Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Rated "B" For Beer

On my show today, I was talking about raising the tax on beer and other alcohol in order to discourage underage drinking. It's an idea suggested in a recent report by the Institute Of Medicine and the National Research Council (done with your taxpayer dollars, by the way, as it was commissioned by Congress).

As one who is of age but chooses not to drink, this proposal wouldn't affect me, but it does anger me. I hate sin taxes like this -- booze, cigarettes, etc. -- designed to change behavior by making people cough up more dough to the government.

If higher prices were an effective deterrent, no one would be driving an SUV today. They'd all be cruising around town in a Geo Metro. Remember, this is a nation that doesn't bat an eye at paying four bucks for a cup of coffee if it says Starbucks on it. If making beer more expensive would cut down on its consumption, you'd have to close every concession stand at every stadium and arena in the US, where a brew costs about $6 a cup.

There's a lot to say about this ridiculous concept, but here's a point I didn't get to on the air. In the report, one of the recommendations reads, "The Motion Picture Association of America...should consider content about alcohol use when rating films, and assign mature ratings for movies that portray drinking in a favorable light." In other words, if people enjoy alcohol on screen, the movie should be rated R.

Forget, for a moment, about how this would apply to current and recent movies. Let's consider one cinematic classic by the name of "Casablanca." Most of the movie takes place in Rick's Cafe Americain, where people are drinking and having a good time. Sure, Bogart cries in his whiskey when Ingrid Bergman reappears, but that's a broken heart, not an irritated liver. And when Bogie and Bergman are falling in love in the Paris flashbacks, they're draining bottle after bottle of champagne with smiles on their faces. You'd have to say that portrays drinking in a favorable light.

But what idiot would suggest that "Casablanca" be rated R, restricting anyone under 17 from enjoying it? Or would there be an exception for classics? I'd never argue that "Old School" fits that category, but let's not start this snowball down the hill.

Once you start rating for drinking, you have to do it for smoking. Next, you're rating for eating unhealthy meals and snacks. Then, for not enough exercise. Soon, we're adding a sin tax to movies that might be hazardous to your health.

Is this any way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of "Animal House"?