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The big brewers often admonish us imbibers of their grain products to “Drink Responsibly.” Well, I say back to them: Lobby Responsibly.
In particular, I point to a disgusting binge of besotted lobbying by Anheuser-Busch and other beer barons this year in the Nebraska legislature. At issue was the town of Whiteclay, smack dab on the Nebraska-South Dakota border. Only about 10 people live there – but it is home to four beer stores. Why? Because right across the state line is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux tribe, which has a devastating problem of alcohol addiction, combined with intractable poverty.
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Whiteclay exists solely so booze peddlers can profit from the Oglala tribe’s addiction miseries. They sell four million cans of beer a year to Pine Ridge residents, including high-alcohol malt liquor! So much for “Drink Responsibly.” A fourth of the children on the reservation are born with fetal alcohol birth defects, and life expectancy of tribal members is less than 50 years.
Responding to this grotesque exploitation of an epidemic illness, LB 829 was introduced, a modest bill to designate Whiteclay as an “alcohol impact zone,” which would allow authorities to limit store hours and ban high-alcohol beers. Of course, Busch and iits other beer buddies responsibly backed the bill, right?
Ha! Like gators on a poodle, their lobbyists lept on the legislature, calling in chits from key lawmakers who’d taken thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the industry. The chair of the senate committee considering the bill had pocketed $4,000 in beer money, and he dutifully refused to let LB 829 even go to a vote, declaring obtusely: “We’re not here to protect people from themselves.”
Surely there’s an especially hot bar stool in hell reserved for these greedheads.
“Indian Beer Bill Stalls; Industry Money Flows,” The New York Times, April 12, 2012.