclosure of bribery/philandering/drug abuse and so on and so forth.
But in the case of Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster, we are going to extend the benefit of the doubt. In announcing that he definitely would not pitch in 2014 and probably not thereafter, the 36-year-old Dempster cited neck issues that in recent years "have made it harder and harder to throw a baseball and throw it like I'm accustomed to throw it." That, and, "I've got three amazing children that I want to watch grow up and be around."
This has a certain amount of credibility. For one thing, in walking away from the game, Dempster is leaving on the table $13.25 million due him under the two-year contract he signed with the Red Sox before last season. At a time when professional sports so often seem synonymous with greed, it is a healthy sign that someone who has made nearly $90 million over a 16-year big league career is willing to say that enough is enough if he is physically unable to perform to his satisfaction and wants to take a more active role in his family's life. It is easy to think of many examples of athletes who hung on after their time was manifestly up just in order to collect one more big pay day.
Moreover, Dempster has a reputation in the game as a "character guy" whose value to a team is not fully reflected in his statistics. He has been a very decent pitcher over the years and once made the All-Star team. But his career record of 132-133 is just average, and his first campaign with the Red Sox was definitely in keeping with that metric. But when he announced his impending departure at the Red Sox spring training facility, a number of his teammates attended and gave him a round of applause. "Everyone wants to soak in their last moments of being around him. He's a great guy," said reliever Andrew Miller.
In this, Dempster can be said to be baseball's antithesis to Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, whose smug arrogance and selfishness have made him a legend within the game just as surely as his hitting prowess. In fact, one of the most memorable moments of a memorable Red Sox season last year was when Dempster took it upon himself to express the contempt of the entire baseball world after Rodriguez had refused to accept his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs and continued to play while his appeal was pending. Dempster expressed this censure in the time-honored baseball way, by drilling Rodriguez in the elbow with a 92-mile-an-hour fastball.
Maybe there's also a larger lesson to be drawn from Dempster's departure. The Red Sox have a number of promising young pitchers coming up who are arguably ready to pitch at the Major League level. By stepping away, he's giving those youngsters a chance sooner rather than later. This is an example that could be usefully followed by people in many jobs who are hanging on when they no longer need to do so financially. With the current employment situation, it's time to give the kids a chance.