Opinion Why I’m Thinking About Alcohol Taxes
No, the Richest One Percent Don’t Pay 40 Percent of the Taxes.
A misleading conservative talking point that refuses to die.It is a figure that has been repeated a million times on Fox News diatribes and in College Republican lectures sponsored by aging billionaires. It is one of the handful of debate-enders, like “Ronald Reagan defeated communism” or “gun controls don’t stop crime,” that any good Republican apparatchik has at his fingertips.
This is an excerpt from The Atlantic’s climate newsletter, The Weekly Planet..
The climate scientist Ken Caldeira recently tweeted a joke meant to charm carbon-tax advocates. “If we don't want people to drink so much alcohol, rather than taxing alcohol, we can subsidize everything that is not alcohol,”. His point, if I may ruin the punch line, is that is kind of silly. It relies far more on subsidizing renewables and other zero-carbon sources than on penalizing fossil fuels, which is what we really care about in the first place. We should just .
Business groups are fighting Biden's $3.5T budget over taxes, drug negotiations
Major business groups oppose raising corporate taxes to pay for the bill while some industries have come out against specific parts of proposal.Advocacy groups are drawing battle lines in opposition to parts of the bill aiming to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, lower prices on prescription drugs and combat climate change. The fights that could trim or threaten to kill the legislation will play out in the coming days and weeks as committees rush to meet a Wednesday deadline for drafting legislation.
I think this comparison—between carbon taxes and alcohol taxes—is a surprisingly instructive one. That’s because, to start,. Fifty years of studies show that as the price of alcohol increases, the societal problems decrease.
But it’s also instructive because, well, consider the history of alcohol taxes. The first time that Congress tried raising taxes on alcohol, Americans stagedthat had to be forcibly subdued by, literally, George Washington. When carbon-tax advocates point to the history of alcohol taxes, I do not think that this is the anecdote they have in mind.
Yet it’s worth sitting with this history for a moment and seeing what we can learn for climate policy. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury secretary, advised Washington and Congress to pass an excise tax on distilled spirits. Hamilton’s goals were more modest than those of modern carbon-tax advocates: He didn’t want to reduce booze consumption at all; he just needed an easy source of revenue to pay off the country’s Revolutionary War debts. The tax seemed popular at first with business and financial elites. But by 1794, it was violently opposed by small commodity producers, especially in western Pennsylvania—doesn’t that—who distilled their own spirits at home and relied on the growing whiskey business for their livelihood. When more than 400 men attacked the home of a tax collector, something had to be done. Washington rode in with 13,000 men and peaceably put down the rebellion.
House Dems begin moving parts of Biden $3.5T domestic plans
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats began pushing plans for providing paid family and medical leave, easing climate change and bolstering education through House committees Thursday as they battled Republicans and among themselves over President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion vision for reshaping federal priorities. Five separate panels worked on their slices of the 10-year proposal, early steps in what looms as a fraught autumn for Democrats hoping to enact a remarkable range of major policy changes.
The political repercussions continued, however. The backlash helped spark the formation of the Democratic-Republican Party and, with it, the first U.S. party system. The tax remained unpopular until 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson repealed it.
Alcohol was arguably as essential to the early American republic as fossil fuels are to our way of life today. In the 1790s, the average American adult drank the equivalent ofof 200-proof alcohol a year. Whiskey was used as a medium of exchange in the frontier. By 1830, the average American adult drank the equivalent of seven gallons of 200-proof alcohol annually. Seven gallons.
That was as high as consumption ever got—but what reduced alcohol’s use was not a tax. It was economic expansion paired with a social movement. A new religious crusade, the temperance movement, stigmatized alcohol consumption and public drunkenness, framing them as sins. “You could say [the temperance movement is] the practice-round for nearly every other activist movement that would follow in American history,” Jon Grinspan, a curator at the National Museum of American History, told me in an email. Americans also started substituting one licit drug for another: From the 1820s to the 1850s, tea and coffee consumption more than doubled.
Dems warned on taxes: Voters already suffering ‘inflation tax’
People consider the immediate pain of rising inflation a tax on their wallet, a warning to House and Senate Democrats as they write up over 40 new taxes to pay for President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion wish list. © Provided by Washington Examiner In a new survey provided to Secrets, Zogby Analytics found near-universal agreement that rising prices for daily goods are hitting voters. The Zogby poll, which surveyed an unusually large group of 4,298 likely voters, found that 71% agree that higher prices are “another 'tax' on Americans.” Just 19% disagreed in the survey, which had a 1.5% margin of error.
What followed was a historic drop in booze consumption. By the 1850s, the average American adult drank less than two gallons a year. When the Civil War broke out a decade later, Congress desperately needed revenue and passed a new excise tax on alcohol. (It helped that many of the same religious moralists who had led the temperance movement now participated in the antislavery Republican Party.) As the war ended, the tax remained—and became essential. By the turn of the 20th century, the alcohol tax generated more thanof federal revenues every year. (In 1913, when Congress imposed the modern income tax, its share fell to .)
This history is important, I think, because it shows that even in a case where America implemented an economically rational policy, we didn’t adopt it by a particularly rational process. In 1790, the government could not impose an alcohol tax without facing rebellion; by 1890, the government depended on an alcohol tax for a large share of its revenues. The politics that made that change possible stemmed from, first, a campaign led by one of the country’s earliest activist movements and, second, the greater availability of alcohol substitutes such as coffee and tea. Even then, temperance activists later tried to pass their favored policy, a supply-side ban on the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol that we call Prohibition.
These two preconditions seem more important when considered for fossil fuels, which furnish most primary energy in our industrial society. The U.S. might one day adopt a carbon tax. But cheap substitutes to fossil fuels seem likely to come first—and a policy that focuses on securing them as options shouldn’t be rejected on the merits.
K Street counting on Senate to pare back Democrats’ tax plan .
Lobbyists for business interests are confident they can fight off parts of House tax proposal they find most threatening.In interviews this week, lobbyists representing a range of business interests said they aren’t too worried about the party’s opening salvo on tax increases, confident the bill — and the threats their clients insist it poses — will be pared back in order to thread its way through a narrowly divided House and Senate.