Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Online polls - What are they good for?

Polls yeah
Online polls
What are they good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
Online polls
What are they good for?

With apologies to Mr. Starr there is a point.  Online polls do nothing to show evidence of what the populace is thinking.  In the case of liquor privatization the union representatives will tell their people to vote it thereby skewing the results well beyond what they would be without their meddling.  Scientific poll after poll for decades have been fairly consistent that 60-65% of the citizens want the freedom of choice that an open market system brings.

While it is nice that politicians want some input I would hope that they knew their constituents well enough to have a fairly good idea what the people want.  After 40+ years of almost every scientific poll ever taken that shows the citizens don't want the state store system I would think that they should already have a pretty firm grasp on the subject.

What people should be asking is why their representatives vote the way they do. What special interest or ideological bent prevents them from doing what the majority of citizens want them to do.  While they, the politicians, may have answers they certainly can't have any reasons that hold up as to why they aren't doing what they were elected to do - represent what the people want.

It isn't that difficult, Washington did it in 11 months, Alberta Canada did it in 6 months. We are not reinventing the wheel here.  Look and take the best of what the rest of the states are doing, put regulations in place to prevent the worst and move forward.  The convoluted and ridiculous limits and restrictions of some of the proposals make our already horrid liquor laws even worse.

The requirement is that change has to benefit the society as a whole not store clerks, not beer distributors, not tavern owners but what makes things better for the populace. Making grocery stores have cafes to sell a six pack or wine doesn't do that.  Not allowing a beer distributor to sell a mixed case doesn't do that and not allowing a bar to sell a case of beer doesn't do that.  If you are willing to pay the bar price for a case then you should know the old saying about a fool and his money.

We have one of the largest and most highly paid legislatures in the country.  Make them do something to earn that pay, make them vote the way we, the majority of the people, want them to vote or put somebody in place who will.  You know if they are ignoring us on this issue they are ignoring us on other issues too. Is that why we elected them?

Privatization IS Modernization.  Accept nothing less.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The PennDot Plan

The latest Wendell Young IV press release.*

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming.  Today I would like to propose a new plan and direction for the state stores.  I call this plan the PennDot plan in honor of our union brothers who originated it.

For too long we have been trying to act like a business, be as efficient as a business and react like a business.  While we haven't failed at this it has not been as successful as we would have liked.  Today I propose we go back to doing what we do best - act like a union and not a business. Starting this week I will be working with the Board and legislature to triple the amount of  employees in each store. Where ever a customer goes they will now find at least one employee standing around waiting for them. There will now be employees guiding customers around the dangerous areas for the 6-10 months it will take to redo the floors between each of the shelving units.  Every customer will get a handout when they come in the door so they will know exactly who can help them based on one of the 50 color coded aprons.  The customers will soon learn that a blue with green stripe apron is an expert in TableLeaf Chardonnay while one in green with blue stripes is a Franzia red specialist. This will make their shopping experience that much greater by knowing exactly who they can talk to.World class aprons make for world class stores and world class shopping and we are proud to expand this fine initiative!

Stores will be cleaner and brighter than ever with a Board authorized person for each assignment to get the bucket, fill the bucket, move the bucket and finally mop the floor. This kind of specialization will make each member of the mopping team an expert in the task ready to take on the duties of the next in line provided there is a written request from the district manager at least 2 weeks in advance and that the shop steward approves. With over 9,000 PLCB paid employees the PA economy will flourish and it will be impossible to consider privatization again. These new employees will increase the total contribution into retirement and medical to make them solvent again for the current generation of PLCB employees and will give us time to figure out how to fix the PLCB pension system before they start retiring in 25 years.

All those new employees will have the time to read the labels of everything in stock and pass that expert knowledge onto the customer as long as the customer doesn't want to know how it tastes. Can't have clerks tasting the products, that would be promoting alcoholism and the PLCB won't allow that. New spirits specialists with intricate knowledge of all 14 different orange flavored vodkas will be placed at every store as soon as we can get them to buy all 14 different orange flavored vodkas and try them. Local economies will benefit as Courtesy Training centers are expanded to all counties with more friends and relatives employed truly making the PLCB one big happy family. 

I am also proposing a Wine Kiosk Museum to showcase the technological innovations the PLCB has done over the years. This will have a staff of at least a dozen and be headed by Joe Conti the foremost expert in Wine Kiosks in the state. All profits from the $20 admission fee will go to the state general fund further improving the lives of all Pennsylvanians.

These 6,000 new members will see the need for a strong union, a union they can be proud of and a union that will do everything it it's power to keep things exactly how your parents remembered because a link to the past is part of the chain that holds the FUTURE!

*(Taken from notes found in the parking lot of  the PLCB and inspired by an actual union representative so who may be coming soon)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What they made, what they say they made.

Finally, a full 6 weeks later than last year the PLCB released their un-audited numbers to the public.  Now we all have heard that they made $660 million in a record sales year. That is like saying the PA Dept of Revenue "made" $23 Billion. Collecting taxes is not making money. The PLCB collected $520,483,384 in taxes and then overcharged the people of Pennsylvania $128,365,957 for the privilege of going to a state store.  To be fair they did pay for the BLCE to enforce the state monopoly that prevents the citizens from going anywhere else to purchase wine & liquor and to keep track of the all important beer registration list, neither of which they seem to do all that well.  They also paid out $2,567,319 or about half of their advertising budget to drug and alcohol programs. You would think that an agency charged with, "...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..." (PA Liquor Code 1-104) would at least spend less on advertising and more on education but that's not how they roll.

So what else does this latest set of numbers tell us?  I noticed that for the first time in at least two decades that they didn't take an advance from the state ($110 million the last few years) to get things going.  We'll have to wait and see if they can keep it up or if this is just a one time thing to make the numbers look good under the threat of privatization.  Liabilities would have gone up 10% if they had taken it verses the normal 2-3% for the past few years.  History isn't on their side.  Bailment was also something that would control costs but inventory, the thing bailment was supposed to reduce, went up 11% from the previous year.  Cash went down 44% from 2012 and Accounts Receivable decreased a whopping 94% which may be a good thing if other entities are paying their bills almost immediately or it may not be that good if the business isn't selling as much goods or services.  The published reports don't provide enough information to figure it out. Store operations only went up $2 million but they closed 8-10 stores (PLCB audit 2012 lists 608 stores, testimony in May says 596) and the Chairman says that they are short at least 250 employees so I guess that is one way to keep it even but how long can they keep this balancing act going is the question.

While record sales are nothing new to the PLCB I wonder why the record profits don't follow the same pattern.  It took 5 years for Operating Income to beat the FY 2008 total, There were record sales in FY 2009 and profits went down 24%, there were record sales in FY 2010 and profits went down another 36%. Three of the last four years ended with negative assets which had never happened before. Total Net Assets still hasn't passed 2006 levels. In terms of percent of Income Before Operating Transfers the BLCE and Drug and Alcohol programs get less now than they did in 2000.

At some point next year we'll see the official audited report and know exactly what happened but until then we have to deal with what little is released.

I, like the majority of Pennsylvanians fail to see the need to keep a exceedingly small minority in place to the detriment of 12.75 million residents. The numbers just don't justify the continuation of the state in the retail and wholesale spirits business.

Privatization is the Ultimate in Modernization.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PLCB takes credit but doesn't do anything.

Before you read my comments you need to read this press release from the PLCB.


This is called ass-kissing to stay on the good side of the PLCB.  If you didn't know - when something goes on sale at the PLCB it isn't the state store marking down their price, their cut stays the same.  It is the distributor who eats the dollars off.  Unlike how the most of the rest of the country works where it can be the distributor, store or both putting things on sale.  Here we have a case of the distributor not only providing the discount but also the donation and the PLCB is taking credit for it but not actually making any donation themselves. Pretty low-life if you ask me.

If you have any doubts as to my interpretation then look at this from the PLCB.

Government running retail business is Socialism plain and simple.
Privatization IS Modernization.  Accept nothing less.