Bargaining Chips

By Scott Burris

Christopher Robertson recently posted here a semi-facetious suggestion of things that Democrats could ask for once the shut-down and the debt-ceiling dance turns into real bargaining. (How sad that this has to be seen as an optimistic statement.)  That’s a good idea. I think we should all join in populating the health policy wishlist.  Here’s one no-brainer.

Government is being starved, and taxes are going to have to go up somewhere.  There is no kind of tax that is not being hated on by somebody, and so no easy places to go, but there is such a strong case for raising alcohol taxes.  Alex Wagenaar, one of the greatest alcohol policy researchers we’ve produced in this country, makes a fantastic pitch for substantial increases in this short video, which is great for advocacy or teaching use.  In real terms, alcohol prices have not been lower for decades, while each drink comes with a subsidy of nearly $2 in health and health care costs we tax-payers end up paying.

So, Mr. President, how about a federal tax of $1.90 per drink, indexed to inflation.  And if there’s opposition, threaten to leave the government open!

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