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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beer Tax in Today's O

I've been watching the news from Salem for hints that the beer tax was picking up strength. So far, nothing--despite proposals to raise a portfolio of other taxes. However, in today's Oregonian, Mark Kirchmeier tries to give it a little life. Kirchmeier owns a pub, but was formerly involved in politics. He sings a song we've heard a million times--a mixture of false assumptions, mis-statements, and disingenuous logic. It can be summarized thus:
  1. Beer wreaks economic havoc on the state and the taxes don't cover the damage.
  2. The per-glass cost (he cites a 12-ounce glass, just to make it even more absurd) is low! The per ounce cost is negligible! (Okay, he didn't argue that.)
  3. Brewers are nothin' special, not the "icons" (his word) they claim to be, and we shouldn't be protecting them.
He does admit that Cannon's bill is excessive, and suggests a price hike of 5-7 cents a pint.

I've argued against phony arguments like this enough times that it doesn't bear doing so again (see here for a previous rebuttal, a general discussion, and here for a philosophical discussion; here are stats relevant to the issue, and here's a list of comparative state beer taxes). I will point out that nowhere does Kirchmeier mention that this tax affects only breweries--he couches it as a tax on bars. He refuses to mention the cost to brewers, using that BS per-glass formulation over which he has only part control. And finally, his derisive dismissal of local breweries (whom he lacks the courage to actually identify) is further spin.

There's nothing moral about taxes--they are a feature of public policy. But what enrages me is that the pro-beer tax camp won't argue the issue on it's face. They use dishonest arguments. When you're forced to do that, you know something's fishy. Kirchmeier's article stinks like a two-day-old carp.


  1. Yes, I wish they would realize that the beer is taxed before it is sold. The brewery bears the weight of the tax at production on a per barrel basis. I know you know this but I had to type something somewhere. I fell better.

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  3. It's times like now when I wish I could move to Eastern Europe to a country with a flat tax... That's the fairest solution... If only there could be a Beervana, Portland, Oregon in the Czech.

  4. I wouldn't mind a small increase in beer tax at this time since we are in an economic low. I think the proposed tax is far to high though, and I know Oregon wouldn't agree to compromises on spending and a scheduled repeal for the tax during an economic high. Both parties in Oregon seem to be about spend, spend, spend, and it doesn't take a genius to look at there past decisions and know this money will be diverted to some other thing. If Oregons government were more trustworthy I don't think they'd be getting the reactions that they are now.

    @Mathew D
    Flat tax has its share of unfairness too :) It may sound nice and fluffy, but do the math on it.