Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Pennsylvania House Passes Liquor Privatization

The Pennsylvania State House of Representatives approved a historic measure this evening to get the Commonwealth out of the business of selling wine and spirits at the same time it is supposed to regulate alcohol – a situation Governor Tom Corbett, who supports privatization, regards as a conflict of interest.  The majority Republican lower chamber of the General Assembly approved the measure to end the state monopoly on the wholesale of alcohol and gradually end the state-owned system of the retail of alcohol that will now move to the Senate, where passage is less certain. 

Pennsylvania has had a socialist system of a state monopoly on the wholesale of alcohol and a system of state-owned liquor retail stores since the repeal of Prohibition eighty years ago, as part of a system of alcohol regulation intended by prohibitionists to be as expensive and inconvenient as possible.  For example, beer is sold by beer distributors, but only by the case, and in taverns, but only in six-packs or individual bottles.  Wine and spirits are sold only in state-owned stores, with the few exceptions of wineries and winery outlets, as well as by the bottle or glass if a restaurant holds a liquor license.  Only a small number of grocery stores that have such a restaurant license and designate a seating area for the consumption of wine and spirits are thereby permitted to sell them.  Because the selection of wine and spirits in state stores is less than in privately-owned stores in other states, the Commonwealth loses much business to illegal cross-border purchases by Pennsylvanians who travel to each of the six neighboring states.  The Keystone State and Utah are the only two States in the American Union with a state-owned system.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the largest purchaser of alcohol in the United States.  It controls which brands are permitted to be sold in the state, as well as the distribution of all alcoholic beverages.

Among the reforms in the House liquor store privatization bill, it gets the Commonwealth completely out of the wholesale alcohol business and gradually out of the retail alcohol business by allowing the sale of the 618 state liquor stores by selling 1,200 licenses to operate the wine and spirit stores by region, unless there are no buyers in a particular region.  Private stores would be opening as “state stores” are sold or closed, under the bill.  Once there are fewer than 100 state stores remaining, the remainder would close.  Without the state monopoly on such stores, there would finally be competition in alcohol retail sales.  Beer distributors, who would get the first opportunity to purchase the stores, as well as state financing to purchase them, would be permitted to sell wine and spirits.  They would also be able to sell six-packs.  Beer would also be permitted to be sold in gasoline stations.  Because beer distributors would be able to sell wine and spirits and there would also be more availability of sales of all three types of alcoholic beverages by those businesses holding a restaurant license under the bill, Pennsylvanians would now legally be able to purchase all of their alcohol in one-stop shops.   Grocery stores which purchase a license to sell wine would be able to sell an unlimited number of bottles of wine per customer, while restaurants with a license to sell bottles of wine would be allowed to sell a limited number per customer.

            Several measures to sell off the state stores were offered last year, but did not gain significant legislative traction, although they did generate much discussion.  Governor Corbett, a Republican, submitted his own plan, which the House offered, amended and approved.  Two previous GOP Governors, Richard Thornburgh and Tom Ridge, had also supported privatizing liquor stores, but encountered strong resistance from the state store workers union.  Under the privatization bill approved by the House, state store workers would be given training and education grants, preference in state civil service jobs and businesses would receive tax credits for hiring them.   Proponents predict that many state store workers would be hiring by the new store owners.  Much of the opposition to this time was also based on the idea that the state stores generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, but proponents argue that the sales of the licenses, would not only generate one-time revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars, but the Commonwealth would continue to receive tax revenue from the sales of alcohol.  They argue that sales would increase as Pennsylvanians would not have to travel to other states to purchase wine and spirits that are currently unavailable in the Keystone State because of the state wholesale monopoly.   Pennsylvania residents could legally purchase alcohol from other states under the bill and bring it home, if they pay a tax.

            See also the Commonwealth Foundation blog, a link to which appears on my blog homepage, which provides useful information on this subject.  It has been a leader in promoting a free market in alcohol sales.

            In conclusion, the historic House bill would end the Commonwealth’s conflict of interest in selling alcohol while regulating it, end its monopoly on alcohol wholesale, allow greater choice in purchasing alcoholic beverages, introduce competition in the retail of alcohol while ending its monopoly on wine and spirit stores, improve convenience for customers and end the loss of revenue to other states, while giving the state a large one-time boost of revenue.  I commend the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for passing the bill and call upon the Senate to approve the legislation.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Congratulations, Argentina: The Archbishop of Buenos Aires Is Elected Bishop of Rome

           The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been elected the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

           I am pleased that after my last post, in which I criticized Argentina for the policies of its leftist government, I now have the unexpected opportunity to congratulate the great South American state.  I praise the Argentines for producing a pastor for their country  and now for the world  who stands for moral truths and who was unafraid to oppose the immoral policies of the last two leftist governments of Nestor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez. Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, had criticized Argentinas legalization of abortion and gay marriage and its provision of free artificial contraception.  He has spoken out against abortion and euthanasia, urging the laity to work against these evils and for life, as well as speaking out against gay adoption, which he regards as a form of discrimination against children deprived of parents of both sexes. Cardinal Bergolio recently observed the demagoguery, totalitarianism and corruption of the government of Fernandez, who was an admirer of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.  As I mentioned in my post earlier this month, Chavez had been democratically elected, but became authoritarian.

           As Bishop, Bergolio, the son of an Italian immigrant who was a railway worker, had exhibited the virtues of humility by living simply and of charity by emphasizing the need to aid the poor and to reach out and love the marginalized, such as those suffering from A.I.D.S. Like Pope Pius XII, who secretly aided the Jews and others during the Holocaust (See also my post from December of 2009, The Popes Declaration of Pius XIIs Heroic Virtue Debunks a Liberal Myth,, the Italian-Argentine pastor had quietly aided those in his flock who were persecuted by the right-wing junta.  He has, however, spoken out not only against human rights abuses committed by the dictatorship, but by the leftist guerrillas, as well.  Bishop Bergolio, a philosopher and Jesuit theologian, had opposed Liberation Theology, a form of Marxism prevalent in Latin American in the 1980s that emphasized aid to the poor under the guise of Catholicism.

           Let us pray that the election of Pope Francis, the first Pontifex Maximus (greatest bridge builder) from the Americas and from the Third World, will not only affirm Christians outside of Europe, such as in Latin America, Asia and Africa and continue the spreading of the good news of Christ all over the globe, but lead the developed world away from secularism and back to the roots of its Christian culture.  May God Bless Pope Francis.  Viva il Papa!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Falklanders Vote Overwhelmingly to Remain British

           The residents of the British territory of the Falkland Islands have voted overwhelmingly to remain a territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The vote was nearly unanimous and turnout was high.

           The referendum came amid a flare-up in the long-running dispute between the U.K. and Argentina, which claims the islands off the South American coast and other British-held islands off of Antarctica.  The two fought the Falklands War in 1982 after the Argentine dictatorship invaded the islands, prompting a British liberation under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative.  The inhabitants of the islands are mostly British.  The Argentine government has demanded negotiations on the status of the territory, but the U.K. considers the matter resolved, citing the results of the referendum as determinate.  The Falklands have been under British control since 1833.

           The Anglo-Argentine dispute over the Falklands has flared because of the fiscal and economic crisis facing Argentina and its leftist government, which was allied with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.  Argentina's socialist policies have caused severe inflation amid concerns about its ability to repay its debt.   I had posted about the flare-up in February of last year, in advance of the 30th anniversary of the war, in Foreign Digest: Cambodia, Haiti, Falkland Islands, Irand and Syria,

           I renew my call for the Argentine government to tone down its rhetoric.  I also urge it to resolve its fiscal crisis and fulfill its financial obligations.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Terrorism-Sponsoring Dictator Hugo Chavez Dies

            Hugo Chavez, the authoritarian President of Venezuela, died today of cancer.  The anti-American leftist strongman had formed alliances with Iran, Syria and China as part of what I have identified as an Axis of Rogues, and had also supported FARC, the Colombian narco-terrorists.

           The Socialist dictator had been elected president of democratic Venezuela in 1998, but Chavez pushed through constitutional amendments that repealed presidential term limits in order to allow him to serve for life.  Re-elected in yet another rigged election last year, Chavez was unable to be sworn in for his third term, however, because of his illness with cancer.

           Chavez had limited press freedom while establishing state control of the media and eliminating the independence of the judiciary.  He employed the state to persecute the loyal opposition through criminal prosecutions and the regime and his supporters even used violence.  Chavez imposed socialism by nationalizing (stealing) key industries.  His demagogic efforts on behalf of the poor  supported by increased oil wealth  resulted in high inflation and power outages.  Chavez remained in power by these efforts, as well as through a cult of personality, the demonization of Venezuelan dissidents and his anti-Americanism.

           Chavez had also tried to unite all Latin Americans first in a leftist alliance against the U.S., and then into one state.  He supported left-wing elected governments throughout Latin America and opposed those that were not leftist.  Accordingly, despite Venezuela's economic distress, it nonetheless continued to provide aid not only to the Colombian terrorists who are in rebellion against the democratic government of Colombia that is an American ally, but to Communist Cuba, another state-sponsor of terrorism.  Chavez was a strong admirer of Soviet-ally Fidel Castro, the dictator who murdered tens of thousands of his countrymen.  Indeed, Venezuela's aid to Cuba propped up the weak Castro regime.  In return, Cuba sent doctors to Venezuela.  The irony is that because Chavez sought health care for his cancer in the Cuban medical system that is hailed by American liberals for its supposed excellence, he did not receive adequate treatment, which he might have had he come to the United States, which he despised.   See also my post from February of 2012, Designate Venezuela a State Sponsor of Terrorism,, in which I note the Chavez regimes support for Islamist and other terrorists. 

           The death of the Venezuelan dictator creates uncertainty, first over who will serve as interim president, whether it be the Vice President, who was Chavez hand-picked successor, or the head of the national assembly, and then over the snap elections to be held within 30 days.  In the meantime, Venezuelans are on edge as thugs working for the regime have already committed violence against protesters.  The opposition has an opportunity to rally against the Chavist regime and restore Venezuela to democracy and peaceful relations with the Free World.  Regardless of what happens, at least the Left has lost a charismatic leader and Socialist medicine has been exposed as a failure.  May Venezuela be peaceful and free!