Wine Distributors, The 21st Amendment, Congress and Corruption: A Medley
Yes, America's alcohol wholesalers and they are celebrating the end of Prohibition not because it allowed them to open their doors and start businesses. They are celebrating for the reason laid out so clearly by Tony Mauro, writing for Law.com:
"the 21st Amendment led to creation of the three-tier (producers,
wholesalers, retailers) state-regulated system for purveying wine, beer
But just in case Tony didn't emphasize this point clearly enough, let's let Craig Wolf, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers Association explain it more succinctly for us:
"The 21st Amendment is to our business what the First Amendment is to many of you," (he was speaking to journalists)
The two statements concerning the impact of the 21st Amendment still aren't quite on target. So, allow me to add a little clarity:
The 21st Amendment created not just access to alcohol again, but led to the creation of the three-tier system that, over 75 years, has morphed into a state-mandated system of guaranteeing profits for a very tiny group of alcohol delivery boys at the expense of state tax coffers, representative government and consumer rights.
There. Now it's quite clear.
And let me ask a question. If you were the alcohol wholesalers, how hard and how long would you celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment? The fact that they didn't rent out the Superdome, Madison Square Garden, Soldier Field, The Staples Center and buy an hour-long segment on prime time TV to extol the virtues of their guaranteed profits is little disappointing.
But…don't get the impression that America's alcohol wholesalers don't think big. Imagine what it cost them to purchase a concurrent resolution from the U.S. House of Representatives (introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak—D, Michigan) that will read in part like this:
"Celebrating 75 years of effective State-based alcohol regulation and
recognizing State lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, the
public health community and industry members for creating a workable,
legal, and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation,
distribution, and sale….
"Whereas legislatures and alcoholic beverage control agencies in all
States created and maintain State-based regulatory systems for alcohol
distribution made up of producers and importers, wholesale
distributors, and retailers;
"Whereas development of a transparent and accountable system of
distribution and sales, an orderly market, temperance in consumption
and safe practices, the efficient collection of taxes, and other
essential policies have been successfully guided by the collective
experience and cooperation of government agencies and licensed industry
members throughout our geographically and culturally diverse Nation….
"Whereas the American system of State-based alcohol regulation has
resulted in a marketplace with unprecedented choice, variety, and
selection for consumers;
"Whereas members of the licensed alcoholic beverage industry have been
constant partners with Federal and State Governments in balancing the
conduct of competitive businesses with the need to control alcohol in
order to provide American consumers with a safe and regulated supply of
You have to wonder how long it took Representative Stupak to get up off his knees and wipe his mouth.
What you are looking at in this Concurrent Resolution is a purely political document that will be used in the future to explain the intent of Congress in different lawsuits and national legislation that comes down the pike. You are also looking at what state guaranteed profits for wholesalers can purchase.
The resolution does not take into account the fact that the ridged and inflexible devotion to the 3-tier system advocated by America's alcohol wholesalers and endorsed by this pathetic document is also the primary impediment to the greater success of small business across the country, particularly small producers of wine, beer and spirits and small specialty retailers.
This resolution does not take into account the fact that the ridged and inflexible adherence to a form of regulation that is now 75 years-old is the primary weapon used to insure that adult, law abiding consumers are forced to purchase only what a small cabal of wholesalers, who's profits could never rise to what they are now if they had to compete in a semi-free market, want consumer to purchase.
Nor does this return on the wholesaler's investment in campaign contributions disguised as a legitimate congressional action, take into account that the ridged and inflexible adherence to the three-tier system takes substantial sums of tax revenue out of the hands of state governments and transfers it to the pockets of politicians and wholesalers.
The Anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment is something to celebrate. But what we should be celebrating is a return to sensibility, not a institutionalization of corruption.