When the proposed (read: ludicrous) Oregon alcoholic beverage excise tax increase story popped up on Twitter yesterday, I clicked a few links and eventually uncovered the party affiliation of the sponsors: they’re both Democrats. So is Michael Marshall, executive director of Oregon Recovers, who openly, and apparently proudly, likens his organization’s mission to taxing alcohol out of existence in the same fashion as similar “in the interest of public health” attacks on tobacco.
In light of the American public’s befuddled inability to tell the difference between fascism and communism, it’s interesting that the late Alexander Cockburn, an avowed leftist like me, used to refer to prohibitionistic do-gooders as “health fascists.” However, whether or not any of my left-leaning friends want to admit it, today’s “health fascists” are Democrats (Commies), not Republicans (Nazis).
The same is true of prohibitionist inclinations. I spent seven years as a director on the board of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, and much of our time was spent lobbying the state legislature for legal changes conducive to small brewing operations. We didn’t get everything we sought, but opposition to any change perceived to be widening the availability of beverage alcohol came more often from the Democratic side than the Republican.
It may be helpful to know that ideologically, I am by no means comfortable with the GOP’s side of the aisle, preferring to think of my natural political grouping landing somewhere within the parameters of European-style Social Democrats. I’m a pants-down socialist, not a communist, but the distinction is largely moot in the United States, where those with my “left” belief system and cultural values might as well be formally disenfranchised.
To be sure, some of the more radical Republican nut job fundamentalists still advocate prohibitionist strictures, including a dim legislative bulb from northeastern Indiana (he owned a trucking company) who invariably “bottled” up the Guild and remained deaf to the pleas of his more reasonable Republican brethren. Mercifully, the Peter Principle eventually lifted him from the legislature to a state level appointment, and welcomed obscurity.
Perhaps the more relaxed Republican attitude toward the drinking class is the exception that proves the rule. All I know is that Democrats seem to resemble Carrie Nation to a greater degree with each passing day, and I find it disturbing, if not exactly surprising.
I’ve no more to say for now. Jeff Alworth is one of the finest American beer writers around, so navigate to his Beervana blog and get the scoop.
A couple days ago, two members of the Oregon House introduced HB 3296, an astounding piece of legislation that would increase the excise tax paid on a barrel of beer from $2.60 to $72.60. The tax is nearly double the next highest state’s, well over ten times the national median—and of course a 28-fold increase over current levels. This comes as the beer industry struggles through a global pandemic and less than a month after a recent cannabis tax went on the books to treat drug addiction—one even legislators expect to be “oversaturated with revenue.”
Proponents and those sympathetic with alcohol abuse point out how the state has a right to recoup the costs of treating the consequences of abuse and addiction, and that Oregon has fallen behind in this regard. They point out that Oregon’s current beer tax is one of the lowest in the nation and hasn’t been raised in decades. And they’re right on all counts. But here’s the really big question: why aren’t proponents raising the tax so it’s in line with other states (a three- or four-fold increase, as opposed to 28)? Based on the rhetoric of sponsors and the substance of the bill itself, it’s hard not to conclude that crippling alcohol producers is a central feature of the bill.