In fact, the tea parties were expressive of a genuine and growing angst over the role of the federal government in people's pocket books and lives.
However, the wide-eyed Speaker of the House is right that most members of the "great middle class" haven't reached the limit of their tolerance for government intrusion, ooops investment, in their lives. Could that change?
State legislators are desperately trying to take up any tax slack Congress has left them, and they are sighting in on beer drinkers, most of whom, more or less, Mrs. Pelosi, fall into the category of "the great middle class."
Beer, of course, has a noble history. It is mankind's first fermented beverage, having been brewed perhaps as early as 10,000 BC. It's featured as follows in the Gilgamesh Epic from the third millenium BC, describing man's rise to culture:
"Enkidu, a shaggy, unkempt, almost bestial primitive man, who ate grass and could milk wild animals, wanted to test his strength against Gilgamesh, the demigod-like sovereign. Taking no chances, Gilgamesh sent a whore to Enkidu to learn of his strengths and weaknesses. Enkidu enjoyed a week with her, during which she taught him of civilization. Enkidu knew not what bread was nor how one ate it. He had also not learned to drink beer. The whore opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu: 'Eat the bread now, O Enkidu, as it belongs to life. Drink also beer, as it is the custom of the land.' Enkidu drank seven cups of beer and his heart soared. In this condition he washed himself and became a human being."
Beer is, accordingly, almost sacred. This passage should give warning to legislators in Oregon, Maryland, Idaho, Arizona, Michigan, and California: Don't mess with the brew.
Will they listen? The Wall Street Journal reports politicians in Oregon want to raise the state tax on beer by 1,900%...from $2.60 to $52.21 per barrel. This reflects their altruistic concern to fund drug addiction, of course, and to reduce a $3 billion budget deficit to allow them to spend again. Ignored are 96 Oregon breweries that "contribute 5,000 jobs and $2.25 billion to the state GDP."
And tourism money as well. Just yesterday the Taiwan News touted Portland, saying the city "is in love with hefty brews with spine and character. The Oregonian has a beer columnist. At least one restaurant has a beer steward. It has been written that you can get into a fist fight here over who makes the best India Pale Ale. Yet Portlanders aren't all beer snobs. The city is a prime Pabst Blue Ribbon market."
Well scratch the latter from the good taste category, but you can see beer is integral to offsetting Portland's otherwise settled reputation as granola crunching land.
And one wonders why lawmakers would even consider raising the cost of a pint of brew by $1.25 to $1.50 during an economic recession? Why offend further "the great middle class"? Why, but for greed for power, take on Joe Six-pack, college frat boys, and football fans? This is an issue crying for an astro turf movement.
In Oregon, Maryland, Idaho, Arizona, Michigan and California, and even across the sea in the United Kingdom where another scandalous tax increase on brew is imminent, legislators need to heed the wisdom of Jake Handy:
"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed - Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, 'It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.'"
'Tis better to lift a beer than to tax it, to toast the great middle class than to tax it, to quaff culture rather than to tax it, to party with friends than to tax them, to offer to pay for a round all around than to tax all around: Cheers indeed!