Very few people are aware that there is a powerful lobby that strongly influences policy on alcohol and subsequently American life. Alcohol moves among us, stealthily, and we often forget to hold it accountable in any way. There is something about it, it is so woven into the fabric of our daily lives that we lose sight of the damage it does to families and communities. The Distilled Spirits Lobby is a powerful lobby that is dedicated to the growth of alcohol sales state by state, ensuring that states lift decades old “Dry Sunday” laws. They are also very focused on keeping taxes low, making sure that people can get drunk on the cheap. Many states haven’t raised taxes in generations and it is largely accepted that taxation reduces use. Herein lies the conflict: as treatment providers, we consider ‘lower use” to be a good thing. Yet while reducing use diminishes many of the problems that come with alcohol, it also reduces the high profit margin that has long been enjoyed by the distilled spirits industry. The distilled spirits lobby likes to remind us of the amount of money they inject into the economy. While this may be true, it is also important to remember the amount of money that drinking costs the economy. So, who pays the cost? The taxpayer does while the distilled spirits lobby gets rich.
The industry runs a fairly large campaign about ‘responsible drinking” and “moderation” which are both fine ideas, but the treatment community is not walking around saying “why didn’t we think of that?” It’s the same “just say no” rhetoric that has been ineffective for generations and yet we still keep trying to apply logic to a malady that does not respond to logic.
Here at “Rebound Brooklyn” we are certainly interested in helping people “get out of the ditch” but we are also interested in discussing the ditch itself. A simple .10/100 tax on all forms of intoxication would dramatically improve the situation. The money could provide public treatment options and reentry programs for people returning to the community from prison, and even housing for addicted veterans. In short, we can clean up some of the mess created by alcohol. How co-dependent are we as a nation? Consumers have a party, producers get rich and we clean up the mess. Seems a bit dysfunctional.
– Joe Schrank &
– Scott Bienenfeld, M.D.