If you live or work in California, chances are you’ve already heard of this. For the rest of you, listen up, because if The Marin Institute has its way, the next nickel could be your own.
What the Marin Institute is applauding, and promoting, is Gov. Schwarzenegger’s new nickel per drink tax on beer, wine and spirits, expected to raise more than $878 million over 2009 to “help reduce the state's budget shortfall while providing critical support to programs that reduce alcohol-related problems,” according to The Institute’s self-congratulatory press release.
That this self-styled “alcohol industry watchdog” is celebrating the new tax is no surprise, but the scary part is that they want to expand the base to include every state in the union. From a quick follow-up Marin Institute release:
"A nickel a drink -- It's the change we need to fix budgets around the nation," said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of Marin Institute, the California-based alcohol industry watchdog. "The largest states, such as New York and Florida can avoid cutting essential programs through long-overdue alcohol tax increases," Livingston added. California's proposal accomplishes exactly that.
Now, I’m not one of those no-tax loonies who thinks that we should all live in some sort of anarchic, self-reliant utopia – I believe that government provides much-needed social services for which we should all, as a community, pay. But that’s precisely my point: We should ALL pay. Not just you or me, not just the drinkers, not just the smokers; all of us.
The specious argument always trotted out by anti-alcohol forces like The Marin Institute is that the negative effects of alcohol create a social expense for which drinkers should pay, hence the reference to “alcohol-related problems” above. But obesity and pollution are also a financial drain on society, arguably much more so than drinking, so where are the fatty food and smog taxes? Why don’t we tax donuts and SUVs, for instance? Burgers and the charcoal-fired grills they’re cooked on? And so on.
I admit that some people abuse alcohol and in so doing become a drain on the system, or drink irresponsibly and cause accidents, property damage, personal injury or even death, but they are a small percentage of drinkers as compared to the rest of us. And I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument as to why I should pay for their mistakes, or you should help balance the state budget when your teetotalling neighbor gets a free ride.
As most aficionados of great beer will know, The Lost Abbey is a brewery producing some fairly extraordinary ales out of San Marcos, California. I’ve written about the operations beers before, as have many, many others, primarily in a favorable light. And that should be the beginning, middle and end of the story.
But thanks to an extremist pastor in Worthington, Minnesota, we now know that brewer/brewery owner Tomme Arthur isn’t just making tasty beer in southern California, he’s also doing the work of the devil. Don’t believe me? Listen to Rev. Jim Sickmeyer, Pastor of the Worthington Baptist Temple, as per his letter to the editor in the Daily Globe newspaper:
I’m sure that I, nor my Church that I pastor, are the only ones appalled by the recent article in the Globe entitled God & Beer (Thursday, October 23, 2008). The Lost Abbey, the featured business, may have been a hit at the Great American Beer Festival but that should have been all the notoriety that blasphemous business should have received. God says in His word that, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1 Then there is this verse as well, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest the bottle to him, and makest him drunken also...” Habakkuk 2:15.
I could go on with many more verses that show God’s attitude toward alcohol. Alcohol has destroyed more lives and ruined more marriages and families than most other issues. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 100,000 deaths occur each year due to alcohol. I’m sure God is not happy about that. Isn’t it amazing how alcohol brings out the hypocrisy in society? Many people want to have their beer gardens, liquor stores and so on, but when a loved one is killed by a drunk driver or themselves are drunk and cause an accident or end up dying from some other alcohol related issue, then all of the sudden, the situation changes and now they demand that something be done about it. Do we not call that situational ethics?
The Lost Abbey certainly lives up to its name in the spiritual sense. They are calling good, evil; and evil, good. They may have started as the article states, with their product “Damnation” and attempted to counter it with their product “Salvation” but neither or any of their products come even close to what those terms are really speaking to us about.
I appreciate the past articles that have been written in the Globe in the Religion section and the fairly unbiased approach. But printing this article on God & Beer was over the top and should not have happened as far as I’m concerned. I sincerely believe that I am not alone in my opinion on this and I welcome hearing from anyone who agrees or disagrees with me for that matter. As for the Lost Abbey, they may want to reevaluate and repent before it’s too late.
Strong words, indeed. And idiotic ones, as well, at least in this commentator’s view. The church hates alcohol? That’ll come as news to the fine men behind the seven Trappist monastery breweries in Belgium and the Netherlands, not to mention the Benedictines at Andechs and the brothers (and sisters – there is at least one brewing nunnery that I’m aware of) at other monastic breweries, and the monks behind such grand creations as Chartreuse and the méthose champenoise.
Still, other religious figures who embrace rather than condemn alcohol are only half the story. I’ll let Tomme Arthur explain the rest, in his rebuttal letter to the editor, published today:
This morning, I received a link to a letter written by the Rev. Jim Sickmeyer, a pastor at Worthington Baptist Temple, and published Worthington Daily Globe. It merits comments.
I am one of the owners and director of brewery operations for The Lost Abbey in San Marcos, Calif. We at the Lost Abbey would like to thank the Rev. Jim Sickmeyer for noting our business is rooted in blasphemy. Unfortunately, Reverend, our opinion of The Lost Abbey Brewery is seemingly more positive than your cursory review of our operations based on a newspaper article. But, we’re not here to make apologies for our myopia.
However, we at The Lost Abbey are in the business of producing “inspired beers for sinners and saints alike.” Like you, we believe our lives began under the doctrine of free will allowing us the opportunity to make choices for ourselves. We view the production of an alcoholic beverage is something worthy of our time and attention. And our God agrees with us.
In your letter, you have quoted scripture in numerous contexts. Each of these passages speaks not to the consumption of alcohol in moderation, only overindulgence. As members of the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colo., we endorse and support their mantra, “Savor the Flavor Responsibly.” Certainly, excess consumption of any alcoholic beverage can lead to serious problems at home. However, to blithely state, “Alcohol has destroyed more lives and ruined more marriages and families than most other issues,” and then quote traffic statistics from the NTSB is non-sequitur at best.
Perhaps you hit the nail squarely on the head when you assert, “Isn’t it amazing how alcohol brings out the hypocrisy in society?” We couldn’t agree with you more, as your arguments invoke a seemingly intolerant God who blasts away from heaven at the drinkers below. While it may seem incredulous to you, our production of an alcoholic beverage is neither illegal nor illicit. As such, we will continue our morally repugnant practice of turning malted barley into beer. We at The Lost Abbey are operating a world class brewery and believe that using religious themes and contexts to frame our beers is neither blasphemous nor morally indignant.
I attended Catholic grade school and high school here in San Diego at St. Augustine High School. I have read my fair share of the Bible and understand the ethos of moderation and the spiritual importance of wine as it relates to Christian doctrines. From the first Miracle at Cana to the Last Supper, wine was a part of rituals and miracles. I’m not one to quote scripture as most blasphemers are apt to do. But as a sinner, I much prefer “a feast is made for laughter and wine makes us merry.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)