Why I’m not foaming over higher beer taxes

BEER TAXES, oh brother.

Everybody’s griping about Gov. Rendell’s new beer taxes, and they want Joe Sixpack to lead the fight against ’em. I’m sorry, I’m just not up to it.

Taxes give me a headache. I’m still struggling over my Form 10-something-or-other, and the government is telling me I can’t deduct Advil as a business expense. Every year it’s the same routine: Collect all those fake taxicab receipts, launder the cash, hide the bank accounts, notarize a birth certificate for my dog – all before April 15.

You’ve really gotta have your paperwork together to satisfy the IRS.

Now the governor wants to jack up beer taxes a few more pennies.

I know I should be outraged. But honestly, the way I go through the suds, I wish ALL taxes could be collected on beer. Social Security, the defense budget, even the NEA funds for those goofy artists who make sculptures out of cow dung and used auto parts – go ahead, tack my share onto my brew. Just spare me IRS Schedule K-1, Part IV(c).

Imagine the scene at your corner deli.

You: How much is this sixpack?

Clerk: That’s $5.99, plus tax . . . Let’s see, that’ll be four thousand bucks even.

You: Um, does that include my city wage tax?

Clerk: You bet – would you care to donate three dollars to the presidential election campaign?

This is one of those economy of scale issues, see. The taxes would be pro-rated, based on your annual alcohol intake. Bottom line: the more you drink, the less you pay. Frankly, given all those sordid tales about the high cost of government waste, you’ll want to drink even more.

Yeah, it’s absurd, but no more than most of the yammering and posturing going on around this issue.

In Pennsylvania, the beer tax would jump from 8 cents to 25 cents a gallon, or 14 cents per sixpack. So what? If you can’t afford an extra 56 cents for a case of Coors, you really oughta reconsider your family budget priorities.

I know, beer drinkers already pay a huge burden of taxes – something like 44 percent of the cost of our booze is tax, according to the Beer Institute.

But guess what: 44 percent of everything is tax. The federal tax code is the single biggest factor in the pricing of nearly every consumer product you buy, whether it’s sales tax, payroll tax, import duties, property tax, excise taxes, gasoline taxes, capital gains taxes, you name it. Uncle Sam is getting his cut, no matter what.

The pro-tax arguments are just as nuts.

Three years ago, the Centers for Disease Control claimed that cheap beer is the leading contributor to the spread of sexually transmitted disease, and that raising the tax on a six-pack by 20 cents would reduce  gonorrhea by 9 percent.

The finding, said the Associated Press, was based on the theory that beer-addled paramours are more likely to have sex without a condom. I guess it’s a twist on the familiar “beer goggles” effect – though it’s hard for me to comprehend how 20 cents’ worth of beer makes that much of a difference in the attractiveness of the opposite sex.

Moreover, the CDC study surprisingly ignores the well-known fact of medical science that guys who drink excessive amounts of booze suffer a peculiar, temporary physical disability that makes the use of a condom completely unnecessary, if you get my drift.

Other groups, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, defend higher beer taxes by claiming the levy affects only heavy drinkers. If only that were true, it would mean our elected officials finally would be self-sufficient.

The fact is, beer taxes are a highly regressive tax. Realistically, you can only drink so much, whether you’re rich or poor, yet your tax burden is the same.

If Rendell wanted to be fair about this, beer taxes would be on a sliding scale, based on wealth and taste in beer.

If you walk into the beer store and buy, say, a 40 of O.E., you pay the lowest rate – and you might qualify for some state Yuengling assistance.

If you buy a case of some expensive local microbrew, you pay the middle rate – but you get a refund for supporting local industry.

And if wheel up in a Lincoln Navigator, click on the flashers and use your credit card to buy a six-pack of Amstel Light, baby, you better hire a CPA. You ‘ve just moved into a whole new tax bracket.

   Beer radar

The faucets are open at a new beer bar in the Graduate Hospital area of Center City. It’s Ten Stone at 21st and South streets, a location you might remember as the site of the old Hot Club in the late ’70s. Its dozen or so taps include local micros (Yards, Flying Fish), out-of-towners (Stone Arrogant Bastard) and Belgians (La Chouffe). Decent pub fare, a pool table and a handsome mahogany bar make it a comfy addition to the neighborhood. So, what’s the meaning of bar name? It’s the British weight of an untapped half-barrel of beer (about 140 pounds) . . .

Meanwhile in the ‘burbs, check out the revamped beer selection at Flanigan’s Boathouse (113 Fayette St., Conshohocken). The joint promises to feature at least five locals among its 36 taps . . . It still feels like winter, but a handful of hot-weather brews are already showing up on the shelves: Flying Fish Summer Ale is here, while Weyerbacher Blanche and Troeg’s Sunshine Pils are on the way.

Realbeer.Com has crowned its Battle of the Beers, an NCAA-like bracket of suds. The winner by popular demand: Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA. The Delaware destroyer knocked off Alaskan Smoked Porter.


Tonight: Victory V-12 tasting at the Beer Yard (218 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne). The sampling, from 5-7 p.m., features big bottles of the Downingtown brewery’s Belgian-style 12 percenter. Tix: free. Info: 610-688-3431.

Tomorrow: Second annual Brewski Festival, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Champion, Pa. Tix: $28. Hours: 5-9 p.m. Info: 800-452-2223, ext. 7937.

April 19: Split Thy Skull barleywine fest, Sugar Mom’s Church Street Lounge (225 Church St. in Old City). The annual event survives the exodus of founder Jim Anderson and will feature a selection of local heavyweights. Starts at 1 p.m. No cover. Info: 215-925-8219.

   Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a glass of Paulaner Salvator.



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