Step Right Up for Transportation Snake Oil

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    A recently formed coalition of major big box retailers is funding a push to get its hands on Virginia’s spirits sales. The group includes Costco, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Food Lion and other members of the Virginia Retail Merchants Association. According to the Marin Institute, the same players were behind a push earlier this year to privatize liquor sales in the state of Washington.

    If Washington is an example, look for the coalition to dump massive amounts of money into the effort to get privatization. The Marin Institute noted that Costco alone spent nearly $1.2 million and  used its employees as signature-gatherers in its stores to get a privatizing initiative on the November ballot there.

    With Virginia’s lax-to-none campaign contribution “laws,” does anyone want to guess how much money will flow into various PACs and campaign coffers before the special General Assembly session is called by McDonnell to push this idea down our throats?

    As the Marin Institute points out, “If privatization passes in these two states, the only chain these retailers will create will be the one around the kids and communities of Virginia and Washington, locking them more tightly in the grip of Big Alcohol’s sales, advertising, and marketing machine.”

    Even some Republicans are having a hard time swallowing this 100 proof snake oil being pushed by McDonnell, among them Tom Gear, Emmett Hanger, and Bob Marshall.

    Tom Gear (R-Hampton), who is the chair the Alcohol Beverage Control subcommittee of the House General Laws committee, told the Washington Post that he has “reservations.”

    Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), who has been the chair of the Senate committee that has looked at previous attempts to privatize alcohol and rejected them, told the Post that he’s “predisposed not to support the concept.”

    My favorite comment reported by the Post is that of Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), who said he wants to make sure residents support abolishing the ABC store system which was first established by a statewide vote. Marshall said that he is considering introducing a bill that would require a referendum on the idea, a step McDonnell has said he believes is unnecessary.

    Whether the pro-privatization money deluge to come will eliminate the reservations of these Republicans and of some Democrats – who historically have shown that they will vote for something for a much smaller campaign contribution than a GOPer – remains to be seen.

    I am still waiting for the conservative, fundamentalist church crowd to say anything about McDonnell’s plan to turn a working alcohol sales system that benefits the state and controls alcohol sales into something that will lead to the ultimate development of a big-box retail oligopoly that will monopolize ever increasing booze sales and consequently create more social problems for the state.

    Does anyone think that Walmart or Kroger will only sell booze from 9am-6pm, six days a week? Try 24-7 instead. Does anyone think that all the big-box cashiers who will take over the responsibility of carding customers will be as effective as ABC store clerks?

    How can allowing grocery store chains and big-box retailers sell alcohol create new jobs? Those outlets won’t need any additional employees to sell liquor.

    Does anybody really think that the $112 million in annual ABC profits can be recouped by licenses and increased sales? If so, I have a great plan to eliminate the car tax that I can sell you…again.

    All I can hope for is that the Senate will stand firm in the face of a money deluge, and that Bob Marshall succeeds in forcing a referendum, where the opponents of this boondoggle at least would  have a chance to argue their point of view.