Industry rallies to stop new wine tax — but should it?
A funny thing happens when liberals in the wine industry — and there are a lot of them — are faced with the prospect of higher taxes on alcohol.
Suddenly, their inner conservative emerges.
I expect that’s what’s going to happen if the Congress and the Obama administration try to raise excise taxes on wine, as was widely reported yesterday.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is charged with finding the money to pay for the healthcare promises President Obama made, is reportedly looking at “lifestyle tax proposals” that include a rise in the current federal tax of 21 cents per 750 ml. bottle of wine to as high as 70 cents. (California, which currently taxes wine at 20 cents per gallon, also is considering an increase.)
This is going to be a big fight, bringing out all the Usual Suspects: retailers, wholesalers, the Wine Institute and their allies will rally to the no-tax position. Against them will be the junk scientists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other anti-alcohol types, as well as good government types who sincerely want to use the new funds to provide healthcare to the tens of millions of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured.
That’s where the discomfort level comes in for the industry. The wine industry is commendably good at raising money through charities, such as wine auctions, to help farm workers with their healthcare, and no doubt the tens of thousands of mainly Mexican field hands whose sweat lets us enjoy wine have benefited hugely from the industry’s compassion.
But such charitable giving makes only a small dent in the nation’s healthcare crisis. Granted, it’s ridiculous for the Congress to sugar-coat a tax increase by calling it a “lifestyle” adjustment. But we all know the country is broke. If we’re sincere about bringing healthcare to everyone in America, then the money has to come from someplace. President Obama has been telling us that we’re in this together and we’re all going to have to sacrifice to get out of it. That includes the wine industry. I realize that other bloggers are going to come out swinging against the tax increase, and they will express outrage that wine is being lumped in with Gatorade and Coca Cola. But I think we need to step up to the plate, take our fair share of the hit, and be counted.
Decades ago, the conservative Democratic Senator, Russell B. Long, quipped, “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.” That’s what we’re going to be hearing from the wine industry, if this tax proposal moves forward. “Tax soda! Tax cigarettes! Tax candy! Tax anything you want, but don’t tax wine!” We can do better.
Dept. of Thanks, but No thanks
From the Sonoran [Arizona] Alliance:
Republican Professionals: “Politics on the Rocks” is proud to announce that we are having a wine tasting event in Old Town Scottsdale on Thursday, June 11th at 6:00 PM. Come join us for a fun evening of “Conservatives & Cocktails.”
Umm, I’m busy that night.