‘Pot Banks’: The Answer for a Budding Industry?

When California voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, the Golden State became effectively the largest jurisdiction in the world to legalize recreational sale and use of cannabis. On January 1 of this year, when recreational sales were legalized, politicians, tax collectors, and business owners already were seeing green. The state estimates it will collect $600 million in taxes from cannabis sales. And it doesn’t end there.

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How the Carolinas could suffer from Trump’s tariffs

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: In the last election and on the global stage, President Donald Trump talked tough on trade. It’s us versus them and we’re losing, he says. Put simply, he views the current trade deficit, when we import more from a country than we export to it, as detrimental to American jobs. Since January, that trade deficit is $264.4 billion.

Our biggest trading partners, China, Canada, Mexico, and Japan have been able to sell more to us than we’ve sold to them, and that has left us worse off, says Trump. Tariffs, taxes placed on specific products that enter our country, will help balance that.

But that isn’t true.

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Freedom of marketing and brands remains vital in the 21st century

EURACTIV:  When consumers make decisions in the marketplace, they are voting with their wallets, writes Yaël Ossowski.

Ossowski is the deputy director for the Consumer Choice Center. He wrote this op-ed ahead of the Brand Freedom Day conference on 6 June in Brussels.

 

In a system of voluntary exchange, only consumers can decide if a company fails or thrives. Companies are reliant on consumers to buy their goods and “vote” to determine the best product and best company.

The freedom for companies and organisations to market themselves and create a brand is therefore essential to our markets and economic relationships.

Brands matter because they help inform consumers, help companies differentiate themselves, and ultimately “signal” quality and effectiveness.

They convey much more than what you can see or read: it’s about feeling and emotion, as well. That’s why the Red Cross is seen as a “go-to” after natural disasters, and why Amazon is now one of the largest companies in the world. People trust those brands and are willing to enter into financial relationships with them.

But what if those brands weren’t able to be formed in the first place?

Unfortunately, there is a global movement that seeks to restrict certain brands: alcohol, tobacco, cannabis (where it is legal), sugar, sodas, and many other consumer products.

Many of these products aren’t healthy. Especially in excess. That’s certainly the case with tobacco, alcohol, and sugar. There is a plethora of information available to consumers on the harmful effects of all of them, either from national health agencies or general health education in public schools.

But that doesn’t mean that consumers can’t choose from particular brands to better inform themselves on what they want to consume or use.

Consumers need brands in order to make the right decisions. What if one company uses a completely GMO-free process, or another is a process of fair trade? Don’t consumers deserve to know this information, and shouldn’t companies be free to let their customers know?

Without this information, the biggest and most well-known brand is best situated to gain dominant market power. Limiting branding is tantamount to limiting consumer choice.

If we want to ensure a robust competitive environment for products and ideas, then we must support brand freedom. Otherwise, large companies have a natural advantage and small entrepreneurs are left out in the dust.

Throughout the European Union, the most well-known bans on branding are in the sphere of tobacco and alcohol, in places such as France, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. In the UK, the current marketing restrictions ban cartoon characters in TV food adverts addressed to children.

Many politicians want to go further, banning cartoon characters from all ads and boxes. The logic of not allowing companies to have logos or branding is that consumers will be dissuaded from buying them.

But is this the right approach?

No doubt, safeguarding children and educating consumers on health options is a noble goal. But what consequences would come from restricting a company’s freedom to market and brand themselves?

A recent survey by the analytics company Sprout Social entitled “Championing Change in the Age of Social Media” reveals that nearly two-thirds of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues. That shows that brands are as important to societal life as economic life.

What contribution, therefore, would companies be able to make without the freedom create their own brand? When Coca-Cola cut ties with South Africa during the regime of Apartheid in 1986, they were championed as a steward of corporate responsibility.

Would the soda maker be where it is today without that bold political move affecting its brand? The same can be said today for a myriad of companies who are awakening to the necessity of responsible actions.

If companies and entrepreneurs are not free to create brands and market themselves, then consumers are the ones who pay the price. Not only are they not able to learn about which products are the best for their needs, but they also have their choices limited. That’s bad for freedom of choice and bad for market economies.

If there is one thing that’s worth fighting for even more in the current age, it’s the freedom of brands.

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The CCC’s campaign to defund the World Health Organization

POLITICO: But the Consumer Choice Center seized on the WHO’s former inaction on Ebola to launch a campaign for the U.N. agency’s health budget to be scaled back. The center, which advocates for consumer freedom and has in the past received funding from tobacco companies, said the agency’s focus on non-communicable diseases over threats to global health such as Ebola is the top reason they want it defunded.

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Ending sugar protectionism will help boost small business and benefit consumers

This week in the nation’s capital, the House Agriculture Committee will decide the fate of various agricultural subsidies and food benefits for millions of Americans.

The bill, H.R. 2, known as the Farm Bill, includes provisions on crop insurance, dairy prices, wetland conservation, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) adjustments, and dozens of other rules and regulations on commodities.

Tucked within this massive bill is a continuation of the U.S. Sugar Program, a decades-old government program that effectively sets prices for sugar, guarantees cheap loans for domestic sugar producers, and keeps out foreign competitors. It’s sugar protectionism, through and through.

As I mentioned in the Washington Examiner some months ago, this program has the unintended consequence of raising the costs of sugar for various small businesses, and passing those costs on to consumers.

The consequence of that multi-decade arrangement, however, has been higher costs for consumers and domestic businesses that rely on sugar as a base ingredient for their products.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, users and consumers of sugar lose out to the tune of $2.4 billion-$4 billion a year. That directly hurts the thousands of small businesses that rely on sugar’s low prices.

Now that the Farm Bill is set to be voted on in the committee, legislators have a chance to alter this program that has proven to be a huge burden to small businesses and consumers.

Key to this will be the Foxx Amendment, proposed by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx from North Carolina. This amendment would shrink the U.S. Sugar Program from its current size to a more moderate version. It wouldn’t go so far as scrapping the program, but it would make necessary changes that would better benefit consumers and American businesses that rely on affordable sugar.

In an op-ed with Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, Foxx makes the case for reforming the U.S. Sugar Program and slimming down sugar protectionism once and for all.

But the sugar program costs some Americans more than higher grocery prices: it costs them their job. As the U.S. International Trade Administration found, the program kills three manufacturing jobs for every sugar-producing job that it protects.

Let’s look at a few painful examples. The Spangler Candy Company reports, “Today, we have about 150 people making candy for us in Mexico. In 2017, Spangler had 900 people apply for jobs at our Ohio factory. I would love to offer 250 of them a job as a candy cane maker, but our government insists that sugar processing jobs are more important than manufacturing jobs. They are picking winners and losers and our town has been the loser for many years now.”

The Atkinson Candy Company moved 80 percent of its peppermint-candy production to a factory in Guatemala that opened in 2010.

And the makers of President Reagan’s favorite candy, Jelly Belly, had to build its new 50,000-square-foot plant in Thailand thanks to the high sugar price driven by U.S. policy.

The evidence is overwhelming — this is an expensive and damaging special-interest giveaway and it must be stopped.

As Foxx and Norquist demonstrate, the current sugar program forces small, family-owned food companies to pay twice as much for sugar as the rest of the world. It restricts how much domestic sugar can be sold, and how much sugar can be imported from other countries.

That’s a huge blow to consumer choice, not to mention an indirect tax to small businesses that rely on sugar for their products.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the sugar program killed 123,000 jobs between 1997 and 2015. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that for every sugar-processing job subsidized through artificially high U.S. sugar prices, three American manufacturing jobs are lost.

In response, Foxx introduced her own bill to tackle the program and modernize it. The Sugar Policy Modernization Act of 2017, introduced back in November, currently has 80 co-sponsors but remains stuck in the House Agriculture and Ways and Means Committees.

The Farm Bill will take precedence, and thus focus will now be on the Foxx Amendment to make the needed changes for America’s domestic sugar policy. If legislators want to help prop up American consumers and small businesses rather than Big Sugar, they would vote to reign in the sugar protectionism in the Sugar Program.

რა დგას თამბაქოს კონტროლის კანონის უკან?

TABULA: 2018 წლიდან თამბაქოს კონტროლის შესახებ კანონში ცვლილებები შევიდა. ცვლილებების თანახმად, გამკაცრდა თამბაქოს მოწევისა და რეალიზაციის არეალი, თამბაქოს კონტროლის სფეროს მარეგულირებელი კანონქვემდებარე ნორმატიული აქტები, თამბაქოს ექსპორტი და იმპორტი. კანონში ასევე აღნიშნულია, რომ ცვლილებები ემსახურება „თამბაქოს კონტროლის შესახებ“ ჯანმრთელობის მსოფლიო ორგანიზაციის ჩარჩო კონვენციის ამოცანებისა და პრინციპების შესრულებას.“.

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Do credit unions still warrant a tax exemption?

AMERICAN BANKER MAGAZINE: Yael Ossowski, the deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center in Washington, D.C., said he began to pay more attention to credit union taxation after being struck by the presence of several large credit unions in his home state of North Carolina.

“The huge footprint with a lot of these credit unions sparked my curiosity,” Ossowski said. “I wanted to know what the difference between banks and credit unions is and I discovered there isn’t much anymore.”

He made his views public in September, publishing an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer urging elimination of the tax exemption.

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