Hidden Agendas

This letter appeared in today's Oregonian, perhaps inadvertently giving us more information than the writer--former reporter and broadcaster Pete Schulberg--intended. I'll reproduce the whole thing, but the interesting bit is bolded:
Alcohol industry wins again

What is it that the Oregon Legislature doesn't undersand about a tiny increase in teh beer tax, which hasn't been raised in 30 years ("On alcohol, Oregon's in denial," July 15)?

Once agains legislators ignored the constituents and cave in to alcohol manufacturers and their distributors. Survey after survey has shown that Oregonians would pay a few cents more for a beer if the money went driectly toward prevention and treatment.

Look at the progress that has been made in dismantling the culture of cigarette smoking in this country. That was done by major efforts in prevention and education. It's time the legislature gets as serious about Oregon's frightening increase in alcohol-related deaths and underage drinking as it is about campaign contributions from the beer industry.

Pete Schulberg
Communications Director
Oregon Partnership
There are a number of motivations and intentions in the beer tax debate, but I was surprised to see Pete (probably unintentionally) so baldly refer to "the culture of cigarette smoking." No one in the brewing industry is interested in seeing alcoholism rates, alcohol-related deaths, or underage drinking continue at high levels. But a lot of Oregonians strongly resent the overt attack on the "culture of beer drinking." It is in no way analogous to smoking. The culture is a valuable, vibrant piece of Oregon's character. Pete offered the traditional argument for a beer tax, and larded it with sanctimony to drive home the point. It's the sanctimony, however, that reveals the assumptive faults in the legislation.

You want to reduce alcoholism rates, alcohol-related deaths, or underage drinking? Fine, but put the Puritan disdain of beer drinking aside.