Tom Purcell, 11/2/2009 [Archive]

Bad Idea on Tap

Bad Idea on Tap

By Tom Purcell

Here's a shot to the beer gut: Government bodies across America are looking to increase taxes on beer.

According to ABC News, states from Connecticut to Arkansas have been "eyeing higher taxes on cigarettes and booze" to make up for budget shortfalls caused by the recession.

Now, I'm not against paying taxes to fund government programs.

I like driving around on the wide-open highways that my tax contributions helped build.

I'm grateful for the government-backed loans that got me through my beer-slugging days at Penn State (to paraphrase comedian Frank Nicotero, I graduated with a 1.2 ... blood-alcohol level).

I'm happy for the government agencies that protect our country, track down criminals across state lines and make sure our food and water are safe.

But higher taxes on beer?

Why not increase taxes on hot dogs and apple pie while we're at it?

Congress cracked open this Pandora's can in 1991 -- when it doubled the federal beer tax to $18 a barrel.

Many states have long been on the beer wagon.

In 1936, Pennsylvania levied a "temporary" 10-percent alcohol tax to relieve victims of that year's Johnstown flood.

Flood victims still aren't relieved: Not only is the tax still in effect, it has been increased to 18 percent.

At the local level, many cities and counties are looking to raise beer taxes, too.

I take such taxes personally.

My great-grandmother took the edge off Prohibition by installing a distillery in her basement and making beer in her bath tub.

My grandfather helped his community survive the Depression by investing generously in local watering holes.

My father survived the Carter administration by drinking ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon on the back porch with our neighbor, Mr. Bennett.

It is simply un-American to tax beer. And it won't do much good in any event.

According to records from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, says ABC, the 1991 federal beer tax "created a slight bump in revenues in 1992, followed by four years of decline, from nearly $3.9 billion to $3.6 billion."

What's that, you say? Higher taxes lead to lower revenues?

In my opinion, beer does our society good -- particularly in the midst of a nasty global downturn.

By looking forward to a happy-hour respite each Friday, aren't workers are more productive during the week? Isn't their productivity a needed boost to our ailing economy?

Moderate beer consumption can reduce one's chances of heart and vascular disease -- is not beer essential to reducing our health care costs?

I'm counting on beer consumption to solve America's long-term liabilities.

Consider: Beer causes people to think others are more attractive than they are and to marry and procreate -- I need people marrying and producing kids so they can fund my Social Security payments 20 years down the road.

It isn't the fault of beer drinkers that government bodies across America spent like drunken sailors when the economy was booming -- it's not our fault they didn't plan ahead.

It will do nobody any good to make up their shortfall by taxing beer.

If governments really want to raise funds, why not tax the avarice and stupidity that caused our markets to expand and crash?

Why not tax government expansion?

Such taxes would produce a windfall -- at the same time they would curb truly "sinful" behavior.

I'll raise my mug to that.

© 2009 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Visit Tom on the web at or e-mail him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications.

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