Corn makes the US economy go 'round

And it's in everything.

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Your car's engine burns gas with ethanol and because of the water content in the ethanol the engine corrodes much faster. Hence, you need to repair your engine more often and replace your car more often. Your mechanic makes more money, and the car manufacturers make more money. If your car lasts 7 years instead of 12 years, you have to buy another car sooner. It’s simple math.

Wall Street uses our vast supplies of corn, partly, to influence the commodities markets and make a buck. In fact, I personally know a corn farmer who makes a good living trading corn on the market. I guess it’s fair to say he’s an "insider". But he does it in overalls and a farmer's tan. No pinstriped suit or high-rise corner office.

Meat. Chicken and beef farmers have have long since figured out that corn will make their animals real fat, real fast! Only in America can we grow a chicken to full size in 5 weeks by feeding it corn (and chemicals). Cows only get fed corn a few weeks before slaughter, because any longer and their digestive system craps out, as they are not made to eat corn. When you look at the carbohydrate value of feeding livestock corn, it's the same idea as raising cows on Twinkies. Bottom line. Corn is much cheaper than Twinkies, but has the same effect on livestock.

High fructose corn syrup is a substitute for sugar derived from corn. It was invented by the Chinese to answer a demand for a cheap super-sweetener. If you’ve ever bothered to read the ingredient list on most American packaged food products you will see that it has high fructose corn syrup. Why? Simply because it’s cheaper than sugar. The food manufacturers can save themselves a ton of money because you are basically paying them to use high fructose corn syrup out of your tax dollars that the government gives to corn farmers as a subsidy. That’s nice, right?

But that’s not where the real money comes from with high fructose corn syrup and corn. Did you ever look around and notice how fat Americans are? Believe me when I tell you that high fructose corn syrup could be big reason why. I'm not going to get too scientific with this article, but just look for yourself and you will see that the glycemic load of high fructose corn syrup is several times higher than that of sugar. Your body simply can’t handle it. And not only does it make you fat, but it’s the fastest and surest way to make a diabetic that I can think of. It kills your pancreas. Only in America do we have diabetic children — their pancreas burnt out before they’re even in their teens. And who makes the money? Fat loss is a multi-billion dollar business. The medical associations make billions of dollars treating diabetics. Medical laboratories make millions selling insulin and medical devices related to diabetes. And drug companies make millions of dollars on diabetes and fat loss as well. High fructose corn syrup fattens their pockets.

Genetically modified corn (GMO). There is a company most of us are familiar with called Monsanto. Amongst other mis-deeds, they genetically modify corn. Simply put, they add DNA from other plants and animals to the corns DNA and have created a corn plant that has freakish characteristics such as; creating its own insecticide, creating its own anti-freeze, and being immune to heavy duty chemical insecticides. They have even experimented with a strain of corn that can be used as birth control — it makes you sterile. They have a monopoly on most of the corn that is grown in the US and abroad. They have patented the corn plant for all intents and purposes. Their corn spreads onto other farmer’s fields and then Monsanto sues the farmer for growing Monsanto corn without their permission. Lawyers, ka-ching! But I feel that the payoff from this one will come a few years from now when class action suits are aimed at Monsanto because their DNA-altered corn just happens to cause DNA-altering in humans too. And so the lawyers of America can rest easy, because when they're finished suing the pharmaceutical companies, they will always have genetically modified Franken-corn to go after. Money.

And at the bottom of the corn chain you have me — the lowly chef who still makes but a meager dollar for every corn cake, corn chowder and nacho chip that I can sell.

When you really look at it, America really does run, financially, on corn. Is it ethical? I don’t think so. Does the irresponsibility of the corn industry make capitalism look bad? Yep. But I still believe that America is the land of opportunity, and I still believe it’s the greatest country on Earth. And it will be restored back to its days of glory on the day when we put ethics and “doing the right thing” above making a quick buck at the expense of people and the environment.

Image via Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Did you ever look really far into something simple? I’m sitting there dipping a rigid, salty corn chip into salsa and my mind starts to wander. And then it was all so clear. America doesn’t run on "Dunkin'", nor does it run on automobiles or baseball, it runs on corn. But not in the way you would think, if indeed, you ever even thought of it.

Here is what I mean.

Corn is the most produced grain in the United States. It accounts for about 90 percent of all the grain that is grown. About 80 million acres are used to grow corn each year and we supply the world with 20 percent of our American corn. The government actually uses our tax dollars to pay farmers around $20 billion dollars per year to grow corn. In 2009, out of every $1 that corn farmers earned, 62 cents came from the government. This, at first, poses many questions. Why corn? Why not wheat or barley? And why do we actually have to pay farmers to grow it?

The truth is, when you think about it, corn makes a lot of people very rich. It makes the US economy go round. I’m not talking about ethics, sustainability or even responsibility here, I’m just talking about money. Cold, hard cash. Billions of it.

Politics. I remember hearing presidential candidate Barack Obama talking a lot about corn a few years back. He kept insisting that we were going to solve our fuel crisis by using our corn to make ethanol. It seemed like a great thing to do. People got excited. Car companies began to make engines designed to work with ethanol (even though any existing gasoline engine can already run on ethanol). This got Obama a lot of votes, and it seemed like a very popular idea. But he forgot to mention several other facts that I have not forgotten.

Ethanol is an alcohol made from corn. It lights on fire just like gasoline and gas companies like to add it to your gasoline. Not because it’s good for the environment or because it’s cheaper to make. In fact, it takes a gallon of gasoline to manufacture a gallon of ethanol and can take thousands of gallons of water to process and make 1 gallon of ethanol. So it’s not making any difference to the amount of gasoline we as a nation consume. But, there is one very specific fact that any chemistry teacher can tell you: ethanol absorbs water — a lot of it. So when you pump gasoline in to your gas tank, it contains about 10% ethanol, and that 10% ethanol has water in it. So the oil companies are making you pay for a gallon of gas that is not pure — it’s literally watered down. The oil companies make more money with ethanol because they are selling you water.

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