Thursday, October 4, 2018

Oregon: the 2nd highest liquor taxes in America! Or are they?

Today we are going to look at Oregon, home of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), and generally considered to have the second-highest liquor taxes in the country behind Washington State. They are a control state for liquor sales, but wine sales are private business. This chart by The Tax Foundation shows the tax levels for 2016; Oregon appears to have a tax rate of 3.1 times that of Pennsylvania.

Wow. If we have high prices, the prices in Oregon must be astronomical, right? Let's compare some of the top selling liquors in the two states today, now that we have the additional wonder of variable pricing. Keep in mind, the PLCB's very own report on variable pricing says nothing about using price negotiation to benefit the citizens, only about how much more money they can take from us in "Revenue."

We're going to compare the prices for the top selling spirits in the PA State Stores from 2017 (Fiscal 2018 ended 3 months ago, but the new report still isn't out) to those same bottles from Oregon, using both state's website prices. We'll give you the OLCC price, and the PLCB's shelf price (and out the door price). We'll explain that shortly.

First on the list is Tito's Handmade Vodka. Oregon # 8488B is selling at $23.95. The PLCB has it as # 9359 and it is on sale this month for $17.99. ($19.07) Yay us!

2. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum: Item # 0475BB in Oregon, selling for $16.95. Here it is Item #8865 at $17.99 ($19.07).

3. Jack Daniel's No. 7: OLCC Item #0146B, which sells for $21.95 (on sale this month); or you can pay $25.99 ($27.55) for Item #4291 in the State Stores. Such a deal!

4. Fireball Cinnamon: Oregon item #0939B for $15.95 in plastic, or $17.95 in glass. The PLCB equivalent, #4302, is on sale for $17.99 ($19.07). Even on sale they can't match the Oregon price. How much do you reckon they had to variably mark it up for that to happen?

5. Jameson Irish Whiskey: Item # 0391B for $29.95 in Oregon; or pay $29.99 ($31.79) for item #7303 in Pennsylvania.

6. Bacardi Superior Rum: Oregon #6179B is currently selling for $12.95. But it's on sale at the PLCB! Yeah! Item #7970 is on sale for $13.99 ($14.83). Wait...what?

7. Grey Goose Vodka: Oregon's #0636B at $35.95 compares to the PLCB's # 8963, selling for $32.99 ($34.97). Hey, we won one!

8. Crown Royal: Oregon's #0311B is going for $27.95 there; but #5186 is selling for $28.99 ($30.73) here. Screwed again.

That's the tale of the tape. Now we'll explain it.

Why did I include the out the door price for Pennsylvania, but not Oregon?  Because there are no extra or hidden taxes in honest Oregon. The price you see on the shelf is the price you pay: no hidden variable markup, storage fees, extra 1% 'just because' fees, and no sales tax dumped on top of the already taxed liquor. Kinda makes you wonder about the "negotiation" on those JD prices in Pennsylvania, doesn't it?

Remember that these are the largest selling 750s in Pennsylvania*. If there was any buying power leverage that could be used, it would be on these items. So what did that buying power get us? Jack went up a dollar, as did Fireball, Bacardi Superior and Crown Royal.

Looks like Oregon has pretty competitive prices even though their tax rate is THREE times as much. How is that possible? Hidden taxes, with the main one being product markup, the bloated PLCB "profit" that's being used mainly to pay for bloated PLCB operating costs. It used to be fixed at 30%, but now it is whatever they need it to be -- that's "variable" pricing! -- to pay off their burgeoning overhead, incompetent decision making, and of course to maybe pay some of the pension debt they owe. Need more money? Just vary the pricing! UPWARD!

You see, in Oregon they just have taxes, and it's transparently easy to find exactly what they are. From that they pay for the OLCC's costs. Here in Pennsylvania, we have the super-secret Variable Markup that no citizen is allowed to know, used to pay for the PLCB and whatever idiocy they come up with: wine kiosks, house brands, courtesy training, bad contracts, renaming stores for the 4th or 5th get the idea.

Oregon's listed tax rate may be OVER 3 times that of Pennsylvania, but our secret taxes make them almost equal on many, many items. This is what we get with an "independent" agency with almost no oversight, no experienced business people in charge, and 80 years of cronyism and incompetence at every level. Is this the system that is best for the citizens? Are you sure we can't do better by having real business people run real businesses in competition with each other for the consumers' dollar? You know...just like you buy everything else?

Privatize - now more than ever.

* (Oregon does not carry the same bottom shelf vodka that the PLCB does, so that was left off the comparison.)

Orwell's 1984 and PLCB-world — the similarities are striking

Although George Orwell was likely unaware of the PLCB's Stalinist ways when he wrote 1984, his classic tale of a dystopian future (writtenalmost 16 years after the PLCB was forced onto an unwilling Pennsylvania), parts of it are strikingly close to what the PLCB has become.

Let's take the three sacred principles of Orwell's totalitarian government, the ways they control the population of Airstrip One, and see what parallel ideas the PLCB — a monopolistic government agency — runs on.

First: Newspeak. The official language of all party members, the prime method to eliminate all thoughtcrime. Any thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform are only describable as "thoughtcrime" in Newspeak; they are crimes by their definition.

All organizations have their own language, their jargon, of acronyms, contractions, and task-specific verbiage that outsiders have a difficult time understanding. PLCB employees talk about facings (how many rows across a product has on the shelf) sku's (s
tock control units; products with individual barcodes), self-audit (the act of looking over your own shoulder to see if you're doing what you say you're doing), border bleed (smart shopping, American-style), chronic alcohol abusers (that's us, the customers), and our favorite, variable pricing (which means higher pricing). These terms force the conversation into the PLCB's favor, and make all customers criminals.

Second: Doublethink. The act of simultaneously holding two opposite, mutually exclusive ideas or opinions, and believing in both absolutely. Doublethink requires using logic against logic or suspending disbelief in the contradiction.

PLCB Doublethink abounds. We're told the PLCB "controls" alcohol sales, because the private sector can't. But the PLCB also issues license to thousands of privately-owned beer distributors, restaurants, and now grocery stores and convenience stores that also sell alcohol. They must be out of control... The doublethink at the heart of the PLCB though, is the one that increased consumption of alcohol is bad...when the private sector is selling it. It is beneficial when the State Stores are selling it, because the State benefits. You can't get more doublethink than that!

Third: The Mutability of the Past. The deliberate changing (manipulation) of the past through the use of ‘Newspeak,’ by destruction and alteration of past history elements. The aim of this manipulation by Big Brother is to change the social consciousness of the system.

The PLCB and the unions that support it like to use this to prove they are a benefit to the citizen. "We contributed X million dollars in local taxes" is a favorite ploy in changing what happened. They didn't contribute anything. The State Stores merely collected taxes and by law had to return them to the municipality. With private stores, the municipality would collect those taxes on their own terms at a time convenient for them if the state wasn't in the middle.

But there are more parallels beyond the three principles. Drop into PLCBspeak and see how they work.

to rid oneself of unwanted thoughts that interfere with the ideology of the PLCB, a necessary mental discipline for indoctrinated members of the PLCB. Good employees are in a state of constant enthusiasm about the goals set by the State. 
This is achieved by not grasping analogies, failing to perceive logical errors, misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to the PLCB: call it protective stupidity. The main example of this in the PLCB is variable pricing: how to suck more money from the citizens while giving them nothing in return. Sound business practices show that lowering prices to increase sales has more total benefit, but not in PLCBvania! Everything for the State (Stores) — nothing for the citizens! Productive stupidity!

Big Brother: The bureaucrats in Harrisburg make all the buying decisions for every single store, no exceptions. We tell you what you can buy. We tell you where you can buy it. We tell you when you can buy. There is no other choice. Dystopian regime or the PLCB or both!

Thoughtcrime: Any ideas, wishes or thoughts that contradict the idea that the PLCB knows what is best for you. They are the pinnacle of access to alcohol, even when the facts show otherwise. To think otherwise is a crime. You laugh at this, but as an American citizen, in direct defiance of the spirit of the U.S. Constitution (because of the terribly written 21st Amendment), Pennsylvania tells you that you can't go buy booze across the Delaware River in New Jersey. Laugh that off. 

Room 101: In the novel, Room 101 was where you were tortured with your worst fears.  Here in Pennsylvania, Room 101 is the entire state under variable pricing. All our worst fears about the PLCB come true (we warned you about this over and over, damn it!).

2 + 2 = 5: The mathematically false statement that control over physical reality is unimportant; so long as one controls one's own perceptions to what the PLCB says ("We make millions in revenue for the State!"), then any act is possible, in accordance with the principles of doublethink. A prime example: the commonly held belief in the Legislature (and among the citizens) that the PLCB is profitable, while it is over  $1 BILLION in debt, with total liabilities approaching $2 BILLION.

Memory hole:
A small chute in the wall used to carry documents to a large incinerator, in order to censor information and or remnants of the past. What's the connection to the PLCB? They tried to dump who was responsible for the wine kiosks and House Brands. They buried the truth about the Point Breeze warehouse firings in 2010 (and rehired all the union employees). And we go on like nothing happened. No one gets arrested, no one gets fired. Okay, ONE guy gets arrested, despite obvious corruption. Do you remember who? 

1984 never came to pass...except in that weird Apple Macintosh commercial. We certainly don't need it here in Pennsylvania. 

A free citizen does not need the PLCB.