Monday, July 1, 2013

The CDC Is Out of Control

In the recent movie 'Contagion,' the good guys are the doctors and other professionals at the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In real life, we mostly hear about the CDC during flu season and whenever there's a new contagious disease scare.

So no one would have expected the CDC to suddenly become the scourge of demon rum, peddling junk science to advance a neo-prohibitionist agenda, but that's exactly what's happening. Their most visible campaign has been in Pennsylvania, where they're dishonestly pushing a position that isn't even credible, that liquor privatization will inevitably lead to significant upticks in alcohol abuse.

According to a new story in The Weekly Standard (so new it's dated July 8th), that's just the beginning. Between the stimulus bill and Obamacare, billions are being funneled to the CDC to do health promotion. That's a very broad mandate and for reasons unknown, CDC has decided to throw a lot of that money at alcohol, not by funding alcoholism treatment programs, or information programs urging people with alcohol problems to seek help, but instead by, as Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot put it in 1933, trying to make purchasing alcohol “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.”

The article points out why it is probably illegal for CDC to even take sides on a controversial political issue like Pennsylvania liquor privatization.

The CDC has been politicized before, as when they dragged their heels in the early days of AIDS, supporting the Reagan administration's denial agenda.

If the administration wants to do something useful involving alcohol, they might do well to send some of CDC's money to the Treasury Department's Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which has an actual job to do, which it has had trouble doing due to an explosion of new label approval applications. Used to working with large corporations who have a vested interest in staying within the rules, the TTB is now working with hundreds of small producers, some of whom don't know what they're doing, some of whom are deliberately trying to deceive the public, and most of whom try to push the envelope wherever they can.

President Obama is known to enjoy a beer now and then, but there appear to be many in his administration who harbor the old Progressive belief that humans can be improved, even when they don't want to be, through the benevolent intervention of the government. That's exactly what led to Prohibition the first time around. No one should be looking forward to the sequel.


Anonymous said...

Here in PA those opposed to state owned liquor stores being sold have painted the story this way. They say that thousands of jobs will be lost if the state sells off all the liquor licenses. Those people won't lose their jobs, but most likely will have to accept lower paying positions if they wish to continue working in the liquor trade.

Let's face the facts. Those jobs consist of stocking shelves and ringing up customers. Should they be paid more than $20/hr to do such? That is the debate here in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

The real thing happening here is fiscal conservatives want to privatize, while social conservatives are busy towing the temperance line. Progressives balk at cutting thousands of jobs that (regardless of anyone's opinions) pay a living wage, with benefits.

Neither party will actually *do* anything, because the PLCB is a bed of patronage, deeply embedded in the PA government, and when you *do* something, you become accountable for it. Instead, it's easier to make a little noise every few years, say all the keywords your gerrymandered constituents want to hear, and you keep your position.

Anonymous said...

Richnimrod said;
Lord, please save us from a "benevolent" Federal Government and it's quasi-scientific departments and official-sounding bureaus. They mostly AREN'T working for our benefit. ....IMHO

Anonymous said...

I can only speak of my experience in Massachusetts. We have many small "package" stores, which employ MANY more people then the state stores in our neighbor state of New Hampshire. I know this, because New Hampshire is notably cheaper and worth driving up to purchase from.

Rob K said...

The CDC doesn't just do politically motivated junk science on liquor. They also did it to promote gun control. They produced some of the most awful "studies" of gun violence, until congress forbid them from spending any money on that topic. And I say that as a scientist and engineer.

Anonymous said...

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is an antiquated system that is 80 years old. Everyone knows this system sucks. If Pennsylvania sells the various licenses they will be due a billion dollars if not more.

There will be jobs aplenty if the sale goes through. Unfortunately for the employees, they won't be making top dollar for stocking shelves. Sorry, but it is time to modernize.

Anonymous said...

I live in a "control state" (Maine). I'm usually one of those big-government-loving lefties, but here's a case where the regulators should just step aside and let private enterprise do its thing, the result being much better selection, some competition price-wise, etc. I just want to be able to buy the high quality booze I always see on the 'net but know I will NEVER find here!!

EllenJ said...

Whichever side of the issue Pennsyvanians find themselves on, "privatization" won't be what they're expecting. In my state, Ohio, we have individually-owned liquor stores, which is what has been proposed (unsuccessfully) for decades. The issue always fails, and that's probably why the powers-that-be have enlisted the (dubious, but probably effective) aide of the CDC.

Should it actually work this time, PA will see both an increase in the number of liquor outlets and probably better service at each. Yay!

But, if it's like Ohio, the only distributor -- from whom all of those retail outlets obtain their selection -- will be the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In other words, the store you buy from may be owned by a non-government individual, but the selection will be no different than it is today.

And, as for the CDC's case, I'm a little confused as to how a significant increase in retail outlets will help stem the flow of Demon Alcohol as predicted.

Jim A said...

Chuck, the sad facts are that every Federal regulatory agency is out of control.