The Push For More Taxes On Adult Beverages Continues…

by Steve MacDonald

whiskey-glass-280x300Tym Rourke, the person  most likely to coordinate the spending of the tax money, is advocating for more revenue, so that he might–we can only assume–help spend it. Rourke is the Chairman of the Governors Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment in New Hampshire, and he insists that because New Hampshire sells so much damn alcohol, even profiting from its aggressive promotion, that the state has a moral obligation to offset any downsides here in New Hampshire.

What’s next, a tax on hammers to cover time lost to thumb related injuries, or taxing shower curtains to defer lost productivity due to bathing accidents?

I am certain that he means well but I think Rourke is yanking your “stupid” chain.

He fails to explain why I, as a responsible consumer of adult beverages, must pay more for the real or imagined misuse and abuse by others?  This leads us to an endless list of potential other ills resulting from individual decisions that could just as easily be used as an excuse for other taxes and the expansion of the bureaucracy necessary to spend them.

Rourke makes no effort to convince us that the state is even capable of correcting the perceived wrongs he repeats from the report he cites, either as a primary actor or as a financier of other programs, whose funding would be determined by  group of hand-picked “experts” lead by…well, him.

He fatally refuses to include data on how much of the devils beverage we sell to people who live in other states, outside the reach of our taxpayer financed good-will.  While it is not a new idea to tax out of state residents, shouldn’t we make some effort to exclude their purchases from the grandstanding prefaced as a pinion for his efforts at moral equivalence?

He quotes dollars lost to business owners (estimates of lost productivity) resulting from alcohol use but never explains how the benevolent state–adequately funded with freshly harvested tax dollars–is a better motivator for improving human behavior than the employer themselves; employers or groups or business associations seeing real need could  choose to fund private programs for employees, provide insurance to cover treatment or counseling for valued contributors who may truly need it, or using disciplinary action to correct casual abuses of the employee-employer relationship.

Rourke does play to our moral outrage by including references to binge drinking, even drinking by pregnant women, and the social costs he accumulates along side.  But the dirty little secret in all of this is that the statistics they use to justify their outrage, much like the guesses about lost productivity, appear geared toward justifying the growth of government programs.

If, for example, you come home and have two beers after work every day, over the five or six hours before bed time, you are a “heavy drinker.”(Women, that one glass of wine with dinner every night, or perhaps after, makes you a heavy drinker.)  If you consume five or more drinks on one social occasion (four for women), you are a binge drinker.  (It is no surprise the college age kids up to about 34 dominate this category.)

Last I heard a glass of wine a day was fine for a pregnant women, yet this data would suggest she is guilty of heavy drinking?

And if you spend an afternoon at a friends watching football or hockey, sharing a lunch or appetizers, and drinking more than one beer per hour you are binging?

You have to agree that the data sets seem a bit contrived as if they are creating a statistical problem that they can then rush in and “solve,” right after they convince you to let them extract a few million more dollars out of the state economy to finance their endeavor.

And has anyone noticed that there is no suggestion that the state absolve itself by selling its interest in liquor sales?  By divesting it’s tactical monopoly it could generate revenue for any number of public goods and then tax these new free-market competitors like they do every other business.  Would that adversely affect the price advantage resulting in lower sales and less overall revenue?  I honestly don’t know but lower sales would suggest the potential for fewer problems requiring more taxpayer dollars to solve them, would it not?

I could dance round this all day, and would never adequately make the point that a) there are social costs associated with all kinds of things but b) they do not all have to be our collective social responsibility.  And I know from which I speak.  Both my parents were recovering alcoholics.  They used their own experiences to help others.  My brother has had issues with drinking.  I have known people who have killed themselves in drunk driving accidents or been permanently handicapped by others.  And I grew up with and around people struggling with addiction problems.  I probably went to more funerals by the age of 12 than most people have to attend in a lifetime.  But that does not mean that the state adding another tax will change any of that or that responsible citizens should have to pay for it.

The super- majority of adult beverage consumers are responsible people.  The taxes that Democrats want to impose would extract millions and millions of dollars out of the state economy, and could to some degree drive away commerce from out of state consumers that we (admittedly) rely on now.

I can’t speak to the complex nature of such things, particularly in an economy such as this.  The manifold of rising cost pressures are depressing all manner of economic activity, including the cost to drive somewhere to save money you just lost to the cost of the drive.  But we should not consider it our obligation to fund a response to human failure while clinging to the thing we claim is its cause.

I have no problem helping the truly needy get back on their productive feet, or even funding a very basic support structure for those who through no fault of their own have no family or friends to help them along, but if you want to cry to me about funding alcohol abuse programs get New Hampshire out of the liquor business first.  Let me see how badly it misuses the revenue from that sale and any future revenues collected from the businesses that take over that role, then talk to me about my responsibility for behavior of others.

Until then stop trying to guilt me into funding your self-imposed morality play.




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