Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Call

Income tax was instituted by the prohibitionists because prior to that time, 71 percent of our country's revenue came from taxes on alcohol. (Yes, we even fought wars with just this income: the Revolution, the War of 1812 and even the Civil War.) The 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed it. But new taxes never go away, and the income tax was here to stay.

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent portrays America and its love/hate relationship with alcohol. Okrent reminds us that the Puritans loved their alcohol. John Winthrop's ship arriving into Massachussetts in 1630 had "more than ten thousand gallons of wine in its hold and carried three times as much beer as water."  (Okrent, p.7)  Our country was founded by lovers of a good drink apparently!

Speaking of founders of our country, George Washington attributed his first unsuccessful run for political office due to a lack of drink. He had run for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses at the age of 24. On his next attempt at the same office he provided his voters with an average of half of a gallon of rum, punch, or hard cider---"he floated into office" (Okrent, p.47) It was not illegal to cover your voters saloon bill.

Not just our heroic forefathers were tied to drink. Even the iconic folklore hero Johnny Appleseed was involved in supplying America's thirst. "In rural Ohio and Indiana the seed scattered by John Chapman-"Johnny Appleseed"' produced apples that were inedible but, when fermented, very drinkable. Virtually every homestead in America had an orchard from which literally thousands of gallons of cider were made every year." (Okrent, p.8)

As our country prospered, our menfolk continued to frequent the saloons. Being an addictive substance, some of our men spent the bulk of their wages in the saloon, while their families suffered. The Prohibitionists allied with the Suffragist movement and women got the right to vote, and alcohol was prohibited. The aforementioned income tax took the place of the alcohol taxes. The country, now including women voters, repealed the 18th Amendment. The income tax was here to stay however. Just like a person who likes his booze too much, the USA becomes dependent on every new instituted tax...even if it overindulges.

As you pay your income taxes this year, at least do so with my favorite alcoholic drink recipe, the  Chocolate Martini!

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