Go ahead and tax my tasty beer.
We live in a world afflicted with a pandemic of NIMBY. If you live in a bubble of denial or are simply a wonderful person who welcomes one and all who dare enter your personal space no matter their socio-economic status, you may not know that NIMBY stands for "Not in my back yard."
Sometimes people get pretty emphatic when they invoke NIMBY, and you almost want to give them credit for not being afraid to take a stand for something they believe in, especially when you consider that taking a NIMBY stand against various things often isn't the politically correct thing to do. But the ones we should be on the lookout for are the snakes in the grass who publicly take an anti-NIMBY stance, but quietly in the background they're working feverishly to make sure that the offending person or group never touches foot in their time zone.
The whole NIMBY thing crossed my mind the other day when I was talking about taxes with a smoker. In the Minnesota Legislature, with Democrats running the show, there's a lot of talk this spring about raising taxes on this and that in order to boost the state's revenue ledger and maybe restore some of the things that made Minnesota one of the most envied states in the union...things that were whittled away methodically during Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s tenure.
Whenever talk of more mainstream tax increases starts offending too many people, politicians love to turn to the various vices committed by certain pockets of the populace in order to generate more tax revenue. Often referred to as "sin" taxes, they typically focus on behaviors and habits shared by significant facets of the citizenry that aren't considered healthy, usually come with a hefty dose of guilt, but aren't against the law. In these instances, taking a NIMBY stance typically morphs into an NMV (Not my vice!) or an NMS (Not my sin!) stance.
Cigarette smokers are by far the biggest sinners to be taxed right out of their shorts. No doubt, if you told a roomful of smokers 15 years ago what they'd be paying for a pack of smokes in 2013, the vast majority of them would have insisted the increased financial burden at some point would force them to quit. While that's true in some cases, there are a lot of people paying mountains of cash each year for the privilege of dying prematurely.
So I brought up the cigarette tax to my friend, who had some ammunition in his belt this time around, telling me that there's a decent chance I'll be paying more for beer, wine and alcohol in general if booze tax increases are included in a tax package approved by the legislature. (He likes his beer, too, so I'm not sure why he was so giddy in making his point.)
To which I respond with a hearty...what is it the kids are saying these days? "Whatevs!"
People in the alcohol industry are saying this booze tax increase is sneaky, that the average social drinker is going to be financially raped and doesn't realize it. Legislators are taking a less dramatic approach. The truth, which lies somewhere in the middle, is companies that deal in alcohol are going to face increased costs, and they're going to pass some of those costs onto their customers.
I refuse to get worked up. No matter what I'm buying, I'm a sucker for the newest thing, the biggest thing, the trendiest brand, the highest-quality. I don't look for sales, I don't clip coupons, and when I get a bill in a restaurant that tallies up some appetizers, entrees and a few drinks for the adults around the table, I refuse to be blindsided by a major case of sticker-shock and gasp, "That darn liquor tax!"
When I order a bloody mary, I ask for it to be mixed with Grey Goose vodka. Would I be able to tell the difference if the bartender mixed in Karkov vodka out of a plastic half-gallon jug? Absolutely not, but I'm a brand snob. If the bloody mary costs me 20 cents more because some politicians targeted me as a revenue source to pad the state's coffers, as long as my money helps some child from a poor family get a decent education, saves a tree or builds a stadium, I'm all in.
I've walked out of an off-sale before with three six packs of beer, each one a different, delicious variety of ale, lager, drought or a seasonal specialty, and glanced over at the large cooler displays and realized that I probably could have purchased two cases of what amounts to gold-colored water for the same price. But I keep walking, because if I drop dead tomorrow, the refrigerator in our garage is going to contain good beer, period, no matter how much the cost shrinks my estate.