Four Tar Heel Lawmakers Have Signed on as Sponsors
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
A push to cut beer taxes in half and take them back to 1951 levels has gained momentum in Congress as the Beer Institute announced late last month that H.R. 836 now has support from a majority (218 of 435) of House members.
“This is ludicrous that our lawmakers would even consider slashing alcohol excise taxes, a move that would not only significantly cut needed revenue but would lead to tremendous increases in healthcare costs, not to mention loss of lives resulting from increased consumption,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “And yet, this kind of legislation arises virtually every year and many of our representatives sign on.”
In fact, at least four Tar Heel lawmakers – Rep. Howard Coble (NC-6), Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5), Rep. Bob Etheridge (NC-2), and Rep. Melvin Watt (NC-12) — are among the list of sponsors of the bill that the Center for Science in the Public Interest says would rob the treasury of at least $1.5 billion per year, encourage heavy and underage drinking and enrich the three foreign-owned firms that account for more than 90 percent of domestic beer production.
In a letter to House members, George Hacker, director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project said the measure would worsen the nearly $200 billion annual economic toll of alcohol-related problems and would increase the alcohol death toll, already at 85,000 Americans per year. Instead of lowering alcohol taxes, he urged Congress to raise excise rates on this dangerous substance to help recover a percentage of its cost to society.
“The beer industry is already getting a free ride on taxes,” Hacker’s letter said. “In the past 55 years, the federal excise tax on beer has been raised just once (in 1991, under the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1990). Failure to adjust the tax rates for inflation has caused a 41 percent decline in their value since 1991 and has helped to reduce the relative cost of beer, stimulating consumption and sales.”
Unfortunately, much of that consumption is among teens. Thanks to the huge advertising budgets of beer marketers, today American children will have seen approximately 100,000 beer commercials by the time they graduate from high school. No wonder there are 3.3 million young people ages 15 to 17 already addicted to alcohol.
Furthermore, studies show that the U.S. has lost some $24 billion in potential revenues by not keeping beer taxes in line with inflation, revenues that could have helped address healthcare issues created by alcohol abuse.
As for arguments that a beer tax decrease would help the average American and boost the economy, the claims simply don’t hold water.
According to CSPI, lowering excise taxes would be of little or no help to most Americans since 40 percent of adults don’t drink at all and another 80 percent would save, at most, an estimated $13.25 per year, assuming the beer producers passed the lower rate on to consumers. So, who would benefit from the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief (BEER) Act of 2009? About 10 percent of beer drinkers, the heaviest consumers of course, and three foreign-owned companies: InBev-Anheuser-Busch:, Miller Brewing and Molson Coors Brewing.
“This tax cut will not ‘save jobs’ or help consumers,” said David Rosenbloom, president and CEO of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. “… Congress should be raising alcohol taxes to help lower medical costs and pay for health reform. The idea of cutting alcohol taxes is shameful.”
H.R. 836, which has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee, is sponsored by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Tom Latham (R-Iowa). A companion bill, S-1058 was introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)