Beer Money In Congress

Beer manufacturers are lobbying congress in order to secure a “beer tax rollback” which would “cut the federal beer tax in half to its 1951 level,” according to the CSPI. Alcohol producers donated around $10 million to federal candidates in the last election cycle, and 70% of that was “beer money.”

To be perfectly frank, we don’t have a real strong opinion on the pros or cons of beer tax, but we thought you’d like to know about it just in case you’d like to form one for yourself. For more info, you can check out the running beer money tally at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Since, you know, people in Congress are technically supposed to be representing you and not beer.—MEGHANN MARCO

Beer Money In Congress [CSPI]
(Photo: tubes.)


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  1. B says:

    Homer: “Let bears pay the beer tax, I pay the Homer tax.”
    Lisa: “That’s Home Owner tax.”
    Homer: “Either way, I’m still outraged.”

  2. Kornkob says:

    people in Congress are technically supposed to be representing you and not beer

    Hmm– is there any difference in this case?


  3. Skiffer says:

    From the link: “which would cut the federal beer tax in half to its 1951 level – a move many public health groups strongly oppose.”

    Give me a break – do they really expect alchohol-related social/health problems to be affected by a 10-15% (I’m guessing) price change?

    Maybe the public health groups should spend more time worrying about Chinese imports…

    Or – raise the tax until we start importing cheap melamine ale…

  4. BeastMasterJ says:

    There was some legeslation here in PA that was supposed to allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores, convienence stores, and the like. It’s being fought by 2 bozos who are in the Liquor control boards pockets (LCB has donated to both of these guys campaigns). The argument was that they were “concerned that 16 year olds might be ringing up the purchases.” Minors ringing up purchases of teh alcoholz? ohnoes!

    So while I’m all in favor of lowering taxes, especially on liquor, I’m always a bit annoyed at these kind of things…

    /Pennsylvania has a fetish for prohibition and secretly long for the good old days.

  5. stephen5 says:

    technically supposed to be representing you and not beer

    On the you are what you eat theory it’s the same thing.

  6. jamst149 says:

    Binge drinking among youth is getting out of control. It most certainly is a public health issue. Recent studies support this indicating a sharp rise in binge drinking over the past 10 years or so.

    Beer companies are just as bad as tobacco and the like that lobby DC. IMO, anything that makes life more difficult for these companies is good in my book. I despise any industry that preys on youth (Tobacco, alcohol, fast food/junk food) in order to make a buck at the expense of their health.

  7. He says:

    I’d rather they legalized near beer for minors again.

  8. Wormfather says:

    Seriously, the sin taxes are out of control in this country. They just keep taxing the crap out of things people arnt supposed to want. I’m waiting for the day that I’m not supposed to want sex.

    oh and @Skiffer…that Chinese Embalming Beer.

  9. Pelagius says:

    I’m with the lobbyists on this one. Czech Republic considers beer to be food and thus exempt from sales tax. France does the same for wine. I like the way they think.

  10. jamst149 says:


    The impact these industries have on Americans health and in turn our health care costs are what is out of control. Are they stopping you from drinking? No. Would you also advocate getting rid of taxes on cigs?

  11. Skiffer says:

    @jamst149: I agree that drinking is a public health issue – I just don’t think it will be significantly affected by a minor price change. If we’re talking around a 50% price change, though, that may be different…

    And just blindly favoring “anything that makes life more difficult for these companies”? What about the legal consumers? We sure as hell don’t appreciate suffering because some parents didn’t raise their kids right…

  12. Pelagius says:

    By the way, the bill rolls it back to it’s pre 1991 level.

    If the bluenoses at CSPI can’t even get that straight… well, maybe they’ve started happy hour a little early.

  13. Pelagius says:

    it’s -> its.

    How embarasing.

  14. ChiefDanGeorge says:

    @jamst149: If the “youths” are under 21, then it is illegal for them to posses alcohol in the first place. If they are 21 or over, they are responsible for their actions. Well should be responsible for their actions, however this is America after all.

  15. jamst149 says:

    Will the minor price change really effect you all that much? Is it really going to lighten your financial burden? I doubt it. For those that it does, maybe they should be drinking less anyway.

    My feelings regarding the industries I have mentioned are based on a lot of personal experience. As a country we are getting fatter and fatter and its companies like the ones I have mentioned that are partly responsible with some very subversive and complex systems in place for generating consumers. Parents are most certainly a large part of the equation but too many Americans for a myriad of reasons either don’t have the time or the interest to do what they should be doing and its our children that ultimately suffer. Then they grow up and teach their children many of the same behaviors.

    I’ve always been somewhat of a rebel though and took pleasure in those that muck rake against such companies.

  16. jamst149 says:

    For all the typo nazi’s, sorry I aint a great typer when I’m going fast. If thats all you got though then…you don’t have much.

  17. jamst149 says:


    We don’t live in an ideal world where all the laws are upheld now do we? Are you really going to act like its hard as a minor to get it or that they don’t partake in dangerous binge drinking quite often? Turn a blind eye if you would like but it IS an issue.

  18. CaptainRoin says:

    @jamst149: Thats it! Everyone is fat because of the beer companies!

    That’s the american way after all isn’t it? If the only person to blame is yourself, find someone else to blame.

  19. jamst149 says:


    Did I not mention parents? If I could go and talk to every parent then I would, but I can’t.

    You can reduce what I’ve said to that if you like but thats a mischaracterization of what I said.

  20. I find myself suprised to be saying this, but I support this. Whereas I support the “sin tax” on cigarettes, and even hard alcohol, I don’t think its appropriate to put exorbitant taxes on beer. Unlike cigarettes, which are toxic and bad for you no matter how sparingly you use them, beer is only detrimental to your health when consumed in large quantity, and many beers (i.e. dark, and generally not sold in cans) have significant health benefits when consumed in moderation. IMHO, it makes more sense to put a sin tax on Cheetos than beer.

  21. Bourque77 says:

    Ya know comedian haywood banks has a song about such things. His great idea, have congresspeople wear nascar type jackets. That way we all know who they are voting for. We all know they arent looking out for us.

  22. Anitra says:

    I oppose this, but not for the usual “sin tax” reasons.

    If this tax is rolled back, how will the government compensate for the lost revenue? There are 3 possibilities, and I don’t like any of them:
    a) ignore it and increase the budget deficit
    b) cut spending accordingly (hah!)
    c) increase taxes on some other product

    Given those choices, I’d rather the tax stayed in place at its current levels.

  23. glomm says:

    Obviously they should keep the tax on crappy beer like PBR, MGD, and Coors because nobody should be drinking that swill.

    I’ll stick to my Samuel Smith’s, Wolavers, and Smuttynoses.

  24. ChiefDanGeorge says:

    By your logic, the tax should be raised to some point to assure minors cannot buy the beer.
    I’m not going to turn a blind eye, I will go get myself a sinful beverage and put on some beer goggle eyes.

  25. Wormfather says:

    Well it looks like this issue worked its self out…or not.

    If the government doesnt want me to drink/smoke make it illigal, dont give me BS taxes as a ‘deterent’. That’s utterly hypocrytical, if it’s wrong then we shouldnt do it but otherwise, let the free market world work it’s wonders…

  26. crayonshinobi says:

    The real question here, if the tax is rolled back, is whether the beer companies will pass the savings on to the consumer…and I somehow doubt that will happen.

    Still, a man can dream.

  27. Pelagius says:

    Sin taxes in Australia are sky high (a six-pack of beer costs about $13), but they still have alcohol problems.

    They also have a vibrant home-brewing culture, so..

  28. mac-phisto says:

    @glomm: snob ;)

    what is the purpose of this tax again? oh, that’s right. it’s to support groups like those crazy mothers. i’m writing a letter to my legislators right now to give them my full support for the rollback.

    incidently, i’m not an advocate of drunk driving, but this zero tolerance & mandatory sentencing crap they’re pushing these days is over the top. having a single beer with dinner at a restaurant is not a crime & shouldn’t land you in jail for 45 days. just be happy with the 0.08 & bench discretion already.

  29. Skiffer says:

    @Wormfather: I’m of the opposite mindset that nothing should be illegal and everything “bad” should be taxed.

    The goverment can discourage something in 2 ways – prohibit it at cost, or tax it at profit.

    If something “bad” is made illegal…but there is still demand for it, then there will be a black market for it. Then the government (i.e., you / us) has to pay to enforce its prohibition. Then we jail people and take a further cost / productivity / GDP hit to the economy.

    Tax the hell out of it, and at least its a source of revenue instead of a cost.

  30. KenyG says:

    mmm, beer.

  31. @BeastMasterJ: “Minors ringing up purchases of teh alcoholz? ohnoes!”

    In case nobody else has mentioned it yet — in Illinois, where all varieties of alkie beverage may be bought in the supermarket, and minors may not ring up alcohol, the underage checker just flags down a manager or the next cashier over so someone over 21 can RUN YOUR DANGEROUS WINE OVER THE SCANNER and you can get on with your life.

    The longest I have ever had to wait for such a transaction to occur was about 15 seconds when I was buying nothing BUT alcohol and didn’t realize the shortest line was being staffed by a 14-year-old.

  32. crnk says:

    Wonderful! This is a totally single sided argument and it doesn’t even address what the tax rate IS or should be. It just is against the passing of a law.
    Since nothing mentions it, the current tax is about $18 per barrel. That should calculate out to $9 a keg, and at about 150 beers there, about 5 cents for each glass. The argument is that an inflation-adjusted rate would be about 20 cents for each beer, and that we’re just getting a bargain on taxes at this point.
    You’re also paying an average of 2 cents per beer nationwide for state excise taxes–with the range from 2 cents per gallon (10-ish drinks) up to Alaska’s $1.07

    Anyway, read up, some interesting info about what the rates are, when the last increases by state were, etc

  33. leftistcoast says:

    @crayonshinobi: Word. You can complain all you want about how this is a ‘sin tax’ and how it’s unfair but, at the end of the day, the beer producers are just another group of lobbyist trying to increase their profits without raising their prices. None of us will ever see a cent of the tax savings if the tax is rolled back…

    At the same time, I’d support it…but only if it capped the tax reduction at a specific barrel output. No reason the big crap beers should reap all the rewards…throw the microbreweries that are are producing the good stuff a bone. In fact, I’d support no tax whatsoever on the hoppiest IPAs…

  34. Mr. Gunn says:

    leftistcoast: That’s a great idea. Bud and Miller are the Nike of beer. You’re more likely to think of their ads instead of their product. They don’t need a tax break – give it to the small brewers instead.

  35. Sudonum says:

    This was my first thought as well. “How much is it going to cost/Where’s the revenue to replace it coming from? We don’t need to dig ourselves deeper into debt so Bud can make a few more bucks a keg.

  36. mlf2117 says:

    This is yet another example of the problems in politics of people who place moral roadblocks between positions on issues that are purely economic. Beer’s problems, socially, are in drunk driving and people who get drunk and break things in public, right? A beer tax is a Pigouvian tax that attempts to create efficiency in that market by covering the marginal external damage of drinking a beer. It’s a fairly simple question of how much utility people derive from drinking beer and at once how much others are hurt because of those who drink. Not that minimizing deadweight loss is the most important economic problem in any industry, but really that’s the issue in any “sin tax” debate. I hope there’s some economist out there crunching the numbers on the causal relationship between the cost of beer and the yearly rate of drunk driving accidents or public disturbance incidents.

  37. CyGuy says:

    @leftistcoast: “At the same time, I’d support it…but only if it capped the tax reduction at a specific barrel output.”

    Actually the way the tax is currently structured, brewers who make less than 2M barrels/year are charged a reduced rate of just $.02/can (instead of $.05 as noted above) on the first 60k barrels they sell.

    “In fact, I’d support no tax whatsoever on the hoppiest IPAs…”

    I have some Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA in fridge calling my name as I type this. But from a tax fairness perspective, I think would actually tax microbrewers more. That is, I would tax beer based on its’ actual alcohol content and make the tax on alcoholic products consistent regardless of the beverage the alcohol was sold as. At the current rate for a typical beer, that would be about $.10/ounce of alcohol in the product. Hard liquor is already taxed based entirely on its alcohol content, at a rate of $.21/ounce of pure alcohol in a product.

    The best bargain taxwise? Hard cider – which makes it pretty clear that the this proposal of reducing the taxes isn’t going to change people’s consumption and will most like just be pocketed by the beer producers. Hard cider tends to be much more expensive than beer (though as a homebrewer I found it cheaper to make) and the low tax rate (of around $.05/ounce of pure alcohol in the product) is hardly causing a buyer stampede for the product.

  38. othium says:

    I think it’s really sad that we have soldiers that can’t legally drink a beer but are deemed “old enough” for combat. Truly sad.

    “you can get married and screw yourself up real good

    but ya can’t buy beer

    ya can charge 8 million dollars on the mastercharge

    but ya can’t buy beer

    you can vote for one fool or another

    but ya can’t buy beer

    ’cause this is America

    America that’s run by the lowest common denominator

    the money”

    -Mojo Nixon

  39. asherchang says:

    I’m involved in the beginings of a movement called called Free Thinkers Abstaining From Psychoactive Substances, and as a part of a 4-year pledge, I’m abstaining from alcohol because the brewing industry is highly irresponsible about the crap that goes into its products.

    Seriously, they can put practically anything into your wine or beer, and since they don’t have to list the ingredients, they’re not held accountable.

    It’s funny how anti-tobacco ads focus on all the crap that goes into cigarettes, but no one cares about wine or beer because drinking is more socially acceptable.

  40. TheName says:

    @asherchang: Despite the fact that beer does not need to list its ingredients, it’s generally made up of exactly water, malt, hops, and yeast (occasionally rice, corn, or the odd fruit/spice). I seriously doubt that even the biggest brewers (read: Anheuser-Busch, SAB Miller, etc.) have added much beside that and the craft brewers definitely have not. So while they “could” put them in and not tell you, they do not.

    Regarding the original argument, while the big brewers are the ones lobbying for the lower taxes (they can afford to throw money at Capitol Hill) the majority of those opposing it (so-called “public health groups”) are generally of the neo-prohibitionist school of thought: any and all alcohol is bad. For an example of their arguments, check out some of the audio debate last month from Alabama regarding their 6% al…

  41. KimC says:

    To Poster Pelagius: Just a clarification, CSPI is quite correct to say that the beer tax rollback bill (HR 1610) would, in effect, cut the federal excise tax on beer to the 1951 rate. That’s because reducing the tax to the pre-1991 rate (which you correctly state that the bill would do) is the SAME as lowering it to the 1951 rate (before 1991, the tax had not been raised since the previous increase in 1951). I hope that clarifies.

  42. Beer-Money-Blogger says:

    A beer tax is just another way to raise taxes on the poor. I think they should roll the tax back because they have no justification for imposing a tax on beer. Those paternalistic bozos think they know whats best for everyone.