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A Spirited Defense

5:39 PM, Jul 28, 2009 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Remember when it was rumored that some drinks in New York City were costing as much as $10? Now, of course, cocktails can cost as much as $20 at a trendy District bar. But in this economy, things couldn't possibly get worse, could they?

According to the beverage giant Diageo, the answer is yes. From an email I received last night from my good friend Johnnie Walker (which Diageo owns):

The U.S. Senate is considering a proposal that would dramatically raise what they call "lifestyle taxes" to pay for a huge federal health care program. Under this proposal you would be paying more for some of the simple things you enjoy, such as a soft drink and your favorite alcohol beverages. The proposal calls for a staggering increase in federal taxes on alcohol beverages of up to 229 percent!...

Small businesses--your local wine, grocery, convenience stores and restaurants--will see sales go down. An estimated 160,000 people in the hospitality industry will lose their jobs--in an industry that has already lost 540,000 jobs over the past year. The last time the federal government raised taxes on distilled spirits nearly 100,000 people lost their jobs....

Nearly 60 percent of the price you pay at the store for distilled spirits already goes for federal, state, local taxes and other government fees. Do not let the government add more to an already hefty tax burden. You may agree that our health care system needs to be reformed, but not on the backs of hard working Americans.

I was then directed to a link to AxeTaxesNotJobs.com, which elaborates on the pernicious effects of regressive taxes even further.

Seriously, I understand that the folks at Diageo, an empire of booze that includes Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Smirnoff, Baileys, Cuervo, Tanquerey, and Captain Morgan, has a stake in the current battle over financing health care reform. They're not exactly impartial. But the fact is, the cost of drinking could go up, and people could lose their jobs. Even worse, the cost of drinking could go up.

Isn't that reason enough to proceed with caution? And no, I am not blogging on this to curry favor with Diageo. I happen to feel very strongly about regressive taxes. I think about it all the time, particularly when I come home from work, kick back, and pour myself a glass of Johnnie Walker Black Label-three ice cubes-and ruminate on the oak, the peat, and the ultimate smoothness of this exquisitely blended . . .