by Katherine Mangu-Ward
The Washington Post claimed near-supernatural powers for a tiny beer tax on Monday. A booze tax, write Lloyd I. Sederer and Eric Goplerud, will pay for health care reform. But that's not all!:
Research indicates that a 10 percent increase in current alcohol excise taxes—that is a penny for a beer—would result in less drinking, especially among underage drinkers, reducing rape, robbery, domestic violence and liver disease. A tax increase of 3 cents per beer would cut youth gonorrhea by 9 percent.
I'm going to pull out that last line one more time in case you, like me, sometime skim over blockquotes too quickly:
A tax increase of 3 cents per beer would cut youth gonorrhea by 9 percent.
Look at the lovely young lady below. If only a three cent tax on that Budweiser could have saved her from the heartbreak of VD.
Messrs. (Drs.?) Sederer and Goplerud have taken the fine art of vaguely claiming that "studies show..." to a new level. Obviously, the argument here is that lots of beer makes people more likely to rape, pillage, etc. and that pricier beer means less consumption. A quick Google reveals that they're pulling from 2000 study that looked at beer taxes and gonorrhea rates in various states. Reason, of course, tore this study a new one back when first made the rounds. Key passage:
[David Murray of the Statistical Assessment Service, a non-profit think tank in D.C.] does yeoman's work pointing out the junk reasoning at the root of so much junk science. This one was a high, hanging curve for Murray, who said the CDC's thinking was on the level of "the sun goes down because we turn on the street lights."
The really interesting thing is that the CDC, in effect, agrees with that criticism. It buries its assent, however, in an editorial note that says the findings "do not prove a causal relation between higher taxes and declining STD [sexually transmitted disease] rates."
There are parallels to the outlandish claims made for a 3 cent soda tax.* It will end obesity! Pay for health care reform! Make dentists obsolete! A handy review of the bad math behind the idea that small soda taxes will take a significant dent out of obesity here.
*corn subsidies are totally bad.
UPDATE: A alert reader writes: "Of course, it's probably safe to say that obese teenagers are less likely to be sexually active and therefore less likely to contract STDs. So really, supporters of 'obesity' taxes are really just supporting the infliction of STDs upon America's youth (which in turn drives up health care costs). That's just common sense."