Monday, November 18, 2019

A great place to work?

Among the lies, & fallacies, disingenuous statements and statistics that appear out of thin air over at the old PLCB fudge factory, we hear how the PLCB is a great place to work! Jinkies! Cool!

But what do the numbers say? According to the 2019 annual report (on page 61) the average age of a store clerk is 44 years old. Not exactly attracting younger workers. And when they do get workers, 56% of them are part time. I don't think those are the "Family Sustaining Jobs" that are so often mentioned. Out of that 56%, over half of them quit every year for a turnover rate of 53.1%. Even if you somehow manage to get one of the 2,453 full time filled positions, there is a 49.3 % turn over rate there too. Now factor in this: 29% of store workers change location every year.

Can you say "turn and churn"? Is it burnout, or do they just get tired of the bullshit? If the PLCB isn't that good at retaining employees, just how good they are to work for?

Turn it on its head: is this mismanaged workforce of any benefit to the agency (and thus, to the commonwealth). The average sales per employee for 2017 across this kind of industry was $689,000 per each full time equivalent. The PLCB can force a "part time" employee to work 34 hours a week if they want to, so that makes figuring out the total hours the part time workforce puts in a bit difficult. I'll just go with 25 hours a week for part time workers and 15 hours for seasonal workers.

With 3,190 full time sales and admin employees putting in 37.5 hours per week times 52 weeks, that's a total of 6,320,125 hours. Add to that 25 hours times 1,773 workers times 52 weeks equals 2,304,900 hours plus 383 seasonal workers at 15 hours each, but only 13 weeks of work equals 74,490 for a grand total of  8,719,515 hours. Take that and divide it by 37.5*52 (1,950) and you get roughly 4,471 full time equivalent employees.
Now that we have the number of full-time equivalents, we can then multiply that by $689,000 for each employee and come up with $3,080,519,000 as what average sales should be. But the PLCB only did $2,126,927,971 in sales or UNDERPERFORMED the average by just about 45%. In simple terms, having the PLCB do things is costing the state about $950 Million in lost taxable sales based on average sales. Now that is the average, there could be significant differences for liquor stores. But looking at Total Wine, they are only about 10% below that average, so it pretty much confirms the PLCB is a bloated, poorly managed organization,

It gets worse. All the PLCB numbers were taken from the number of working employees as of June 2019. However, the amount that are authorized is greater.  If the PLCB were fully staffed, they would be 65% BELOW average in sales per employee. Filling over 1000 current vacancies might cause the PLCB to not be able to meet the amount of payout revenues requested by the administration.

That of course, would require the PLCB to variably screw the citizens that much harder just to keep them afloat. In that scenario, it is better for them to have less people on the sales floor. What a way to run a business!

PLCB workers, staff, administrators, board members, and your supporters in the Legislature: tell me why we need this bloated, under performing jobs program?

We are not safer, we are not better served and we are not satisfied. Privatize.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How much did they steal from you this year?

It's that (belated) time of year, time for the PLCB to tell us what a wonderful job they are doing and what a swell place to work they have. Their Annual Report is out (you can download the PDF document here), and the truth is in there; we just have to root it out. 

We say it's "that time of year," but it's not, actually, because the annual report took a ludicrous four months to come out...again. Last time it took four months they said, "Ohh, there were special considerations with the new tax code." No new tax code this year, and they didn't bother with a new excuse. What's the point: it's all lies anyway.

Onward! Right on page 2 there's a mission statement (emphasis added):
The mission of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is to responsibly sell wine and spirits as a retailer and wholesaler, regulate Pennsylvania’s alcohol industry, promote alcohol education and social responsibility and maximize financial returns for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.

Funny how the part about maximizing revenue isn't in the liquor code. Just as well, since based on the available statistics they aren't doing a very good job on the stuff that is, like alcohol education or social responsibility; at least, not compared to states on our border. Their own report on these outcomes shows that students who consumed alcohol in the past year went up from 81.4% to 83%  After 85 years of the PLCB, 85 years of CONTROL FAILURE...maybe it is time to try a different system. Any normal business wouldn't survive 85 years of failure.

What have they done to us lately? After record sales (and record variably-priced screwing us) PLCB liabilities went down $2.03 million on over $1.1 billion dollars of debt. A payback rate of over 500 years, and getting worse. It was "only" 400 years previously. For some reason they don't report that number. Another interesting part of their financial reporting is that they say, on five pages in a row, that "The accompanying notes are an integral part of these statements." And then don't list what any of the accompanying notes are. They aren't going to verify what they are saying; just believe them, because they have such a great track record of telling the truth.

Another thing they don't tell us is that while variable pricing was supposed to be a partnership where the public was supposed to receive some benefit, we don't know what the benefit is in dollar terms. We can look at past financial statements and see that the PLCB is making almost double what it used to. That's almost all because of lower acquisition costs, but where is the share that the public was supposed to get?  We may have seen a 2% reduction in prices, and even that might be high. For every extra $100 they make, we are probably lucky to see a $2 reduction, spread across a number of products. Even then the PLCB still screws us, because of their rounding formula. Rounding is not considered part of "mark-up," so they can hide that from us, just like they hid what the mark-ups actually are now.

It all goes back to the total lack of leadership and experience of those at the top. They are never held responsible for the lack of progress under their leadership, so the status quo, or even a slip in the status quo, is the norm. On the business side it is even worse. I can understand hiring political hacks if you don't want things to improve in a structured order. But when you've got a failed congressman, a political chief of staff, and a furniture company exec it doesn't seem to be the path to a successful liquor business. In 85 years there hasn't been a Yuengling or Jacquin's executive, or someone from a wine wholesaler or spirits importer, who was qualified and wanted to do the job...really?

When you think about this, keep in mind this quote from the Joint session of the House Liquor Control Committee and the Senate Law & Justice Committee of 2017 (adjusted a bit for truth):

SENATOR MCILHINNEY (former Chairman Senate L&J Committee, since retired): "... the state citizens own this system, and they should be able to get some...benefit by having a good  deal when they go to the liquor store."

MR. HOLDEN (Chairman: Liquor Control Board) : "Absolutely Absolutely not."

There, I fixed it for you, Tim.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Difference is What They Steal From You

I did a short post on this for the "Abolish the PLCB -- Rewrite the Code!" Facebook group. If you missed it there (and you really should join), this is the full version.

I'm about to go out shopping for my Labor Day get-together (planning ahead, as the PLCB minions always nag about). Phone in hand, I'm checking prices, just on the rare case that the PLCB put something I want on clearance. Because that's the only way they ever beat Total Wine's pricing. No surprises: no clearance deals, and nothing I wanted was on sale, or the difference might have been greater.

I usually go to New Jersey, but the Total Wine in Towson, Maryland was closer, and even with the so-called "Free State" (what bitter irony) charging a 9% sales tax on alcohol it worked out to about the same total cost as New Jersey, but with less driving time. This is a big store at 30,000 sq.ft. A true Superstore unlike anything in Pennsylvania. They also sell beer — like any real liquor store would — and as a bonus (for me, at least), they sell cigars, too. If Total Wine has a variable pricing scheme, it at least appears to favor the consumer with lower prices, and not just the owners. Competition will do that.
Here's the Pennsylvania version of variable pricing at work. Jack Daniel's is the largest selling American whiskey nationwide, and in both Pennsylvania and Maryland. If you compare the prices on big brands like that, keep this in mind: every dollar difference is what the PLCB is stealing from you with variable pricing. You know that Total Wine isn't losing money. They're set to overtake the PLCB in total sales shortly, so they must be doing something right, even though they have to deal with competition and not the easy ride of a police enforced monopoly.

Dare to compare:

Kendall Jackson Chardonnay Vintner's Reserve California PLCB $15.99, Total $9.97 - $6.02

Maker's Mark Straight Bourbon Whisky 1.75L PLCB $59.99, Total $44.99 - $15.00

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough PLCB $11.89, Total $10.97 - $0.92

Apothic Red PLCB $12.99, Total $7.97 - $5.02!

Tito's Handmade Vodka 80 Proof 1.75L PLCB $34.99, Total $28.99 - $6.00

Jack Daniel's Old No 7 Black Label 1.75L PLCB $46.99, Total $39.99 - $7.00

These are common choices, big sellers. Nothing out of the ordinary or esoteric to skew the results. It does show how badly we are being treated, how badly the PLCB is managed, how badly variable pricing is being abused...and how much the PLCB lied to get it. We told you this would happen. And here it is, in black and white.

End the charade. Privatize.

Friday, August 9, 2019

What could Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas mean to Pennsylvania?

I am not a lawyer, and some or all of my thoughts could be right or wrong, so maybe this post should be filed under wishful thinking, but...there seems to be a crack in the control wall. It's from the hammer blow struck by the Supreme Court's decision in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas, handed down on June 26. Take a look with me and see what you think. 

The future of the PLCB?

The facts of the case:
To sell liquor in Tennessee, you need a license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). That's pretty normal...in states where private liquor stores are allowed. But there was a catch in Tennessee. Under Tennessee Code, to get a license, you must have been a resident of the state for two years. There was a ten year residency required to renew a license, so don't plan on leaving. And yes, the same requirements were there for corporations.

The case stems from two license applications that did not meet the residency requirement. The TABC was planning to approve their applications anyway...until the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association informed TABC that if they did, they planned to sue. (You know...to protect their competitive advantage.) The TABC preemptively went to court to determine the constitutionality of the requirement. The district court ruled that it violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Been saying that about the PLCB for years! -- Lew). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, and it was off to the Supremes, because the Association wasn't giving up on their anti-competitive lawsuit. 

Cracking the wall around the 21st Amendment
The Supremes Say: 

In a 7-2 decision (Justices Gorsuch and Thomas dissenting), the court found that: Under the dormant Commerce Clause, notwithstanding the Twenty-First Amendment, a state may not regulate liquor sales by granting licenses only to individuals or entities that have met state residency requirements.

The 21st Amendment has long been held to allow states free rein on writing laws controlling the sale of alcohol within their borders. Section 2 of the Twenty-First Amendment states: “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.”

But a number of Supreme Court decisions since the 1990s -- 44 Liquormart, Granholm, etc. -- have been chipping away at the absolute nature of such control. Tennessee Wine and Spirits takes that quite a step further. The Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence holds that “a state law that discriminates against out-of-state goods or nonresident economic actors can be sustained only on a showing that it is narrowly tailored to ‘advance a legitimate local purpose.’” Tennessee’s residency requirement clearly favors residents over nonresidents, hard to justify as a "legitimate local purpose" in the face of the Commerce Clause.

That's just what the Supreme Court found. The Court noted that at the time the Eighteenth Amendment (nationwide prohibition) was ratified, it had already been established that the Commerce Clause prevented states from discriminating against the citizens and products of other states. Against this backdrop, when the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified, “the Commerce Clause did not permit the States to impose protectionist measures clothed as police-power regulations.” Thus, while § 2 of the Amendment gives states latitude with respect to the regulation of alcohol, it does not allow them to violate the nondiscrimination principle.

(A discrimination, maybe, against every citizen and entity who would like to sell alcohol in competition with the state's police-enforced monopoly?)

The Court concluded that protectionism is not a legitimate local purpose and that the residency requirement “has at best a highly attenuated relationship to public health or safety.”

My Opinion
Our state law does discriminate against out-of-state citizens and out-of-state economic actors. It also imposes police powers to maintain and enforce protectionist measures. Read the beginning of the Liquor Code Section 104(a):"This act shall be deemed an exercise of the police power of the Commonwealth for the protection of the public welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the Commonwealth and to prohibit forever the open saloon, and all of the provisions of this act shall be liberally construed for the accomplishment of this purpose."

In the above decision, the Supreme Court held that "Protectionism is not a legitimate local purpose" and stresses the REGULATORY authority, not monopoly authority of the state. But does that make Pennsylvania's Almighty Liquor Code invalid? That just might be the next question the Court will have to decide. How much does the 21st Amendment give the states the right to impose protectionist, monopoly, discriminatory measures, instead of regulation that allows the intent of the Commerce Clause? How much does it matter if the state allows private retailers or only state store sales?

As I said, I'm not a lawyer. But it does make me think of what might be coming down the road at some point. I think that Costco and Total Wine teaming up will have the resources to get it done and none too soon for me.

Privatize.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Carlisle AlcoAutoFest! Drive Yourself To Drink!

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) are proud to bring you the first Carlisle AlcoAutofest! Due to the special relationship the PLCB has with PENNDOT, you will be able to drive to the Festival even in cars not sold or ever sold in Pennsylvania!(*1) Cars made before 1933 get in free!

Numerous vendors will be providing samples of drinks you can only "win" (the chance to purchase at variable pricing) by lottery in Pennsylvania. The PLCB will have two on-site stores selling the same things you can buy in every state store at prices only slightly to obscenely above list price. Taste the latest bottlings of Jim Beam White, Jack Daniel's Black, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, and many other standard brands (that all cost less in Maryland, only 42 miles away) straight from the well-known PLCB overstock trailers sitting in the sun behind the fenced-in area near the porta-potties! It will be an experience you won't find anywhere else in the country!
It's only 5 days. How hot can it get?
PENNDOT will have convenient mandatory breathalyzer stops all along the main drag and at all exit points. They'll be using the same technology as the Wine Kiosks - Amazing, and fun! Safety is  always the PLCB's number one concern (the safety of PLCB jobs, that is). The PLCB's number two concern is money, "profits" (hoho, what a funny joke), so for the first time, the BLCE will be working with the Department of Revenue to collect taxes on bottles "won" by happy participants.(*2)

At checkpoint, show ID, face camera and blow
See your government in action and your tax dollars at work! Take a virtual tour of the PLCB luxury tasting room. Learn how people with minimal qualifications decide what the entire state will be allowed to buy. See how knowing about Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry can get you an executive position with the PLCB! Visit the Career Desk and find out how a career with the PLCB is right for you. None of that product knowledge or RAMP training required, like in the private sector.

If you're in a grumpy mood, the PLCB has just the thing. Take a seat in the Courtesy Training tent (supplied by a real company owned by the real husband of a real PLCB regional manager...which really was nepotism!), and see how PLCB clerks deal with stress like JFK did during the Cuban Missile Crisis (*3)! Ask the PLCB staff why bottles favored by alcoholics are cheaper in Pennsylvania. You'll be amazed at the answer they give.


Souvenirs will be available in the PENNDOT tent. Just take a number and have a seat while you decide what commemorative item your Aunt Martha really wants. Maybe she'd like the "You've got a friend at AlcoAutoFest" plate (shown above in classic Pennsylvania license plate blue and gold), or the "10 Bootleggers per Year" BLCE flag. (I like the "After 85 years only $1,000,000,000 in Debt" picture frame myself.)

See you there!

(*1) You just have to prove that all PA taxes were paid the year of importation into the state.
(*2) Taxes based on what the PLCB would have charged if they had any product, not on list price.
(*3) That was a real lesson in the original Courtesy Training contract.
The Carlisle AlcoAutoFest is not a real event. But it's about dumb enough for the PLCB to try it. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Don't We Deserve a Better Board?

If we have to play by the PLCB rules...could we at least get a better set of players?

Back in 2015 in the Annual Report (page 2), the vision of the PLCB was stated as: "Be recognized as the best-in-class wine and spirits retailer, distributor and regulator in the United States."

Which meant that they wanted to be better than Utah, the only other wine and spirits retailer, distributor, and regulator in the United States. Not a high bar, considering Utah is practically an anti-alcohol theocracy. Four years later, how are they doing? Let's start at the top and go from there.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has three members, none of which over the past 85 years has any previous knowledge of the liquor industry or about running a 2 billion dollar enterprise.

We have a Chairman who has no experience with even a million dollar business, let along something the size of the PLCB. He did make it to Congress, and served on the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry subcommittee, and Transportation and Infrastructure committee, before the citizens decided that he wasn't doing the job they wanted and voted him out. Since there isn't much call for somebody who's chummy with with politicians, and knows a little about Livestock, Dairy & Poultry, the PLCB was a perfect place to put somebody who was owed a couple of favors.

Governor Corbett appointed Republican benefactor Mike Negra to the board. Mr. Negra does have a history of being involved in multiple successful businesses, so at least he has a concept of what is going on, but no actual hands on with the liquor business, or anything the size of the PLCB.

Lastly we have the newest member and first woman ever to serve on the board, Mary IsenhourAlthough you wouldn't know it by looking at the PLCB website. Here it is, over a MONTH after her confirmation, and the PLCB still hasn't decided if she rates being included with the other board members. (Let's see how long it takes for them to include her once this is published.)*

Keeping the public informed through transparency is sadly not the way the PLCB works.  Remember that it took over 100 days before they removed Michael Newsome, and that was only after I poked them with a stick again. Newsome might still be there if I hadn't said anything.

What are Isenhour's qualifications? She was Gov. Wolf's Chief of Staff and a campaign aide. Her business experience is like the others, desperately lacking in knowledge and size. She replaced Michael Newsome, who was Gov. Wolf's CFO in the furniture business -- can't get more qualified to sell liquor than that...or can we?

Remember how we were comparing the PLCB to Utah's State Store System of Stores? So how does the Utah DABC stack up? They have a seven member board that's appointed, but there is also an advisory board of seven members...who must come from defined specific areas of expertise. The Governor can't just willy nilly pick his favorite dog walker to sit on the Advisory Board. Utah specifies that the advisory board members are selected from the following areas of expertise.

Retail Alcohol Industry — Wholesaler Industry — Manufacturing Industry — Restaurant Industry — Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council — Alcohol or Drug Related Enforcement — Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health — Alcohol or Drug Abuse Prevention and Education
The Utah version of a Superstore
Another view. Pretty nice, right? 
It is almost certain that since this system was adopted every Utah DABC Advisory member is far more qualified than any that have ever been appointed to the PLCB. This doesn't mean that Utah hasn't had their share of people of limited competence on the Liquor Board. The Governor selects the seven members of the Liquor Board, so it can be and likely is as full of hacks and cronies as Pennsylvania. The difference is that the Utah board can't go off the rails making arbitrary decisions without an adult from the Advisory Board watching them. No deciding that 12 packs are cases, no robot wine armies, no variably price screwing the citizens, and no being over a Billion in debt. Oh, and they have had women on the Boards for years already.


End the PLCB jobs program - PRIVATIZE


*True to form it only took the PLCB 42 days to finally put up a picture.  Not quite as bad as the 102 days it took to take down the board member she replaced.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The PLCB. A failure of an idea and the beginning of a fiefdom.

Sometime in December of 1933, then Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot sat down to write an editorial piece for the Rotarian magazine [you can read it, starting in page 12*]. He laid out his reasons for "The Pennsylvania Plan," his reasons why he felt that the government had to restrict alcohol for the citizens, because they couldn't control themselves. Let's look at the points he made in The Pennsylvania Plan, and see if Pennsylvania needed them then...and if we have any need of them now.

Pinchot said that Pennsylvania's liquor control legislation is dependent on five cardinal points.

  1. The saloon must not be allowed to come back.
  2. Liquor must be kept entirely out of Politics.
  3. Judges must not be forced into Liquor politics.
  4. Liquor must not be sold without restraint.
  5. Bootlegging must be made unprofitable.

Ardent environmentalist; ardent prohibitionist
After a quick look, you might conclude that all of his points have failed except #4. (We do our own bootlegging these days, thanks to the big liquor stores on the New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland borders.) However, during the 85 years since Repeal, the meaning of the language in some of the points has changed.

Take point #1: saloons pre-Prohibition were in a large part controlled by the brewers. Prices were kept low, so demand was high. There were enticements like free food or snacks for those buying beer, which is why you see strangely detailed happy hour laws about how much food can be given away, and what kind. Bars were "tied" to the brewer that backed them; the only way you could get a Miller instead of a Bud, for instance, was to go to another bar. The corruption this caused, both in business and in politics from the free-flowing graft money produced, was one of the big drivers for Prohibition. 

That all changed with the three tier system in place in Pennsylvania (and most of the United States) today. That created three defined "tiers:" producer/brewer, wholesaler, and retailer, and forbid owners of one tier from owning businesses in the other two. No "tied houses." So did the saloon come back? Yes, but not in the same way, and that hasn't been all bad for the consumer. We'll call this point a draw.

In point #2, Pinchot was talking about patronage, the "spoils system," in which state jobs were handed out as political favors. He's already planning the huge jobs program of the State Store System of Stores. Point #2 meant that employees would be selected based on skills testing instead of loyalty testing; who they knew and the favors they could do. This was mostly true for the rank and file store workers, not so much for the managers, and not at all for the Board who have all been political hacks, cronies, and lawyerly hangers-on since day one.

He also thought that this new system would keep politicians from buying votes with booze, and thus fall under the control of distilleries and brewers. Did that work? Hard to say, because how people drank changed during the Depression. More drank at home after Repeal, because they could buy at a local store instead of having to go out to a speakeasy or club. This all changed again once the stores were unionized. Now the money flowed from union coffers into politician's pockets to buy votes to keep this archaic system alive. Although the jobs are still subject to civil service rules -- despite recent efforts to change this, under the guise of "improvement" -- overall this has failed.

Money, money, money, moooooney...
Point #3 is keeping the dollars, booze and votes away from judges and their decisions. Now we have judges working for the the PLCB...well, mostly 'working.'  I wonder what Gifford would say about that. This has worked, but largely because judges working on booze have been ring-fenced, as the British say.

Point #4 was probably true for the first 70 years of the State Store System of Stores -- ah, fond memories of the completely customer-unfriendly counter stores! -- but no longer. When the board that was put in place to control drinking is now advertising, having sales, sponsoring fests of various kinds, even trying to sell booze by robot! -- you can say that the restraint is limited at best.

Point 5 is pretty much irrelevant. As we said, bootlegging went from criminal enterprise to an everyday crime cheerfully "committed" by private citizens. Governor Pinchot thought that the state would be able to sell alcohol for less than the bootleggers, and they mostly did. But the power of the police-enforced monopoly and pure greed kept them from selling wine and spirits for less than the border states, which made them complicit in making criminals of everyday citizens.

Governor Pinchot was a leader in the Dry movement and was a teetotaler himself.  He really thought that his plan would have "support of the vast majority of the citizens of Pennsylvania."  But he never actually let the people decide, and as we all know, there has never been a single scientific poll that showed the citizens to be in favor of the State Store System of Stores.

Looking back to what was envisioned by Pinchot, you can see how corrupt the plan became over time. Millions of dollars were "...to be made available to school districts to help schools that were in danger of being closed." Even if we sucked out every penny possible from the PLCB now, it would only be about $90 for every taxpayer** this year. That's certainly not a rate the PLCB could keep up, and not really enough to notice in my almost $5,000 tax bill. Pinchot also suggested that if an item wasn't available the system "would have to get it." Still failing at that one 85 years later. And don't forget: there were THREE TIMES as many licenses available back then as now. Where did we go so wrong, Gifford? A commonwealth turns its thirsty eyes to you.


Unfortunately, not everything he proposed went...wrong. The Governor said that "Whisky will be sold by civil service employees with exactly the same amount of salesmanship as is displayed by an automatic postage stamp vending machine." Sure enough, that is exactly what we have in almost every transaction! He also said that there will be no artificial stimulation of the demand for liquor. No PLCB sponsoring a flower show trying to get women to drink, no staying open longer for hunting season, no bottle signings by third rate celebrities.

As a naturalist, Gifford Pinchot was probably second only to Teddy Roosevelt in public service. (He was the first professional forester in America.) His main fault was that he never actually wanted to know what the citizens thought of his Pennsylvania Plan, because he thought he knew what was best for the masses.

And that is the thing about the PLCB and the Almighty Liquor Code that has changed the least.



*If you get the chance, read the "Regulated Licenses, Retail Plan" by Frank J. Loesch on page 14.

** 10.1 M adults, 68.6% are homeowners, ~90% of them pay some property tax