Thursday, September 27, 2018

6 Reasons to Keep The State Stores - Does it still hold up?

Marc Stier, a Philadelphia-based full-time progressive political activistpublished six reasons why we should keep the State Stores five years ago. I thought I'd take a look at those reasons and how well they hold up today.

1. Poor regulation
"First, in an ideal world we could count on government regulation of private liquor stores to control the sale of alcohol. That’s important, because alcohol abuse remains a major public health hazard. But in the real world, regulation fails when it is carried out by those who hate government. And academic studies show that states that control the sale and distribution of alcohol have lower levels of problem drinking, drunk driving, and the violence and death that go along with them."
In an ideal world we could count on the government to control the sale of alcohol, Stier says, then makes the self-evident observation that the world isn't ideal. It never has been, it never will be. And what does "regulation fails when it is carried out by those who hate government" even mean? The state's liquor regulations are carried out by PLCB employees and BLCE cops: are they known for hating government? Doubtful.

So we're left with our non-ideal world, where the PLCB simply isn't very good at all at control or regulation. Pennsylvania has higher levels of DUI, underage DUI, DUI fatalities, underage DUI fatalities, binge drinking, and underage binge drinking overall than the states on our borders; the non-control states. So while academic studies (set in the ideal world, apparently) may show that states that control the sale and distribution of alcohol have lower levels of problem drinking, the reality is Pennsylvania, where the alcohol problems are in the stubborn middle, despite control.
2. Union organization
"Second, in an ideal world, the workforce in privately owned liquor stores would be able to form a union simply by securing the support of a majority of workers.
But in the real world, laws created and implemented by Republicans have made union organization in the private sector almost impossible. So I stand with currently unionized employees of the state stores."
Hung by that real world again. Stier didn't know that laws (and regulatory interpretation) would change to allow supermarkets to buy restaurant licenses and start selling beer and wine. And what happened? The majority of licenses purchased were by grocery stores which are already heavily unionized, most by the same union that the State Store workers already belong to. Guess union organization in the private sector isn't impossible after all.

3. Tax revenues
"Third, in an ideal world, businesses, including those that sell alcohol, would be taxed at reasonable rates, wouldn’t get to keep 1 percent of the sales tax to cover costs of collection they no longer have, and would pay all the taxes they owe.
In the real world, because we don’t have to worry about those problems, the wine and spirits stores generate more revenues for education, health care and other public needs than private stores would."
As we've always said, in the real world, the world we actually live in, tax collection problems are not a liquor store problem, they are a department of revenue problem. And having an average number of liquor stores for a state our size (about 2,400, compared to the 600 the PLCB manages to keep open...most days) will generate more tax revenue just due to the extra convenience. And don't forget the hundreds of millions of dollars that won't be going out of state to buy things that the bureaucrats in Harrisburg have decided we don't need or want. (BTW, if Stier thinks that in an ideal world alcohol would be taxed at reasonable rates...does he think the real world rates aren't reasonable? Because that's something we'd agree on.)

4. Wage disparity
"Fourth, in an ideal world, our governor and general assembly would be working to increase wages for working people and the middle class. But in the real world, the Republicans are attacking public sector workers and privatizing public services mainly to drive wages in the private sector down. So I stand against a proposal that is likely to make income even more unequal in our state."
In the real world, there would be LESS wage disparity. There wouldn't be the artificially large difference between a stock clerk in a grocery store and a stock clerk in a state-run monopoly liquor store (who are both represented by the same's that work?). Also, I don't in any way consider the PLCB a service. It limits selection, never leads in new products, severely limits locations, and generally prevents entrepreneurs from providing the services consumers want. The PLCB stops job creation and is a drag on the economy, being well over a billion dollars in debt.

5. Discrimination protections
"Fifth, in an ideal world, the state would protect worker from discrimination by private businesses, including new private liquor stores. But in the real world, LGBTQ workers are only protected from discrimination by organized labor."
Simply not true..."in the real world." Again, Stier's pessimism (and drama) has undercut his positions, as the real world moved on and changed for the betterWorkplace protections are provided by state law or regulation. Union agreements do not over-rule written law.

6. Corporate influence
"Sixth, in an ideal world, elections and public policy would be determined by the number of people on each side,  not by campaign contributions given by each side."
We strongly agree! Because by this measure, the PLCB should have been gone ages ago, since for decades the majority of people polled wanted private liquor stores. And we all know who gave more money to politicians -- those against privatization, even though it was against what the people wanted.

So what does this all mean?  In 2018 -- in the real world -- there are no reasons to keep the antiquated, anti-consumer jobs program called the PLCB.


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