The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, is nothing so grandly academic as its name suggests, but one of a growing number of anti-alcohol groups infecting America with its agenda. Today, its Chairman and Founder Joseph A. Califano, Jr., accused the Brewers Association and the Beer Institute of Chutzpah (which he misspelled “chutzpa”) and two specific members of the House of Representatives of hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
On his Chairman’s Corner blog today, he rails against the BEER Act, which Congress introduced back in mid-February. H.R. 836, or as its more commonly known, the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2009, seeks to roll back the federal excise tax on beer that was doubled in 1991. The bill also would provide additional tax relief for small brewers. Most people, especially those who oppose alcohol, make the assumption that excise taxes are proper to punish the sin of drinking.
He gives his “First Annual Chutzpa (sic) Award” to the Brewers Association and the Beer Institute for H.R. 836, claiming they’re arrogant and he even has the balls to suggest them of bribery! First of all, he’s seriously delusional if he thinks small brewers have piles of cash for lobbyists.
The fact that a trade organization might work for favorable treatment by Congress for its industry or for a reform of the laws that regulate them, appears to be a novel concept to Califano. Isn’t that what every trade organization does? Did I miss a meeting? It’s okay for every other lobby, but not beer? And we’re arrogant for being happy when something goes our way?
He’s upset because for some reason he believes that the alcohol industry is responsible for the minority of people who abuse it. And, as usual, he throws around the nonsensical statistics of how much societal costs alcohol is apparently on the hook for, even though that’s not true of virtually any other industry.
As I’ve noted in Sin Tax Tyrannies, U.S. Senate Told To Raise Beer Taxes, Stupid Is As Stupid Does, The Lie That Won’t Go Away, and who knows how many others at this point, the notion of taxing only alcohol and tobacco should be deeply disturbing to any rational human being. Those two products are the only ones in our country that have excise taxes imposed on them, taxes no other companies have to pay.
People like Califano and his ilk see no apparent contradiction in tobacco and alcohol having to pay for their presumed sins but every other product that’s bad for us in quantity doesn’t have to. Soda companies don’t pay for the medical costs of the obesity epidemic. Meat companies don’t pay for higher heart risks from the over consumption of beef. Too much of almost anything can be bad for you, but we don’t say there shouldn’t be prescription drugs on the off chance that some people might abuse them.
Califano goes on to give his so-called “First Annual Hypocrisy Award” to the sponsors of H.R. 836, calling them hypocrites because for reasons passing understanding he seems to believe that being pro-alcohol and also for health care reform is contradictory. It appears to come back to the idea that alcohol has to pay for any health consequences that someone who drinks might encounter, yet no other industry has to do likewise. The Patriot Act specifically gave an exemption to pharmaceutical companies for any harm caused by them, but beer better pay its bill, by gum.
To me, that’s a far more hypocritical position to take, especially when his arguments are laced with the usual faulty statistics and, naturally, the “it’s for the children” gambit that has become de rigueur for anti-alcohol groups to invoke. Cutting the beer tax, Califano insists will mean more underage drinking, despite the fact that underage drinking is still illegal. The fact that people under 21 still manage to buy alcohol is somehow the beer industry’s fault; not law enforcement, not retail, not the ridiculousness of the law itself. But raising the tax (and thus the price) so it’s too expensive for kids punishes every adult who can legally buy alcohol, too. That’s not a problem if you want another prohibition, of course, but for the rest of society that seems patently unfair and even cruel.
Most intelligent legislators I should think are more concerned about getting our economy on firmer footing — something that H.R. 836 easily accomplishes — than following the misguided advice of the lunatic fringe that CASA represents. If I had my own made-up award for hypocrisy, Califano, CASA, and the rest of the Neo-Prohibitionist groups, would certainly be worthy recipients.