Every so often one rolls by that just makes you say, "What??" (I've been reading the wonderful comic strip Candorville, in which people regularly say "What?")
As reported in the invaluable San Francisco Chronicle, a group of students in San Jose is revolting (that's an active verb, not an adjective. Yet.) over the fact that one of California's proposed ways to close the budget deficit is to increase the tax on beer by as much as $1.88 per six-pack. Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, proposes to raise the beer tax from 20 cents per gallon to $2.88 per gallon.
The San Francisco State Republicans are marching around outside Assemblyman Beall's offfice in San Jose, complaining about "a tax on poor students." They're waving signs reading, "Students Opposed to Unjust Taxation!", and (I really can't believe this one) "No taxation on intoxication."
OK, let's rephrase this in simple English. A group of self-identified Republican students complain that an increase in the tax on beer is an infringement of their right to get drunk at the end of a long day of studying, because they're too poor to afford an additional $1.88 a six-pack. These are college students, so only the graduate students and some seniors can even drink beer legally; but they're acting as if they were the Sons of Liberty, dumping tea into Boston Harbor.
It's perfectly true that sin taxes, like this one, are regressive taxes on the poor, if only because all sales taxes are regressive taxes on the poor. I just find it hard to put the words "poor" and "Republican" in the same phrase, although I realize I am stereotyping. Still, "poor" and "student" are normally coupled, so we'll let that one pass.
"Fight for your right to party!" they complain. I knew the educational system was bad, but in this case it has clearly failed miserably, because these yokels can't distinguish between a "right", like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, and a "privilege", which means that, if they are over 21 years old and have the money, they are allowed to buy and drink beer, as long as they don't drive a car afterward.
Students under 21 have no "right" to buy or drink beer at all, under any circumstances. Period. Regular readers of this blog know that my husband is a recovering alcoholic. Alcoholism is no joke, and there were reasons it was once prohibited, even though the cure turned out to be worse than the disease and was eventually repealed. There's a level at which society can't protect people from their own stupidity; but there's no social obligation to make that stupidity affordable. Or easy.
The article contains some serious statistics about the effects of underage drinking, which unfortunately these kids are not reading. One of the protest organizers says that "some of his fellow students spend as much as 60 percent of their paychecks on beer." Based on my experience, frankly, those students are at very high risk for alcoholism right now. I hope they wake up to the problem and stop before they do themselves real damage.