Here a shot, there a shot: Propaganda flows freely in Pennsylvania debate over liquor stores
The forecast was frightful. The propaganda piled up high.
Pennsylvania privatizing its archaic state-run liquor store system would result in the systemic breakdown of law and order, a dramatic upturn in the blood sport of dog fighting and the opening of a number of unlicensed day care centers operated by Haitian voodoo practitioners.
I'm exaggerating slightly. But Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center, certainly laid out a gloom-and-doom scenario in testimony submitted Tuesday to a Senate committee holding hearings on the privatization issue.
A brief refresher on how the two legislative chambers are proceeding with this long-overdue reform attempt:
• The white-hatted House has approved legislation to overhaul the beer and liquor system. It would increase consumer choice as it gradually turns over alcohol sales to private retailers. (Those are good things unless you believe a government that can't maintain its roads and bridges can operate a wine and spirits business more efficiently than the private sector. If that's the case, you probably spend far too much time consuming wine and/or spirits.)
• The black-hatted Senate appears content to down shot after shot of status quo and maintain a system that only the Mad Hatter could love.
Herzenberg's testimony stopped just short of advocating a return to Prohibition. He warned that privatizing the system would increase excessive drinking, alcohol-related traffic fatalities and other social and medical problems associated with heavy drinking.
The Keystone Research Center supposedly is a nonpartisan think tank that touts itself as “a leading source of independent analysis of Pennsylvania's economy and public policy.” But on this issue, the organization's independence appears suspect.
One of the center's directors is Al Vincent, vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Curiously, UFCW Local 1776 represents more than 3,000 wine and spirits store employees who oppose privatization.
The union has vowed to spend as much as $1 million on a TV and radio campaign that began Friday to discredit what it labels a “reckless scheme” that would “put alcohol on every street corner and increase crime.”
Hyperbole? Perhaps not. The privatization of alcohol sales seems a radical plan when you consider that only 48 other states engage in some form of this “reckless scheme.”
Reached Friday, Herzenberg said his policy group receives about one-half of 1 percent of its approximately $1 million annual budget from the UFCW. Asked about his organization's transparency, he said: “We're a transparent organization. The members of our board of directors are listed on our website.”
Undoubtedly, committee members who reviewed Herzenberg's testimony regularly visit that website.
The propaganda is piling up. People might not want to take at face value everything they hear regarding how horrible things would be with private liquor sales.
Comets won't suddenly pummel Pennsylvania if CoGo's sells Coors.
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chryst named football coach at Wisconsin; Pitt AD Pederson fired
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- Son charged in dismemberment death of Penn Hills couple
- With 3 more players possibly affected, Penguins’ fight against mumps escalates
- Parent finds body in parking lot of Stanton Heights elementary school, prompting lockdown
- Steelers lookahead: Chiefs’ Charles injured but remains dangerous threat
- Regional public data center work underway with help from foundation’s $1.8M
- Pa. attorney general charges 10 in PennDOT fraud, kickback scheme
- Fed emphasizes patient approach on rate increases
- Squirrel Hill lawyer suspended from practicing until September
- U.S., Cuba patching torn relations with historic accord