23 February 2012

The Only Excuse For Wanting to Reduce Beer Taxes is Corruption??

Reason.com's Jacob Sullum points out in a recent online essay that a reporter at Mother Jones, Tim Murphy, suggests that the only reason former Pennsylvania senator and current Presidential candidate Rick Santorum could have possibly supported a reduction in the Federal excise tax on beer is because of campaign donations from the alcohol industry:
From 1995 through 2006, Rick Santorum was one of the upper chamber's biggest beneficiaries of beer industry cash. Wholesalers, brewers, and their top executives filled Santorum's coffers with at least $80,000 in campaign donations. And they got their money's worth: Four times during his two Senate terms Santorum pushed to cut the beer excise tax [which had been doubled in 1990] by half, over the protests of economists and public health experts who say that a lower tax would lead to a loss of revenue and lives.
(Gotta love the "people will die" spin at the end.)

The Mother Jones piece starts out as a news piece but shifts halfway through into an op-ed essay slamming the alcohol industry and low taxes:

"The name of the game is to deflect attention at all costs from the fact that really we should be raising beer taxes and the most brilliant way to do that was devised by the beer industry by creating this 'roll back the beer tax' campaign," explains Michele Simon, president of the industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics. Santorum took up the industry's agenda in Congress. "He was just parroting what the beer industry had told him to say," Simon says.
[Emphasis added.]
According to public health researchers, when the beer industry saves money, the rest of society ends up picking up the tab.
Lowering the beer excise tax "would lead to an increase of sales of alcohol and an increase in drinking, and that would lead to an associated or proportionate increase in the health problems associated with alcohol," says Alex Wagenaar, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida who has studied the impact of the tax on public health. "It's chronic disease for people that drink heavily, it's also, just for people that occasionally drink more than a very small amount, [an] increased risk for car crashes, pedestrian injuries, fights and assaults and things like that."
 A rebuttal by Sullum:

It seems to me that "sin taxes" are fundamentally unjust because they punish the responsible majority for the misdeeds of a minority. If my own beer consumption does not impose costs on others, why should I have to pay a levy supposedly aimed at recouping those costs? In my view, Santorum took the wrong position because he called for cutting the beer tax in half, as opposed to eliminating it altogether. I realize Tim Murphy, Michele Simon, and Alex Wagenaar disagree. But the strength of their conviction does not transform an opinion into a fact.
I'd like to examine this presumption that the only rationale for proposing a reduction in taxes is because you're corruptly "on the take" from industry lobbyists and their campaign donations......

....  if this is the case, then what, pray tell, does this say about President Obama and his proposal yesterday to lower corporate income tax rates from 35% to 28%? 

A side note:  Judging from the comments left to this and other beer-industry-related essays at Reason, a disproportionately high percentage of Reason.com readers/commenters are craft beer enthusiasts and homebrewers.  I wonder if there's a general overlap with libertarian philosophies.
(Tip o' the hat: Lew Bryson.)

1 comment:

The Oriole Way said...

"The Mother Jones piece starts out as a news piece but shifts halfway through into an op-ed essay slamming the alcohol industry and low taxes:"

False. The piece is quoting someone who is an "industry watchdog." You may disagree with that person's comments, but the use of the word "fact" is attributable to that individual, NOT to the journalist.

Nearly every study of the impact of campaign contributions on politicians' voting behavior finds a significant relationship between giving more money and receiving favorable votes on legislation up for consideration. Across the aisle. There are good reasons for supporting Obama's proposed decrease in the corporate tax rate, and there are also good reasons to understand how his proposals would benefit those companies that have given lots of campaign dollars relative to those that may not have given quite so generously.