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.

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