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Nationalize liquor laws…Straight up!

January 28, 2018 1 comment

I am arguing in favor of nationalizing liquor laws, by which is meant laws pertaining to the hours of service licensee liability and the taxation of beverage alcohol.  These regulations are currently a mish-mash of Federal, state, local and regional dictums which are very contradictory yet serve entrenched interests.

My argument is not against the serving of commercial interests but rather that these interests should be brought together under one national doctrine.

Nor am I advocating alcohol consumption per se.  I am arguing in favor of national law regarding the sales hours and taxation of beverage alcohol.

Additionally I advocate a national policy regarding licensee liability.  Massachusetts follows the doctrine of Dram Shop liability which can make defendant licensees civilly liable for a claim by a plaintiff.  Additionally, this responsibility extends to the license itself as any crime permitted on premises is applied to the licensee.  I am in favor of Dram Shop liability on a national basis.

In 1984 Massachusetts(MA) adopted a phase-in, known as the “step years,” twenty one(21) for legal drinking with those already franchised as twenty(20) year-old legal drinkers “grandfathered” as legal with the age being increased annually until all in the state of MA were 21 or required to be so in 1986.

Even more than thirty years ago the contradictory nature of liquor laws was apparent as the N.Y. Times noted that MA governor Michael Dukakis said “we have to” change the drinking age so as not to lose an estimated $25.5 million in Federal funds.

  http://www.nytimes.com/1984/12/05

Even more contradictory is that in 1973 MA had made eighteen(18) the legal drinking age following 18 year-olds getting the right to vote in 1971 via the Amendment XXVI.

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

Taxes on beverage alcohol are often cited as the rational for local liquor laws.  “Sin taxes” boast the advantage of being a voluntary sales tax for a product that is not essential.  Here in MA taxes are levied on wholesalers and passed along to on-premise providers and retailers.

MA currently taxes at a rate of $4.05 dollars per gallon of wholesale sales which ranks MA 34th. among all states.  On a more practical level this means that a one liter, 33.8 fluid ounce bottle is paying 33.8/128 ounces=$2.64 in MA state tax.  This example applies to 40% alcohol by volume distilled spirits.

However, neighboring New Hampshire has no state liquor tax and is thus able to undercut the prices of MA retailers close to the N.H./MA state line.

  https://taxfoundation.org

Has a MA person become a better person for not participating in what some describe as MA “confiscatory” liquor taxes by visiting N.H?

I think not.

Has the New Hampshire retailer done anything illegal?

No.

Has the Massachusetts purchaser done anything illegal?

No.

However, the mere expedient of crossing a state line should not result in a price that is any lower or higher than what wholesale prices and the market dictates.

Indeed, an examination of tax rates on distilled spirits reveals Washington to have the highest rate at $33.54 a gallon in stark contrast to N.H’s tax-free policy.  MA ranks 34th. in per-gallon rates as of 2016.

  ibid tax foundation

Another area of differences between states lies in closing hours for venues which serve alcohol.

However, even within states local laws differ.  New York City allows bars to open at 7 A.M. and serve until 4 A.M.

  http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/faq/482/how-late-can-a-bar

However, my hometown of Port Washington, Long Island, N.Y. permits 8 A.M. for opening and 2 A.M. for weekdays while restricting 4 A.M. to weekends and the nights before legal holidays.  (No citation available).

As per MA and N.H. with their taxation policies what we have here is an arbitrary set of laws established for no defined purpose whose effect is dismissive of consistency and hurts commerce.

While Port Washington is hardly the urban behemoth of New York City this is not morally sufficient to deny folks access to a legal product while burdening New York City with potential public safety issues.

New Orleans offers 24 hour alcohol service which is among the attractions of Mardi Gras.  Certainly, the New Orleans adult beverage business benefits from 24 hour service but folks not wanting to be subjected to non-stop revelry will be disinclined to reside in a city that might otherwise be a good location.

Yet, Baton Rouge, Louisiana restricts service to 2 A.M.

Once again there does not seem to be any substantive reason for such an extreme variance in service time.

It is worth mentioning that Louisiana ranks 43rd. in taxes at $2.50 per gallon of distilled spirits.

  ibid resources

In this way 24 hour service enables increased consumption thus enabling a relatively low tax rate.

It might be objected that varying laws are acceptable and even morally worthy as the Constitution specifies that unenumerated rights return to the states.

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

However, states’ rights were the basis for slavery and segregation, surely an ignoble tradition.

Moreover, drinking is not a ‘right’ in the Constitutional sense so nationalization would not be needlessly restrictive.

Yes, states have the right and the need to levy taxes but this should not be at the expense of legitimate commerce or circumventing Federal authority.

Indeed, the debate over ‘unenumerated rights’ of the IX Amendment have been going on since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787.

ibid constitution center

Additionally, both honest confusion and deliberate malfeasance are encouraged by this crazy quilt of regulation and anarchy simultaneously.  Localities desiring to make themselves appealing need to develop attractions other than unbridled drinking.

Conversely, there is scant moral justification in barring access to a legal product legitimately obtained.

Yet, all states abide by a 21 year-old requirement for legal drinking thus contradicting the argument of nationalization being too difficult to create and maintain.

  My argument is for the nationalization of all drinking legislation regarding liability, taxation and hours of service.

This national reform would yield benefits both tangible and moral.

A national liquor tax would remove onerous mandates that both stifle and increase business thus permitting market forces to prevail.

I argue that a national liquor tax have its proceeds divided by the proportion of sales tallied by each state and distributed per those percentages.  The digital technology of our 21st. century makes this a practical technique which would be implemented via the indirect subsidy provided by the lower taxed states having to meet one national standard.

Hours of service would be set nationally as well.  While drinking isn’t a ‘right’ in the Constitutional sense, I argue that it is immoral for authorities at the state or local level to set guidelines that grant or deprive drinkers access to beverage alcohol by the dubious virtue of location.

Public safety is best served by setting a consistent moral tone in the writing of laws that are clear and easily understood by all concerned parties.

I will speculate that the elimination of 24 hour drinking in New Orleans may well reduce that city’s homicide rate even as Mardi Gras tourist traffic would likely diminish.

  http://nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/01/shootings

I propose national hours of 8 A.M. to 3 A.M. with no exceptions for legal holidays.  Establishments would be free to close earlier but state or local legislation would not be able to impose a change in hours.

Consistent standards would enable tax collection, serve legitimate guests and lessen the excesses of the adult beverage industry.

Justice is best served straight up.

WORKS CITED

  AP.  “Bill to Set Drinking Age at 21 In Massachusetts Is Signed.”  nytimes.com New York Times 5 Dec. 1984. Web. 27 March.  2017

  http:www.nytimes.com/1984/12/05/us/bill-to-set-          drinking-age

  Tax Foundation.  “How High Are Taxes on Distilled Spirits in Your State?”  2016

  https://taxfoundation.org/how-high-are-taxes-distilled-spirits

  Constitution Center.  “Amendment XXVI Right to Vote at Age 18.  Constitution Center.  Web. 28 March 2017

  https://consitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

  Constitution Center.  “Non-Enumerated Rights Retained by People” Constitution Center.  Web. 28 March. 2017

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

  Lane, Emily.  “With spike in violence, new Orleans had more shootings per capita than Chicago in 2016.”  NOLA.com.  The Times-Picayune, 27, Jan. 2017, Web. 28 March. 2017

  http://nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/01/shootings

 

 

 

 


 

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LIBERALISM

November 4, 2017 Leave a comment

“I have learned, in middle age, that I have a different concept of what it means to be liberal than does most of our society.  Liberalism is not grounded in sensitivity, which is the determination to say or do nothing which, might give offense, rather it is grounded in tolerance which is the determination not to take offense.

2:30 A.M. MBTA Service: An idea whose time has come again.

June 27, 2017 1 comment

I propose restoring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority(MBTA) late night service(LNS) until 2:30 A.M. on Friday, Saturday and the evenings before legal holidays.

  From March of 2014 until March of 2016 the MBTA offered LNS carrying 16,000 riders nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders by February, 2016 (1)

  I propose doubling the late-night subway and grade level train fare to $4.20 from the $2.10 charged on stored value cards.  (Paying by the trip is $2.40)

  This would defray some of the cost of LNS and enable the return of this economically justifiable, convenient and safe means of travel.

  Casual phrases such as ‘world class city’ are often bandied about when Boston is spoken of.  Yet, the last outbound trains from Park St run at 12:54 A.M.

  The benefits of restoring LNS MBTA service would be numerous.

  Hospital and hotel workers work a variety of shifts.  As Boston proper has gentrified many of these working folks cannot afford to live within walking distance of their jobs.

  Furthermore even as taxis have been supplemented by Uber, Lyft and a variety of car services transportation expenses can be a significant part of a working person’s take-home income.

  Even at the UberPool-Boston rate of $6-8, (2), from Massachusetts General Hospital to Harvard and Comm. Ave(s) in Allston this prorates to about $660, $6 x 110 weekend trips=$660 annually for a late-night employee working weekends at $12/hr.  This amounts to about a week’s take-home pay.  Considering the large number of hospital and hotel staff working after 1 A.M. this has a considerable effect upon workers and employers.

Have mercy!

 LNS service would benefit already existing retail outlets.  24 hour super markets such as Star Market at 53 Huntington Ave. and the Star market at 33 Kilmaronock St. would gain a clientele for whom late night grocery shopping is a practical necessity and more economical than a convenience store.

  The LNS which ended in March of 2016 was not the first foray of the MBTA into extended hours.  From 2001 until 2005 the Night Owl service offered bus service until 2:30 A.M.  However, the scattered stops and slow speed worked against the service’s popularity and the Night Owl was attracting a mere 600 riders on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays before being cancelled in 2005.

  The LNS initiated in March of 2014 and cancelled March 18, 2016 carried 16,000 riders by train nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders nightly by February, 2016.

 The cancellation decision was made by a 4-0 unanimous decision of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on January 25, 2016.  (1)

  Leaving aside the question(s) of whether applying and norming the subsidy cost(s) through the entire day(s) would be a valid statistical method, the MBTA nonetheless claims the net marginal cost of LNS is $14 million annually based on a fare of $2.10 per rider.

  My proposal is to increase the LNS fare to $4.20 and thus halve the net marginal cost.

  Assuming ridership remains the same, and I do know what they say about assume, the net marginal cost would sink to $7 million annually!

  What the MBTA has not acknowledged is that the increased business enabled by the LNS would create taxable income some of which could be earmarked towards reducing the MBTA’s chronic operating deficit.

  Boston is a challenging city to drive in even under optimal conditions.  Dark winter nights make this intrinsic challenge even more treacherous as snow and ice pile up.  This challenge is compounded exponentially when large numbers of folks exiting bars and clubs congregate on the sidewalks and streets.

  From 1993 to 1999 I worked at a variety of venues in the Theater District and witnessed departing guests hanging around the area until 3:30 A.M. while socializing, eating snacks and attempting to hail taxis.  The crowds milling about caused significant litter problems, interrupted traffic and ultimately endangered the safety of those hanging around.

  My current employer takes the provisions of MA Dram Shop Liability as established in 1983, (2), very seriously.

  However, even the best managed established establishments are not immune from “pre-gaming” and drug use by guests that leads to slow exits, littering and dangerous and endangered crowds after closing.

  During the lifespan of LNS from 2014 until its cancellation in 2016 my employer did not have this problem as the last Green Line from Kenmore Square departed outbound at 2;30 A.M. allowing sufficient time for the fifteen-minute walk from my employer to the Kenmore Square MBTA station. 

Management mentioned, on more than 1 occasion, that folks tended to leave in order to catch the last train.

  On February 17, 2017 I asked my Assistant Manager, A.M; about my proposal to restore LNS MBTA by charging a double fare.

S.G: So how has the discontinuation of late-night service affected us?

C.M: It has discouraged travel from our customers in Allston as they can’t afford a cab or even Uber or Lyft.  They would have to leave with folks that they don’t know and a lot of our people just won’t do that.

S.G: What do you think that comes to in dollars?

A.M: About 5-10%.  It’s not nothing over the course of a year.  When did it end anyway?

S.G: March 18th. of last year.

A.M: Close to a year, huh.  You know another thing is that there isn’t the parking around here that there was even a year ago and when the Sox start up again it’s like [the parking] at least $30 and that is tough for kids even though most of them don’t have cars.  We don’t really get the trusties, [students who are completely supported by their parents and have leased cars through the school year], our kids are just looking for a good time.

S.G: Do you think our crowd would pay for a double fare after 12:30 on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays?

A.M:  That would be $4.20, right?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I would [use the LNS service] if I were in school and lived in Allston.  You would keep the service running until a last departure from Kenmore at 2:30 like before?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I think that it’s a good idea and would keep some drunks off the road.

  On Saturday, March 11, 2017 I decided to investigate my manager’s assertion regarding the slow departure of guests now that LNS was no longer available.  I left my security post with the permission of my supervisor at 1:45 A.M. as last call was being given.  I observed a dozen guests in front of the building which was surprising considering the 15 F weather.  After clearing the building at 2:30 A.M. I returned to the entrance of the building and found 30 folks smoking, eating pizza and looking for a hook-up.  Folks wandered into the active traffic flow attempting to flag the passenger filled cabs that veered to avoid hitting the remaining revelers.

  Smartphones were frantically employed as folks tried to reach Uber and Lyft but evidently the cold had prevailed over economic opportunity.

  At 2:45 A.M. I left work and there were still 6 guests eating pizza and smoking by the front of the building while discarding the crusts and butts on the sidewalk.

  This scene would not have occurred were the LNS still running.

  “Better safe than sorry,” is more than a cliche’, it is a sound operating principle which would be activated by the renewal of LNS even at double the fare.

  Additionally, lessened consumption of fossil fuel by drivers would have positive environmental effects.

  Enabling employment and entertainment, preserving public safety and environmental sustainability, MBTA LNS at a double fare is an idea whose time has come…again!

ALL ABOARD!

WORKS CITED

1) uberPOOL…Share the ride, split the cost.  Page 1, Web, 6 March, 2017

https://get.uber.com/p/uberpool-Boston

2) Dungca, Nicole.  “MBTA to end late-night service by mid-March.”  Boston Globe, 29 Feb, 2016.  Web. 3 March, 2017

https;//ww.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/02/…late-night-service-end-march…/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEARL HARBOR, December 7 & 8, 1941 and today.

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

75 years ago, Sunday, December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The very next day, December 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war characterizing December 7 as a “day that will live in infamy.”

3 hours later both houses of Congress voted to wage war on Japan and on Germany as well and all of their allies.

When I was a child some 50 years ago December 7th. and 8th, 1941 were well known as the folks, my father among them, who fought in WWII, were alive.

Nowadays only my 91 year-old aunt, actually my Mom’s first cousin, Thelma Allera is still of this world.

As late as my days at Nassau Community College, 1976-78, these dates were mentioned by teachers.  Ofttimes they would speak on what they were doing and where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked and listening to President Roosevelt’s radio address.

On occasion this would spark a discussion of the atomic bomb(s) used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At our congregation of the North Shore Unitarian Universalists in Plandome, N.Y, F.D.R’s formal declaration of war was often contrasted with U.S. policy in Vietnam, and prior to that Korea; where formal declarations of war were deemed needless or overly divisive.

Suffice to say that the U.S. hasn’t declared war since December 8, 1941 although our armed forces have been engaged in conflicts too complex and numerous to delve into here.

President Obama declared today National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day but it seems to have flown under the radar of many folks.  Being 58 my generation’s parents fought in that war so it remains my touchstone.

Indeed, it is difficult for me to conceive of any President making a formal Constitutional declaration of war.

Today my thoughts are of the adults who surrounded me in my early years.

Follow this YouTube link for a film of President Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on December 8, 1941.

https://youtu.be/YhtuMrMVJDK

Christopher Columbus Day 2016

October 14, 2016 2 comments

Christopher Columbus Day passed with nary a notice this Monday, October 10, 2016, with about as much attention as that garnered by Thanksgiving in Canada.

Columbus Day was a celebrated holiday during my boyhood.  I remember very well standing in front of the 1/2 bathroom of 269 Lincoln Blvd. Merrick, New York that stood at the cusp of our kitchen and screened porch looking at the Meadowbrook Bank calendar affixed to the door and seeing the caricature of Christopher Columbus wearing what appeared to be a round crowned sombrero on 10/10.

My 2nd. Grade teacher Miss Glugatch at the Merrick Ave. school had us make little models of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria by tracing around construction paper forms to make little flat models of Columbus’ ships from the very same construction paper forms that would make little flat models of Thanksgiving turkeys.

Brown for the boats, yellow for the sails and red dots for the sailors with all of the hues available from the Crayola 64 crayon box, you know the one with the sharpener that stripped off the paper and got jammed with 1/2 of the silver crayon.  You do know, don’t you? 

Coloring within the lines was even at that age a challenge for your narrator but my “art” passed enough muster to be displayed on the refrigerator of 269 Lincoln Blvd.

51 years ago!

Columbus Day here in the Boston of 20-25 years ago found me selling pretzels from a “truck,” actually a 3-wheeled pushcart, in the then still Italian-American neighborhood of East Boston.  As the 21st. century progressed the crowds thinned and aged and it was no longer earning effective to pay the permit fee for an event that was sliding into irrelevance.

It was around this time that the historical worth of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America became an increasingly contentious issue.  During my elementary school days my well thumbed copy of the SBS/Lucky Book Club THE INDIANS KNEW by Tillie Pine with art by Ezra Jack Keats disavowed me of any notion that European settlers were the end-all and be-all of knowledge.

However, I was impressed that Columbus had sailed across the Atlantic piloting 3 ships and returning safely by means of dead reckoning without the benefit of celestial navigation.

(The fact that the Spanish Inquisition played no small role in Ferdinand and Isabella commissioning Columbus would come into my consciousness during my Junior High North Shore Unitarian congregation religious education).

Having been interested and active in the cause of statehood for Puerto Rico I am very aware of the rightfully disputed nature of Columbus’  exploration/exploitation of that island.

However, as a beneficiary of Christopher Columbus I know that my life would be very different, if it existed at all, without Christopher Columbus.

Columbus Day festivities were not covered by NECN(New England Cable News) and the BOSTON GLOBE offered an article on the prospect of an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” holiday to be celebrated.

I have no objection to an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.  Indeed the mainstreaming of the varieties of Native American history and culture into formal education is still all too under-served and long overdue.

Still, I miss the visage of Christopher Columbus gazing at me from the 1/2 bathroom door framed by the 10/10/65 Meadowbrook Bank calendar and memorialized by the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria hanging on the refrigerator door.

Bit by byte, childhood recedes.

POLITICS: President Obama & TRUMP

March 24, 2016 1 comment

President Obama was our first black President.

TRUMP might be out first orange President.