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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rick Santorm Fights For Your Right to Party

Rick Santorum is the Republican's "Culture of Life" Guy. The first member of Congress to visit Terry Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, Santorum was the first to pray with the Schindlers, and the first to tell The Hill that Schiavo's feeding tube would not be removed on his watch. Ever empathic, Senator Santorum was so struck by the Schindlers' brave fight that he cancelled a planned Social Security propaganda event in Tampa.

(Ed. Note: Santorum can still be GOP "Culture of Life" Guy even though it later turned out that the Social Security event was cancelled several days before he flew to Florida on Wal-Mart's corporate jet to attend long-scheduled meetings that were actually revealed to be Revlon and Outback Steakhouse-hosted fundraisers. Just because he happened to be in the neighborhood to shill for cash didn't mean he had to go to all the trouble of stopping by some little out-of-the-way hospice in the middle of nowhere. And don't think for a minute that the Senator doesn't know a dead cause when he sees one.)

Rick wouldn't make much of a poster child if he were just a one trick pony (He looks so clean. He looks like God's immaculate machine.). Lest we adjudge Pennsylvania's junior Senator a single-minded apostle of the culture of life, rest assured that Santorum is the party's go-to guy on evolution (a still controversial theory that has holes), the constitutional right to privacy (a phony legal concoction foisted on the country by liberal judges), and homosexuality (the right to gay sex implies a right to bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery, and bestialilty.)

Anti-homosexual, anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-privacy, Rick Santorum has to be for something, doesn't he? Who knew? Culture of Life Guy wants to fight for your right to party!

Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa) is an American hero for the frat rats, the NASCAR dads and the Joe Six Packs everywhere. Righteous Rick is the proud Senate sponsor of S.722, "A Bill to Amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to Reduce the Tax on Beer to its Pre-1991 Level."

Here's what you need to know: In 1991, Congress raised the Federal excise tax on 31-gallon barrels of beer from $9 to $18 a barrel. This brazen act of Congressional dauntlessness represented the first time the Federal beer tax had been increased in this country in forty years.

Sanctimonious, moralistic, self-righteous holy rollers extracting their pound of flesh in sin tax upon the simple pleasures of the common man, right? Not quite. Try 1990 budget agreement between Congress and President George H.W. Bush. One hundred billion dollars over the legally permissible Federal budget deficit, the legislative and the executive crafted the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1990, marking a fleeting, momentary apperception that the government actually had to take in money, in order to spend it. (See: Tax cuts, Bush).

As suds savior Rick would have us believe, the consequences of doubling the excise tax on beer were dire indeed. Sales declined, as hard-working, blue-collar Americans were denied the simple pleasure of a frosty can of brew. How many Americans staggered home from a hard day slaving on the assembly lines to make our country great, only to come face-to-face with the pitiful sight of a suds-less refrigerator. As a direct consequence of the increase in the beer tax , 31,000 American workers suffered the loss of their beer job, and the middle class was hit with another tax hike.

We interrupt this tragic narrative for a momentary glimpse at reality.

The average combined state and federal tax on a 12-ounce serving of beer is seven cents. Each state taxes beer at a rate determined by its own public policy, ranging from just two cents per gallon in Wyoming to a buck seven in Alaska. But, hey, smokers beware -- the beer tax-equivalent to a single carton of cigarettes in Rick's state of Pennsylvania is 222.2 six packs. Don't cry for me, Anheuser-Buschentina. In the first quarter of 2004, America's largest brewer banked record net sales (sales after excise taxes) of $3.5 billion.

Because beer is taxed at a fixed rate per barrel -- a rate unrelated to the price of the product -- the average price of beer has fallen more than 25 percent relative to the Consumer Price Index over the past 50 years. Had the tax grown in pace with inflation (as it does, say, for a bottle of Coke), the per-barrel tax would now be more than $61 a barrel. Nonetheless, Rick Santorum considers the federal government's nickel a beer a draconian burden on the poor, unappreciated, oft-exploited quaffer of malt liquor refreshment.

All those lost American jobs? The Labor Department hasn't caught sight of them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total employment in the beer wholesaling industries increased by 8,000 jobs from 1990 to 2000. Overall employment in beer manufacturing has declined since 1990, but this entirely ordinary development maintains a trend that has continued unabated in the industry since the 1960s. Like many other once-labor-intensive processes, the demand for production employees in beer manufacturing has declined as the result of automation, efficiency and industry consolidation.

Assuredly, the taxation of alcohol serves a powerful public policy interest. A 1999 study commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that American alcohol consumption costs this country more than $180 billion in health care, criminal justice, social services, property damage and lost productivity expenses. Research literature demonstrates that raising the taxes on beer cuts consumption, which has been shown to reduce domestic spousal and partner abuse (National Bureau of Economic Research), domestic abuse directed towards children (Contemporary Economic Policy), highway fatalities (Journal of Health Economics), consumption of underage drinkers (Journal of Research on Adolescence), and crime (rapes, robbery, murders and assaults).

To absolutely no one's surprise, the tax-halving bill proposed by Culture of Life Guy is actually the work of the nation's beer manufacturers. See for the exhortations of The Beer Institute, the potent lobbying arm of the country's largest brewers, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller and Coors Brewing. Ordinarily, we would never stoop to the incivility of impugning a Senator's motives, but it may be somewhat telling that there is not a single major brewing facility in the entire of Rick Santorum'’s home state of Pennsylvania. Make what you will of the fact that Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing, and the National Beer Wholesalers Association have contributed thousands of dollars to the Senator's re-election campaigns.

And here's one last thing to think about. Senator Rick Santorum’s proposal to cut beer taxes by 50 percent would cost the federal government $1.75 billion per year. Perhaps we could make it up by reducing government-supported health care to the critically ill, or by taxing transparent legislation at the behest of powerful Washington lobbies.