There are a lot of proposals for beer tax increases in the air right now -- federal, state, and local; here in the U.S. and in Europe. The worldwide recession has not just affected people and private industries, it's -- gasp! -- cut government tax revenues. Luckily, governments are the one enterprise that can increase their revenues by simply taking more money from other people. Yay!
One of the ways they do that are by excise taxes, taxes imposed on particular products or services that the government picks, seemingly at random: tanning booth sessions, for instance, or tires. There is a sub-class of excise taxes, commonly referred to as "sin taxes," that purport to try to help people not partake in behavior or consumption that is thought to be bad for them, or, worse, immoral. These include, of course -- of course! -- beer taxes.
The current argument for increasing beer taxes goes like this:
- We need increased tax revenues to pay for all the wonderful government programs.
- Beer taxes haven't been raised in X years (admittedly, quite a while...and can you give me a good reason why they should have been?)
- We should raise beer taxes because that would serve the twin purposes of 1)raising revenue needed for wonderful government programs that benefit everyone; and 2)encourage people to drink less, because higher taxes mean people drink less.
First, it's damned near immoral to raise taxes in a deep recession. At some point, especially with excise taxes, you're taking money away from people who don't have enough to give it to people who don't have enough (while stripping away enough to continue paying the wages of the government employees who administer the programs).
Second, if the government programs truly are wonderful and benefit everyone...grow (or borrow) a pair and tax everyone fairly (and progressively). Don't put it on the back of moderate drinkers like me whose only 'sin' is to enjoy a beer.
Finally... I'm already buying beer that costs more than 90% of the beer sold in this country. The beer I buy costs almost twice as much a case as the popular beers do. What purpose will increasing the cost of every beer sold serve when the people who buy the more expensive beers are already paying that much and more? Simple: it's about raising revenues, not moderating behavior. And at that point, sweetie, you should be talking income or sales tax, or I should be voting your thieving, lying ass out of office.
An increase in the beer tax will fall most heavily on more expensive beers. Craft beers. Imported beers. Specialty beers. The beers you probably drink, if you're reading this blog.
So why aren't you doing anything about it? E-mailing your representatives is easy as hell these days: go to Congress.org, put in your ZIP code, and you can hit your Senators, Congresscritter, and state reps with one easy shot. Do it. Tell them you do not want to see an increase in the beer tax. Tell them that you would rather see cuts in spending or fair, across-the-board tax increases before you'd want to see any kind of sin taxes or excise taxes. Tell them you don't mind paying your FAIR share of taxes, but that voting for unfair taxes will cost them your support.
Hell, start a petition at your local bar or beer store. Get freakin' militant. It's your money they're after. And don’t be one of those sniveling warts who join in their own punishment: “Oh, sure, I guess I can pay a nickel a six-pack more. I probably shouldn’t drink so much anyway.”
You pay enough already for the sin of working at your annoying job. You do NOT have to pay more to have a beer when that 8-hour shift in hell is over. Be a man, defend your beer from the pasty-faced safety Nazis and morality police who want to tax it right out of your hands. The price of beer freedom is eternal vigilance.