The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Alberta increases beer taxes, BC may follow suit
Governments across the country are struggling with the effects of the global economic recession. The federal government expects to post a deficit of $85 billion over the next five years and even Alberta, the country's former economic powerhouse, expects to run a $10.3 billion deficit over the next four years. Deficits need to be financed and debts need to be paid back, meaning higher taxes now, or in the future. The big questions are: how will governments manage their finances and who will shoulder the burden of these deficits?
Unfortunately, politicians seem more than happy to place a good chunk of this burden on lower to middle income people. Last month's budget in Alberta increased "sin taxes," raising the price of a case of beer by $1.50 and a carton of cigarettes by $3.00. The worst part is that this was entirely preventable. Former premier Ralph Klein was able to get the province's finances in order, but once the debt was paid off, spending ballooned. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), Alberta has the second-highest per capita spending in the country. In fact, the government spends $1,300 more per person than does the government of BC, which Albertans often make fun of for being too left-wing. The CTF estimates that if the government had only increased spending relative to the rate of inflation and population growth since 2005, Alberta would still be seeing a $2.9 billion surplus, instead of a $4.7 billion deficit. Way to go Stelmach, you've successfully placed the burden of years of socialist spending practices on the backs of the little guys.
Alberta is not alone in this. The BC NDP platform proposes reducing the wholesale discount to private liquor stores by six per cent, which is widely expected to increase the cost of a six-pack of beer by about $3. Such a policy shift would add approximately $155 million to the provincial government's coffers, but who's going to be hit hardest by such a policy? It's not the professional who will hardly notice that the cost of a $100 bottle of wine has gone up by a dollar. It's students, like myself, who may be addicted to cigarettes, who may want to have a few beers with friends after a hard day's work. It's Jack Layton's "working families" who will be paying for this, but don't expect the BC NDP to care about them.
This reminds me of an episode of one of my favourite TV shows: Married... with Children. The show starts off with Al Bundy walking down the street. He's approached by a number of people peddling their liberal causes, but he doesn't care, because he knows that those issues don't effect him. When he hears the government is proposing a beer tax, however, he becomes politically motivated:
Despite being a satirical look at a down and out American who doesn't care about politics, I believe we can gain a valuable lesson from this. Al Bundy is the kind of working man that Jack Layton's always talking about. However, Bundy doesn't buy into the fallacy of the left: that somehow if everyone puts their money in a giant pot, everyone else will be better off. Bundy understands that his money will go further if it is left in his own pocket and that the government policies that truly affect him are the ones that take his hard earned money away from him.
Unfortunately, conservative parties are all too often seen as the parties of big business, while the left has gained a foothold with lower to middle income people. This has largely been caused by the Republican Party in the US, whose members act like fiscal conservatives until they find a bill that either brings some pork-barrel spending into their district or helps line the pockets of their buddies on wall street. This has manifested itself in a shift at the ballot box. According to David Frum:
A generation ago, the great majority of the most educated Americans voted Republican. The elder George Bush, for instance, defeated Michael Dukakis among college graduates by 25 points. But that advantage has been eroding, and last year Barack Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to win a majority of American voters with four years of higher education.
This is too bad because the truth is that fiscally conservative governments have a lot to offer working-class people. Yet, in Canada, our conservative governments have adopted the policies of the left. Instead of reducing spending so we don't increase our debt load, we are just throwing money at our economic problems. As can be seen in Alberta, the effects of this reckless spending can already be felt.
Getting back to Al Bundy, after he realizes that his vote doesn't count, he mobilizes a mob of working-class people to protest the beer tax:
Now I am not advocating any sort of violent insurrection. What I am suggesting is that fiscal conservatives stop only looking out for themselves and start showing people that free markets and small government can benefit all of society. For too long the left has been able to persuade people with the noble lie of socialism. With the Liberals gaining in the polls, it has never been more important to build a broad base of support for conservative parties across the country. As for Bundy, he doesn't care who won the election, but he has a message for whomever the president may be. A message that Ed Stelmach and Carole James should take to heart:
A great episode from a great show! Married with Children was politically incorrect and I loved them for it! Most other t.v. sitcoms were politically correct sugarcoated b.s. before that(ex: Different Strokes). The show took shots at weak on crime judges, feminism(see Marcie), gun control advocates, animal rights loons(see the Steve Rhodes tortoise episode), big government, bilingualism(see the driving test episode where the test is offered in various languages), public education, and corrupt politicians. Al and his friends struck me as center-right types who refused to change themselves to give in to the prevailing winds. Their methods of striking back were sometimes stupid(ex: establishing NOMAAM mens group). They often embarrassed themselves(ex: Al's trip to D.C. to have congress put his favorite show "Psycho Dad" back on the air). The storylines were often over the top(ex: in 1 episode, the family is trapped in a Florida hotel with a serial killer that only kills tourists. The rub is that the Bundys are the only tourist in the hotel and the locals won't get involved).
The point is that the show lasted 11 years because it struck a nerve with a lot of youths like myself. We saw people on the show who came from our kind of background and held many of the same ideas that we did. These people were(good or bad) willing to speak their mind! It was this strength together with the over the top humor that made me such a big fan. I have since been surprised to find that many of the guys that I work with(it seems that the fans lean heavily male) still watch the reruns before leaving for work!
Posted by: Jason | 2009-05-07 9:09:23 PM
We have only ourselves to blame for voting in this bunch of bozos. Instead of taxing booze and tobacco lets tax designer tea and coffee and let the Chai-Latte crowd carry the tariff. The withdrawal headaches will be too much for them to bear.
Posted by: DML | 2009-05-07 11:43:18 PM
Kinda makes you wish that Ralph Klein was back. He was pretty loyal to his old drinking buddies and his roots.
Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-05-08 10:46:31 AM
They'll have to pry my beer from my cold dead hands.
Posted by: B clarkson | 2009-05-08 11:13:10 AM
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