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Homer Simpson once ruminated,

now there’s a temporary solution.

This editorial first appeared in the LA Times on Monday.

“Beer,” Homer Simpson once ruminated, “now there’s a temporary solution.”

The wisdom of Homer Simpson, it seems, has found its way up to Sacramento. A freshman lawmaker hopes to ease the state’s budget crunch by jacking up the state’s tax on brew. …

Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, proposes raising the tax on beer from two cents per can or bottle to 30 cents. As even Homer Simpson can calculate, that would amount to $1.80 a six-pack.

A temporary solution, indeed. Sure, increasing the amount Sacramento skims off of each brew might briefly bolster the state’s bottom line, but even that’s questionable. When the price of something spikes, most people have the good sense to make do with less of it. For evidence, look no further than the newfound popularity of hybrid cars and the decline of the SUV market.

If Sacramento were to raise its surcharge on beer, some Californians might turn to home-brewing, while others would opt to drink more wine – a prospect that, no doubt, suits a Northern Californian lawmaker like Beall just fine.

Either way, it’s doubtful that the tax would do much to fill Sacramento’s depleted treasury – or curb alcohol abuse.

As with smokers, people with drinking problems are unlikely to be deterred by higher costs. They just cut out other expenses in their lives, such as health care or providing for the needs of their children.

Beall argues that because alcohol imposes hefty costs on society, drinkers should pay the bill. “The people who use alcohol should pay for part of the cost to society, just like we’ve accepted that concept with tobacco,” he says.

But the analogy is inapt. While smoking is almost always addictive and, by extension, harmful, such is not the case with alcohol. Many people can and do drink in moderation. And beer, which has a far lower alcohol content than wine and spirits, is the drink that most lends itself to responsible consumption.

Which is to say, hiking taxes on beer would penalize some of California’s most responsible – and working-class – drinkers for doing something perfectly legal and utterly harmless.

No wonder most observers anticipate that raising the beer tax – which would require two-thirds legislative approval and a public vote – isn’t going to happen. This is just one more example of a politician failing to think through the likely outcome of his ideas.

As Homer would say: “D’oh!”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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