No Explanation but Corruption for Wanting to Cut Beer Taxes?

Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy notes that Rick Santorum supported cutting the federal excise tax on beer when he was a Pennsylvania senator and attributes that position to campaign donations from the industry:

From 1995 through 2006, Rick Santorum was one of the upper chamber's biggest beneficiaries of beer industry cash. Wholesalers, brewers, and their top executives filled Santorum's coffers with at least $80,000 in campaign donations. And they got their money's worth: Four times during his two Senate terms Santorum pushed to cut the beer excise tax [which had been doubled in 1990] by half, over the protests of economists and public health experts who say that a lower tax would lead to a loss of revenue and lives.

In practice, it is hard to distinguish between the quid pro quo corruption Murphy suggests and the common (and usually lamentable) legislative impulse to defend the interests of local employers. Murphy notes that "Big Beer is big business in Pennsylvania, home to major breweries like Rolling Rock, Yuengling, and Keystone." Either way, the goal—retaining power by getting re-elected—is pretty much the same.

For all I know, Murphy is right about Santorum's motivation. But it seems strange that he does not even entertain the possibility that Santorum supported lower beer taxes because he thought beer taxes should be lower. Why dismiss that explanation out of hand? Because everyone knows that beer taxes should be raised, not cut (emphasis added):

"The name of the game is to deflect attention at all costs from the fact that really we should be raising beer taxes and the most brilliant way to do that was devised by the beer industry by creating this 'roll back the beer tax' campaign," explains Michele Simon, president of the industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics....

According to public health researchers, when the beer industry saves money, the rest of society ends up picking up the tab.

Lowering the beer excise tax "would lead to an increase of sales of alcohol and an increase in drinking, and that would lead to an associated or proportionate increase in the health problems associated with alcohol," says Alex Wagenaar, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida who has studied the impact of the tax on public health. "It's chronic disease for people that drink heavily, it's also, just for people that occasionally drink more than a very small amount, [an] increased risk for car crashes, pedestrian injuries, fights and assaults and things like that."

That's one way of looking at it. But as someone who has given the beer industry a lot of money over the years but has never received any of it back, I disagree with this collectivist analysis. It seems to me that "sin taxes" are fundamentally unjust because they punish the responsible majority for the misdeeds of a minority. If my own beer consumption does not impose costs on others, why should I have to pay a levy supposedly aimed at recouping those costs? In my view, Santorum took the wrong position because he called for cutting the beer tax in half, as opposed to eliminating it altogether. I realize Tim Murphy, Michele Simon, and Alex Wagenaar disagree. But the strength of their conviction does not transform an opinion into a fact.

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  • KDN||

    Rolling Rock, Yuengling, and Keystone.

    1% market share is major, brah.

  • ||

    Rock is made in NJ now, I think. It was bought by the beer evil empire. I think Keystone is brewed in outdoor dirt pits in Newfoundland. Vitamin Y is genuine PA.

    So are the sublime Troegs, Victory and Stoudt's.

  • Ska||

    Victory is PA? Why'd I think Victory was in SF? Well, either way, Victory kicks ass.

  • Leftist Behavior||

    Don't forget Weyerbacher and for those who enjoy a super shitty beer, Iron City.

  • Raston Bot||

    I had Stoudt's Brown Dog Stout on cask a year back... I did not know my tongue had a g-spot until that moment.

  • ChrisO||

    Stoudt's makes some of the best beer I've had, apart from my dad's little homebrew operation.

  • Brandon||

    Keystone, or at least some Keystone, is brewed in Golden, Colorado, at the Coors (Now Miller/Coors) brewery.

  • robc||

    Sam Adams is primarily brewed in Pennsylvania...add another 1%.

  • Robert||

    Did Stroh's move out?

  • robc||

    Stroh was bought out in 2000, IIRC. Plus they were based in Michigan.

  • Isaac Bartram||

    Yuengling bought the Stroh's plant in Tampa.

    Yuengling is now browed in Florida as well as PA.

  • robc||

    I knew they had a brewery in Florida, didnt know where it came from.

  • Lew Bryson||

    They have two breweries in PA -- the original in Pottsville, and a large relatively new one (about ten years old, I think) about three miles away -- and the former Stroh plant in Tampa. They bought that shortly after Stroh closed it, and rehired most of the laid-off workers.

  • Lew Bryson||

    They had a large brewery in PA from 1981 (formerly the Schaefer brewery), which was bought by Pabst in 1999 (their last brewery, they currently don't own one...thought they do now own the Stroh brand), then sold to Diageo in 2001, which used the plant to make Smirnoff Ice. Boston Beer bought it in 2007 and put a lot into modernizing it, and is now making most of their beer there.

  • ||

    Left wing scolds vs. right wing scolds. How fun. NOT.

  • Skip||

    The difference is that Left Wing scolds cost the rest of us money while the Right Wing scolds mostly just hurt the feelings of gay people.

  • rather||

    onetime I was playing caterpillar and I got stuck behind a toilet and I had to eat my hair until I became a moth.

  • sarcasmic||

    Homebrewing thread?

  • Rev. Blue Moon||

    Oh yes please. I eagerly await being told how shitty ny choices in beer are.

  • ||

    Yes! I just moved my very first batch of homebrew to secondary last night. Making a weizenbock...so far so good.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've got two pilsners on tap, another carbonating, two in secondary, one in primary, and I started an experimental brown lager on Sunday.
    And a stout on tap as well.

    My liver hates me.

  • Randy||

    Don't be modest, I'm sure other organs and people hate you too.

  • Sudden||

    Fuck you all. In spite of being smart enough to eschew my Catholic upbringing about the time I was old enough to think, I am still stupid enough to decide that the Catholic season of Lent offers a valid reason to give up one of my favorite vices for 40 days. Therefore, starting tomorrow, I will not be imbibing the greatest beverage again until Palm Sunday. I am stupid, and a glutton for punishment, and yet convinced that I must continually prove I am not an alcoholic.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'll drink to that!

  • ||

    I dedicate our heretofore daily beer threads to Sudden's irrational self-restraint.

  • sarcasmic||

    Did you use extract or all grain?

    I ask because I've had very poor luck using wheat in an all grain batch. The gluten turns the mash into a glop of dough and I never got full starch conversion. Then again I never tried with six-row barley, mainly because I've never seen it for sale.

  • robc||

    Ive never had a problem, but have you tied rice hulls?

    Although, that sounds worse than a typical stuck mash situation.

    On my *weizens, Im usually about 60/40 wheat to barley (pilsner malt).

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm thinking my mill was too tight. That would explain a lot.

    You seriously get a full conversion with that ratio?
    What temp do you mash at, how long does it take, and do you do an iodine test?

  • robc||

    I typically triple decoct my hefeweizens. Not going to go thru that schedule.

    But, for the others, I single infusion in the low 150s. For 1 hour. I dont bother with the iodine test, I mash longer than necessary and have never had a problem getting conversion.

    I did a ryezenbock with ~60% rye. That fucker was sticky.

  • sarcasmic||

    I typically triple decoct my hefeweizens. Not going to go thru that schedule.

    Sounds like a long day.

    But, for the others, I single infusion in the low 150s. For 1 hour.

    That's pretty much what I do, though I try to land just under 150 and usually give it two hours.

    Then I pull out a third or so, boil it, and add it back in. Single decoction?

  • robc||

    yep, thats a single. Although on earlier decoctions, I pull closer to 2/3rds out.

    For decoction for mashout though, 1/3 is right.

  • sarcasmic||

    I typically triple decoct my hefeweizens.

    Protein rest. Gluten is a protein. That makes sense.

  • robc||

    Standard decoction schedule is 40-60-70 (celcius), which is 104-140-158 F.

    My last hefeweizen hit 102-140-154. But it can be done with multi-infusions or decoction, Ive dont it both ways.

    Or, if your mash tun can take heat, you can heat it to change rest temps. Mine is a cooler, so I dont have that option.

  • Robert||

    Milling...rice hulls...makes me think of fireworks, surprising to see those elements come up in another context.

  • Sam Grove||

    I worked at a Du Pont explosives plant. One day, a coworker and I unloaded a trailer full of 100 lb. bags of rice hulls.

  • ||

    I primed with specialty grains and then added LMEs. Still a rookie, so I want the satisfaction of making some good brews under my belt before getting all perfectionist and advanced.

  • sarcasmic||

    Believe it or not, all grain really isn't that difficult. It just adds time and requires more equipment.

    I coached a coworker of mine with barely five batches under his belt through an all grain session, and he hasn't used extract since.

  • ||

    I'm sure it isn't hard, and I'm sure it also tastes better, especially in the weizen styles I love. And maybe even saves a little money.

    Right now I'm just thrilled to be brewing and hope this first batch works out. First taste test reminds me of the Schneider Eisbock (it's pretty high gravity, in the 10-11% range), even though I didn't do the whole eisbock brewing process. If it's more or less equivalent in flavor, that's a $6 per 12 oz brew and my first batch already paid for my equipment plus ingredients, with plenty of change.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm not judging! I waited a few years before going all grain because it looked intimidating on paper.
    Just letting you know that it's not.
    As far as saving money goes, my last batch set me back $18 (would have been $4 more had I not recycled the yeast from a previous batch), and that includes the propane.
    I buy my base grain by the 55# sack (special order from the health food store is cheaper than the local home brew supply) and my hops by the pound (hops direct dot com), which helps keep cost down big time.

  • robc||

    I thought that weizens were the styles in which the difference between extract and all grain was the smallest. You can make great extract wheats.

  • ||

    Ah, didn't know. I'd read that double and triple decoctions were preferred especially for wheat beers. Still so far the extract version smells and tastes just fine.

  • robc||

    I felt that my extract hefeweizen and my single infusion version were indistinguishable. When I started decocting, it improved.

  • robc||

    I switched about batch 8 or so.

    Nothing wrong with extract+specialty until you feel comfortable. Or forever, for that matter.

  • Christina||

    It's my understanding that extract brewing is to all-grain as a tricycle is to a motorcycle.

  • robc||

    Have a zoigl going...diacetyl rest right now, will move to lagering tomorrow. Keg it in 15 days.

  • ||

    I need to get a dual keg system. I'm not looking forward to sanitizing 100 bottles for two simultaneous brews.

  • sarcasmic||

    Dual? I've got five!

  • ||

    Lucky! But I'm a one-a-day guy, and my wife's a one-a-day girl. Three might be enough to get the diversity we like and last us until the next batches are done.

  • Joe M||

    Ugh. I have only bottled a couple batches since I got kegs. Kegging is beautiful.

  • Christina||

    My husband would sell our children for a kegging system.

  • Joe M||

    Weizenbocks are one of the most delicious styles in history. I adore Aventinus.

  • ||

    Yes, it's my very favorite. The fact that you have to pay at least $4 a single bottle and can't easily find 6- and 12-packs (at least where I live) was the reason I got into brewing in the first place. Also, my favorite (Live Oak Primus) is only available on tap. Figured I could save money and enjoy my favorite beer every day.

  • robc||

    I eagerly await being told how shitty ny choices in beer are.

    Assuming that is a typo and you meant "my" and not "New York", glad to help.

    I will start with your name.

    Sigh....

    Pick up (in increasing order, IMO):

    Hoegaarden
    Ommegang Wit
    Celis White
    St Bernardus Wit.

    Quick modern history of the wit style. The style was dead until Pierre Celis reopened the Hoegaarden brewery in his home town in Belgium. In the 80s, it burnt in a fire and while trying to raise the money to rebuild, Interbrew (which later merged with Ambev to form Inbev which merged with Bud to form AB-Inbev) made him an offer he couldnt refuse. He sold out and they rebuilt it and continue to brew it to this day. And have only slightly dumbed it down.

    Celis then moves to Texas! (non-compete?) and opens Celis Brewery, making Celis White. A few years later he sells out to Miller who immediately runs it into the ground. a small micro in Michigan buys the rights to the name, Celis comes over, checks out their beer, gives them thumbs up, and they are slowly spreading (I can buy it in southern Indiana now).

    Meanwhile, Pierre had moved back to Belgium and consulted with St Bernardus on their wit.

    In 2011, Pierre Celis passed away. RIP beer legend.

    So 3 of the 4 wits that I suggested you drink instead of Blue Moon were created by Celis.

  • ||

    Is Celis similar in taste to Hoegaarden? (One of my favorites - along with Franziskaner and Pyramid Apricot, one of very few beers my wife and I agree on.)

  • robc||

    Yes, but Hoegaarden is a little "duller", I guess that is the best word.

    St Bernardus has a "grainy" feel to it that I really like, you can taste the presence of the raw wheat, IMO. Some dont like it.

    I think the other 3 I listed are better than Hoegaarden, but its close.

  • Raston Bot||

    I'm growing my own hops this season for the first time. Any suggestions for which type to use? Looks like they're all $5 per rhizome.

  • sarcasmic||

    Depends on what you brew.
    Just last year I would have said Kent Goldings, but today I'd say Saaz.

  • robc||

    I bought 3 plants a few years ago, 2 centennial and 1 zeus. The centennials died and the zeus is going gangbusters.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Lowering the beer excise tax "would lead to an increase of sales of alcohol and an increase in drinking, and that would lead to an associated or proportionate increase in the health problems associated with alcohol," says Alex Wagenaar

    To make sense of: presuppose nationalized health care.

  • ||

    Actually, we already pick up the tabs of the uninsured in the form of higher medical billings to our own insurance. The problem with the reasoning is that higher taxes will curb abusive drinking, which is inaccurate. If you're a raging alcoholic, having to pay a little extra isn't going to stop you. What it does do is cause the moderated drinker who has control over their drinking habits to spend less. It's just a backdoor way for the prohibitionists to attack and restrict drinking.

  • ||

    Could there be a more terrifying string of three words together than Public Health Researcher?

  • sarcasmic||

    Ravenous Bugblatter Beast?

  • Rev. Blue Moon||

    Ron Paul Newsletter?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    You're the father!

  • Ska||

    I laughed at this.

  • Alack||

    President Rick Santorum?

  • Sudden||

    Yes We Can?

  • Art Bell||

    New World Order?

  • George Noory||

    You're Old, Art.

  • ||

    PA has some great breweries. It also has some terrible, terrible beer purchasing laws that are something out of an Engels treatise.

    Also, as a Pennsylvanian and a libertarian Republican, I'm telling the rest of the US, don't elect this moran. Please.

  • Bee Tagger||

    It also has some terrible, terrible beer purchasing laws

    You mean you could buy alcohol in other states on President's Day? How do they have any motorists and/or children left alive?

    I need to reiterate that without the sarcasm because it's that perfect mix of infuriating and bewildering: the state store near to me was closed for President's Day.

  • ||

    A state store that sells beer? In PA? Nooooo..... Buy overpriced six packs (up to 2 of them) at restaurants. Otherwise, buy case quantities at the beer distributor. It was $35 for my last case of Saranac, versus $25 in New Jersey.

  • Leftist Behavior||

    I've found the prices at PA beer distributors varies greatly. The distributor I usually go to in SW PA sells Dogfish Head for about the same price as the actual brewery in DE. But I've been to other places where there is a significant mark-up. The worst I saw was when I visited Lancaster. This one distributor had like a $30-$40 mark up. It was ridiculous.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Sorry, I stupidly jumped from beer to wine/liquor.

  • Joe M||

    Four times during his two Senate terms Santorum pushed to cut the beer excise tax [which had been doubled in 1990] by half, over the protests of economists and public health experts who say that a lower tax would lead to a loss of revenue and lives.

    Fuck Tim Murphy.

  • Thom||

    But Public Health!

  • Sudden||

    I'll give Santorum credit for one thing, it appears he's drinking an actual beer in this photo. Dark, with an apparently creamy (dare I say frothy?) head. I'm wondering if its just a simple Guinness, maybe a nitrotapped porter...

    then again, it could just be santorum.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Though he seems to have a lot in common with the protestant-dominated Christian Right, I think the Catholic in him parts ways with the non-drinking Protestant on alcohol issues.

  • ||

    How about taxing burdens to society such as breeders?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I suppose that is a joke? Breeders - at least the married ones - produce productive citizens who help sustain the social-welfare programs. It's the lack of breeders which makes the bankruptcy of these programs even awfuller than it would have been.

  • PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL MYSTIC||

    a lower tax would lead to a loss of revenue and lives...

    All heed that taxes are the beneficent wellsping from which all life itself emerges!

    As Ben Franklin noted = "nothing is certain but Death and Taxes"!

    You see?! TAXES ARE LIFE

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    It's cool that Mother Jones figured out one way to make Santorum not look like an evil bag of dicks.

    Good goin yall.

  • ChrisO||

    No doubt. That's about the first positive thing I've ever heard about Santorum.

  • ||

    I hate California, but after reading this comment thread, I'm putting my computer down and driving to Walgreens to buy a bottle of Vodka. Or maybe I'll just go to Chevron and buy it.

    Enjoy your fucked up beer laws while I enjoy buying booze a a gas station. And in this statist hellhole no less.

  • Robert||

    The way the prices are going, soon you may buy your gas at a liquor store.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Molotov Cocktails are on Aisle 3.

  • timmmmmah||

    Ditto NY...who would've thought such a nanny state place like NYC would have such lax alcohol laws (at least in regards to who can sell)?

  • robc||

    The current federal beer excise tax is:

    $7 on first 60k barrels
    $18 above that
    2,000,000 barrel cutoff for getting 60k discount, if you brew more than 2M, no discount.

    The proposal is to change those numbers to $3.50/$16/6M.

    The third is for the benefit of Yuengling and Sam Adams, who both brew primarily in PA.

    153 co-sponsors in the house, 37 in the senate. Quickly running down the list, looks like slightly more Ds than Rs, but its pretty bipartisan.

  • robc||

    And by "primarily" I mean they are the only 2 between 2 and 6 million and no one else is that close to 2 million. Sierra Nevada is next and they were still under 800k in 2010.

  • robc||

    Oops, my primarily wasnt were I thought it was, but just wanted to make it clear that the 2 to 6 million change benefits exactly two breweries.

  • robc||

    In case anyone cares (this might only interest me), in 2010, the 60,000 line was between Flying Dog and Victory.

    Flying Dog was just over 60k barrels, Victory just under.

    Looks like 39 total breweries payed the higher rate for 2010.

  • Alexander D. Mitchell IV||

    If the only rationale for seeking a business tax rate reduction is corruption, I'd sincerely like to hear the explanation behind yesterday's announcement that Obama seeks a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%: http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....story.html

    Oh, wait. He's from Chicago. Enough said.

    Oh, wait. He's from Chicago. Enough said.

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