Sobering Tax Cuts

Industry lobbyists in Washington are trying hard to make their moves while Congress is in a tax-cutting mood. And none are trying harder than the beer, wine, and liquor people.

They have a politically appealing case. When taxes were raised on many luxury items in the early 1990s to fight the federal deficit, alcoholic beverages were among the products affected. Many of those levies have been reduced since deficit gave way to surplus. So why not beer, wine, etc.?

Bills to roll back the federal taxes on these items are rolling up sponsors - more than 170 in the House so far for a beer tax cut.

The beer industry traces some of its reduced production in recent years to the federal tax of $1.31 per case. But its lobbying pitch is that the average guy who buys its product deserves a tax break.

Maybe. But there are better ways to give it to him than making alcohol more affordable. The other side of the issue is the grim record of ruined lives and highway tragedies that these products help compile. Federal lawmakers should give that side of this tax-cut issue due attention.

The various tax cuts sought by the alcoholic beverage industries would cost the federal government nearly $32 billion over 10 years. That's not much next to the $1 trillion-plus income tax cut just passed. But considering that those billions would go into increased manufacture and promotion of products that cause untold damage to individuals and society, the money would be better used in the federal treasury.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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