Jewish World Review April 11, 2003 / 9 Nisan II, 5763
Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer guthttp://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Our income tax is due Tuesday and if that isn't troubling enough, then consider this: many states are attempting to tax the heck out of our beer.
Now I consider myself a pragmatist where taxes are concerned. I'm happy to whip around on the wide-open highways that my tax contributions helped to build. It was a low-interest government loan that got me through college. And our military's swift work in Iraq was made possible with tax dollars.
And let me state that I'm even pragmatic about our "progressive" tax system. It doesn't trouble me that the wealthier among us pay a greater percentage of taxes than the poorer among us, who often pay little or nothing at all. (Sure our taxes are too high overall, which dampens ambition and therefore holds tax revenue back, and our tax system is overbearing and incomprehensible, but these are annoyances for another time.)
But major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut.
According to the Beer Institute, at least 23 states have considered plans to shrink their budget shortfalls through massive increases in beer taxes. In Pennsylvania, the governor is attempting to increase the beer tax 213%. I might understand if he was a teetotaler Republican, but he's a Democrat. What is he drinking?
But state beer taxes are only part of the cause for concern. Some cities are going after beer to raise dough. In Pittsburgh, my hometown, the mayor is trying to impose a 10% tax on every drink.
And the feds are in on the gouging, too. In 1990, Congress doubled the federal beer tax to $18 a barrel or about a dollar a case.
I'm taking this all very personally.
I'm from a long line of people who enjoy adult beverages. My great grandmother took the edge off of Prohibition by installing a distillery in the basement. My grandfather was known to tip a few back at neighborhood watering holes. And I fondly remember Saturday afternoons retrieving ice-cold bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon for my father and our neighbor Mr. Bennett.
As I got older, some of my happiest moments have involved beer. When I turned 21, I celebrated with beer (at least I think that was beer). When I graduated college, bought my first car and got my first job, I celebrated with beer. And the first time I fell in love with a beautiful girl, beer was there.
Beer has also been there during my down periods. When my car broke down, when my job went sour, and every time I parted with a beautiful girl, it was beer I could always turn to.
And more recently, beer has been there. The events of 911, the success in routing out the Taliban, the early success in Iraq, each of these events has been greeted with a crack of the can and a toast to those who are making incredible sacrifices for our country.
It is simply un-American to tax beer. By taxing beer, the government is tearing at the very fabric of America. They might as well tax apple pie, family reunions and free speech while they're at it.
The fact is beer is good for our society.
It is because people know they will conclude their workweek with a happy hours brew, they are much more productive during the week, which is of great benefit to the economy.
Beer keeps families together. The frictions of family life, which can result in divorce and single-parent households, are dissolved by a couple of cold ones, which put mom and dad into a more peaceful state and stave off arguments that don't do anybody any good anyhow.
And there would be fewer families, the building block of every great society, if not for beer. Beer has been helping unattractive people date, marry and have families for years.
It isn't our fault that state governments are in a pinch now because they spent like drunken sailors when the economy was booming. It isn't right that they're trying to make up the shortfall by taxing our beloved beer.
I offer a better solution. Instead of raising our taxes, state legislators should have a beer. It won't make budget shortfalls go away,
but it will make everyone feel better.
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04/04/03: War humor