Before we begin, I thought it would be a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the issue presented before us. Like I always say, to know is to understand. So here are a few links on H.R. 5034 – Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010 also known as The Bill of Greed:
Note: After multiple Google searches, I cannot find anyone who supports this bill besides the 121 tools in the House of Representatives who co-sponsored the bill (as of June 22, 2010) and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
The short legal version (if there really is one), this bill aims to do a few things: Amend the Wilson & Webb-Kenyon act, alter the commerce clause in relation to the states regulation of alcohol, reverse the burden of proof from the states to the consumers in relation to legal challenges, and a few other things. The short non-legal version, this bill aims to stop direct shipments of wine to consumers by wineries & online wine & spirits shops, increase tax revenues for the states, and apparently protect little Timmy & little Sarah from obtaining alcohol.
There are many reasons why this bill is ridamndiculous, but here are a few:
- The National Beer Wholesalers Association, who wrote the bill, feels like you should be protected from the evils of direct shipments of wine because little Timmy or little Sarah (your underage drinking children) may go online and order a case of wine (cheap or expensive) and drink their asses off. I don’t know about you, but when I was under 21, I didn’t care about wine. Wine was the last thing we thought of when we were at high school or college parties. So for them to make this argument is very weak! Just ask any kid/young adult between 16 – 20 to name which types of alcohol they would drink at a party and I guarantee only 5% will even mention wine (not including wine coolers).
- Although the sponsors of the bill and the NBWA say that this will not end direct shipment of wine, this is exactly their intent. The states are worried about all the legal challenges that have come from the Granholm v. Heald case and the costs associated with defending their discriminatory practices against out-of-state products. But more importantly, they’re concerned about tax collection. The NBWA is only concerned about controlling the market and protecting its market share.
- Although the states and alcohol wholesalers say this bill will not discriminate against out-of-state products, this is exactly what will happen. Remember the tax collection issue? If you control the flow of alcohol between what the state brings in and what the wholesalers bring in, you’ll have better control over tax collection. With direct shipments, the tax is applied at point of origin instead of where it’s shipped. That’s mainly because you open yourself to the possibility of taxing the same item multiple times before it arrives to the consumer. An issue consumers have fought since the declaration of independence. So in their minds, the best way to control the tax revenue stream is to kill the practice all together.
Here is my take on all of this. I think this bill is completely flawed and self-serving. The NBWA already has a huge market share/monopoly in this country. Why should the laws be changed because they can’t adapt to a changing environment? This is greedy on their part and the laws shouldn’t be changed just to further their cause. The states are another issue. They always use the guise of protecting children in cases like this in order to scare the public into agreeing with their opinion. In reality though, this is only about tax revenue and they could care less if little Timmy or little Sarah gets their hands on some product. As long as they collect their share of the tax revenue, they don’t care. And speaking of children, let’s talk about the issue of children potentially obtaining wine or spirits via direct shipment. I tested a few websites that offer this to consumers and did you know that before you even put in your credit card, you’re served with multiple disclosures stating that you must be 21 years of age or older and that the person signing for the alcohol also must be so? This will also be verified at the time of delivery. So, if minors actually get their hands on alcohol by tricking the system, whose fault is it really? Based on the amount of disclosures and declarative statements, I think the wineries and online stores have done a sufficient enough job. This alone is enough to defeat this part of the bill, but if they really wanted to be smart about it, why not add an age verification system to the process where the consumer enters their driver’s license number/ID number into a secure database or some other form of age verification? That’s a simple fix to the system if it’s really a concern and in the 21 century, this technology is readily available. However, we all know, this isn’t the issue. It’s all about the Benjamins!
In closing, although I don’t think this bill will see the light of day, I would like to encourage you to write your fellow congressman and make sure your opinions are heard! These are the issues that many of us Americans overlook because they’re not sexy or dramatic like healthcare. These are the kinds of bills that you have to keep your eye on because even it gets defeated, they’ll try to sneak it into a much larger bill that is very important in order for it to pass. Without your voice, politicians may think you don’t care about the issue and vote with the wholesalers. So speak out, educate others on this issue, and make your voices heard!