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Monday, February 12, 2007

Beer tax follies continue...Rant #1

It's rant time. Buckle up.

Here's another "grab the beer drinkers' bucks" scheme by local government...

Beer tax pondered for college towns

A Kent, Oh., City Councilman has decided that all of Kent's beer drinkers, a majority of which are legal, moderate drinkers, should pay for the illegal acts of an ill-defined group of people who are assumed to be beer drinkers. From the article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"[Kuhar proposes] a 4-cent-a-bottle beer tax to help pay for police and fire services. "Being a college town, we have tremendous financial outlays on alcohol-related events, such as house parties that are out of control, littering, Dumpsters and couches set on fire," Kent City Councilman John Kuhar said."

Nowhere in the piece does anyone make a connection between these "alcohol-related events " and beer consumption. 'College students drink beer' seems to be the common knowledge. Based on the flimsy assumption that all these "alcohol-related events" are in fact "beer-related events," Kuhar wants to get some booty in the kitty by hosing you and me and all the other responsible beer drinkers.

(Posted later: Kuhar explains why he's just taxing beer: "He wouldn’t want to create a bookkeeping nightmare for bar owners and retailers, he said." Like those damned wine taxes do, eh, John?)

Will this even work? Fergodssake, don't ask Kuhar! He doesn't even know!

"Kuhar, who came up with the beer tax, said there has been no study on how much it would raise. He proposes taxing beer sold at bars and stores, with the money going to safety forces. "

Amazing. This is how your legislators look at you, Joe & Jane Beerdrinker: a source of money they don't even know whether they'll get, and aren't real clear on how they'll spend. But don't worry. Kuhar knows it's okay with you: "The feedback I got is that nobody would mind 4 cents a beer," he said.

Which, to tell the truth, really pisses me off more than anything else in the piece. Okay, granted, given that this yahoo has obviously sucked his bright shiny tax-beer idea right out of his thumb (or out of the ever-ready shaky-policy-filled thumbs of some outfit like this, this, or this), and he's too stupid to govern. Granted that his "feedback" probably came from asking his brother and the guy across the table at city hall (and what's he gonna say? "Duhhhh, I dunno, John, if it means more money for us to blow out our butts, I won't mind everyone else paying 4 cents more a beer.")

(Posted later: In another article in the Columbus Dispatch, Kuhar is quoted as having talked to "several hundred people" for this 'feedback.' Several hundred people? Even though he admits to not knowing how much money he would raise? Kinda makes you curious about where he came up with 4 cents, doesn't it?)

But you know that the prospect of some beer drinker saying, "Okay, sure, what the hell, 4 cents a beer ain't that much," is a very real one. We hear it in the news all the time. You can always find someone who's honest enough to admit that 4 cents a beer really isn't that much...but why is it that the beer drinker has to pony up? I don't know about you, but I didn't set any couches on fire lately. Why should I pay for someone who's dumb enough to do that?

Here's a novel idea: let the people who are doing this stupid stuff pay. Soak them, if they're college kids soak their parents, soak their landlord, soak their insurance company. I know some folks are gonna say "But that's not fair! They just made some bad decisions! Making the insurance company pay will just raise your rates!"

Bullshit. The kid made a bad decision, obviously. The parents made a bad decision in not raising the kid better, the landlord made a bad decision renting to these kids, and the insurance company obviously made a bad decision insuring them. But the only bad decision Kent beer drinkers made was voting for John Kuhar, and they're supposed to pay to clean up the mess? I say again: bullshit.

I'm sick and tired of being a tax piƱata for some brainless do-gooder to come along and whack everytime he feels like cleaning up a perceived mess without pissing off any voters. And I'm completely sick of beer drinkers being the patsies for it.

If these problems are real, then they're something that should be paid for by the folks who create them, or society as a whole. Not a sub-group whose only participation is in consuming the same legal beverage as the folks who are doing the crimes. Otherwise, why isn't every licensed driver paying for everyone's speeding tickets? Why doesn't every voter pay for the trial of corrupt officials (oh, wait, we do)? Why doesn't every beer/wine/spirits drinker pay for every DUI, every underage drinking fine, every "social host" infraction? Either we believe in individual responsibility, or we don't.

I don't mind paying taxes -- much -- but I damned sure want their application to be equitable. This proposed tax is plainly not.


Anonymous said...

But Lew, how do you REALLY feel about this!?



Anonymous said...


Steven said...

Lew, do you ever send these opinions to fall into the proper (albeit ignorant) laps?

It just seems that any politician who wants to appear (or feel) as a goody-two-shoes picks out drinking as the first scapegoat. How do we fight that?

Lew Bryson said...


I feel like dancin', yeah! I feel like dancin', yeah!

Me and John Travolta, baby.

Lew Bryson said...


I used to, but this guy ain't even in my state. If it's reasonably easy to write an online letter to the editor, I do: I write about three or four letters a week via e-mail to newspapers all over the country -- had a letter published last year in the 'Pacific Daily News' on Guam against a proposed raise in the legal drinking age.

But writing directly to legislators...I write to my own, but these guys don't really care if you aren't a voter.

How do we fight that? That's the $64,000 question. I'd like to see the Brewers Association take this up. The beer wholesalers are usually the first line of defense, but they can't do it all by themselves. When there's a problem locally, or in PA, I'm right there, writing, calling, and even going to Harrisburg to testify (did that in 2005). But in other states, it's gotta be voters. We need to organize, motivate, and demonstrate.

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, I thought up another alternative. I'm paying 4 cents for guys to burn their couches, right? How about a law that would obligate the hosts of any party to let me in and give me four cent beers for a door payment of another four cents? That way I get to watch them burn that couch, maybe even get to set fire to it myself! I'm parking outside John Kuhar's house every weekend, baby. Hey, John! Izzat a birthday cake I see? PARTYYYYYY!!! Here's a quarter, I'll take four beers; keep the change. PARTYYYYYY!!! Yo, where's your couch? Never mind, I'll find it myself. PARTYYYYYY!!!