48% of Democrats Support Alcohol Reform

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Just a reminder that the unanimous opposition to alcohol reform from Democratic politicians does not reflect the view of Democratic voters. The opposition is special interest-driven, not driven by voter opinion. On any other issue where Democratic voters were this closely divided, the caucus would be more divided. And they should be more divided. Alcohol reform is a good deal for big cities and the suburbs outside of big cities, where most of the state’s voters live. Any Democrat representing a populous urban or suburban district who’s not in favor of supermarket alcohol sales and expanded tavern licensing is putting a tiny special interest group ahead of his district’s voters.

Keegan Gibson reads the F&M poll:

While opposition to lottery privatization proved strong, a majority of Pennsylvanians support selling the state’s liquor stores to private companies. Overall, 53% of registered PA voters support privatization including 61% of Republicans, 51% of independents, and 48% of Democrats. 34% oppose privatizing state stores.

The 55-34 breakdown is within historic norms according to F&M surveys from 2010 and 2002.

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

24 Responses to 48% of Democrats Support Alcohol Reform

  1. And of the 34% that oppose privatizing liquor stores, how many of them ever buy anything from one?

  2. Rich says:

    A majority of Democrats nationally supported the Iraq War in spring of 2002. What’s your point? In principle, we don’t support cutting state workers and selling off state assets to the private sector. Why would we do so now under these conditions? Is there a good reason to now go against that principle of the party?

    • Jon says:

      The principle of the party on these issues should be to figure out which public goods and services the state and only the state can provide, and then pay exactly as many people as are needed to deliver those services well, at the market wage. The public sector is about the services, it is not a jobs program.

      If there’s something the private sector can do cheaper and better, as in the case of retailing alcohol, then they should do it. If there’s something the private sector will do shittily or with a catch, like privatizing the Turnpike or leasing parking meters, we shouldn’t let them do that. Nothing categorically wrong with asset sales, only if we get ripped off. We need to decide on a case by case basis, not on some broad ideological principle. Selling off all of SEPTA’s park-n-rides to housing-office developers would be a great liberal idea to raise money for transit, for example.

      • John Rzodkiewicz says:

        http://www.ufcwpawineandspiritscouncil.com/news/liquor-privatization—buyers-remorse-in-washington-state/
        There were added taxes and fees calculated to make up for the States lost profits. The privates were supposed to make their money by being more efficient. Hows that working out? With each private store and chain having overhead for everything from IT to shipping and logistics not very well. Turns out the WLCB was pretty damn efficient after all. It’s not like the big chains that are knocking the little guys out of business care. It’s doesn’t seem any one got mad and quit drinking over a little 30% price increase. Sure, some ran for the borders but for the most part people are paying the price and the corporate store owners are laughing all the way to the bank. I wonder how profitable the old WLCB would have been if they knew they could charge the kind of prices the privates are charging?

        • Jon says:

          The Washington State plan is just another partial privatization like I’ve been complaining about. I’m against the licensing cartel approach.

          • John Rzodkiewicz says:

            Apparently you’re so caught up in the drive to make Pa an alcotopia it’s clouding your thinking. Exactly what are the license limits in Wa. ? You seem to be in favor of selling alcohol with the same restrictions we have for selling toilet paper. Alcohol is still a recreational drug despite the industries PR machines claims. Seems you would give licenses to the same people that sell our kids bath salts and dangerous synthetic pot. Your views on this are more libertarian than progressive.

          • Jon says:

            To sell alcohol in Washington you need to purchase one of a limited number of licenses. I’m opposed to regulating alcohol sales with a licensing cartel. I would limit alcohol consumption through relatively high gallonage taxes on beer, wine and liquor, advertising bans, and Do Not Sell lists, to prohibit people who have been convicted of multiple alcohol-related offenses from buying alcohol. I would not limit who can sell alcohol. I would only regulate it on the demand side.

          • Jon says:

            I think when it comes to consumer goods there’s no difference between progressives and libertarians. There’s nothing in the progressive ideology favoring rent-seeking, monopolies, or anti-competitive regulations for retail businesses. We are all about consumer surplus and low barriers to entry. In this case it needs to be balanced against public health concerns, but we can do that entirely on the demand side, without treating adults like children.

          • John Rzodkiewicz says:

            http://discussions.mcall.com/20/allnews/mc-pa-state-store-privatization-problems-20130210/10
            Probably why the CDC and others recommend against further privatization and increases in outlet density.

          • Jon says:

            So restrict outlet density through zoning

          • John Rzodkiewicz says:

            The initial auction had a limited amount of licenses. After those went any store over a certain square footage could get a license. No limit and the big boys are putting those that bought the smaller stores out of business anyway.

      • Rich says:

        Your principles here don’t fit with where Democratic principles do. We believe that if the state does something profitably, you keep doing it. We also believe that well paid workers are worth fighting for, and that sending jobs into the private sector to lose wages and run up profits isn’t good. Most importantly, I fundamentally disagree with your idea of what benefits the consumer. They’ll see higher prices and selections that are based on the corporate bottom line. Living in the border region with New Jersey, I find the PA liquor stores to be at least as good as their private counterparts in NJ. Finally, I’m not for one-time asset sales in most cases, so broadly I think they are bad. When was the last time we privatized anything and saw the product improve around here?

        • Jon says:

          I think you’re wrong about Democratic principles. The reason Democrats support public goods is because they are important, but undersupplied by the market, or not supplied at all. So we think that it is worth raising the revenue necessary to provide them. We do not support the public sector because we think it is a jobs program. That is why the “high paying jobs” argument is not persuasive to me. If the public sector shouldn’t be doing this thing in the first place, it doesn’t matter whether the jobs are high paying or low paying. There’s no reason for us to be overpaying a handful of retail employees to do something the private sector will do for less, and better.

          The state should supply public goods and public goods only. The private sector supplies the private goods. Alcohol is not even close to in a cross-over category. It is fully in the private goods category. The state should not have anything to do with selling it, only regulating it.

          There’s a strong tradition in the Democratic Party against guilds and rent-seekers that goes back to Andrew Jackson. Democrats are against consumers getting ripped off by rent seekers. Again, if this wasn’t a labor priority, and just some business vs business fight, Democrats would be all about the consumer in this fight. But because there’s a nominal labor angle here it’s confusing normally sensible people.

          • Rich says:

            By your standard of what the government “should” do, government would be out of health care. After all, it’s certainly not a public good, it’s certainly a private one. I just don’t think most Democrats would accept your view that we need to downsize, or of what you think the government should do.

          • Jon says:

            There’s no contradiction. Health care services are a market good, but since we’re not monsters, we think that people ought to have access to it even if they can’t pay. So we pay private companies to provide the service. We want to treat insurance like it’s a public good, not have the government run the hospitals and directly employ the doctors.

          • Rich says:

            Secondly, where are we getting ripped off? I’ll tell you what, go to the free bridge in Easton. There’s a liquor store on both sides of the river. Check the price differences. For that matter, check the selection on items both cover.

          • Jon says:

            Here’s a breakdown in the difference in selection between PLCB and retailers in other states. That’s not really my issue. If there’s a market, stores will provide what people want. The idea that people in rural areas are clamoring for all these fancy wines and liquors makes me laugh.

            The fact that you have to drive to a separate alcohol store, beer distributor, etc from where you normally buy food is a waste of people’s time and gas money. Maintaining the stores is a rip-off. Overpaying the retail workers is a rip-off for taxpayers.

          • Rich says:

            Maybe I missed this, but when did beer and other liquors become the same product? I don’t drink them together, why not buy them at different stores? I don’t consider that an inconvenience at all. It makes sense to me.

          • Jon says:

            Rich I love you man but that is a really dumb point.

  3. John Rzodkiewicz says:

    “Nothing categorically wrong with asset sales, as long as we don’t get ripped off.” If we don’t get ripped off it will be a first! Do you really think Corbett is doing this because he can’t sleep nights thinking about how this affects the Pa. party scene? http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/09/as_we_reported_this_weekend.html

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  5. GDub says:

    Any taxpayer should be skeptical of inflated claims of short-term financial gain through privatization of state assets. Because these stores are protected monopolies, exposing LCB stores to private competition and public sale would also expose their likely oversized overhead costs, poor inventory and distribution systems, and lack of marketing/customer feedback. While a buyer would be buying “the store” in PA, it wouldn’t be buying a great store, given a liberalized market, and thus the sales cost would drop accordingly. Post-Communist Europe had lots of these examples. The canard about the money going “to education” is probably a fig leaf to get this done. We shouldn’t need such an incentive to get government out of retail.

    Jon has a great point–the outcome that we want is being able to buy what you want, at a reasonable price, at a reasonable time, with a reasonable concern for public health. Who cares where people buy this stuff? If control is the problem, Jon lays out ways to fix it. In addition, you could even control purchase times, the way many countries do (say 10AM to 10PM). This strikes me as one of those issues where any data point will be grasped at to prevent consumer choice.

    • Jon says:

      Right, the point is that this is worth doing whether it makes money or loses money. The revenue is a secondary concern and can be made up elsewhere if it’s a money-losing proposition.

      If people want to make up the $72 million a year somewhere else, we can increase the beer tax or issue a whole bunch of new restaurant and bar licenses at a fixed price.

      • John Rzodkiewicz says:

        Yay! Booze everywhere. Now if we can get SEPTA fixed the party crowd without cars can start gettin it on!