I went to the local Fry's store today (I'm now down to one trip a week) to pick up a variety of food items, and a bottle of Chardonnay. Since I was also out of scotch, I wandered to that aisle, and noticed that a number of scotch and whiskey brands were out of stock.
Since 700,000 people in America filed for unemployment compensation last week, that means that there are suddenly a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands.
All the libraries are closed, social distancing means that we can't play cards or board games, and television is still a vast wasteland. (Before you rent that movie at Red Box, by the way, spray it down with a sanitizing spray).
Since you can't do much of anything else, you might as well drink some alcohol.
This is not a new phenomenon.
Disenchantment with Prohibition had been building almost from the moment it first took effect in 1920. Politicians continued drinking as everyday people were slapped with charges. Bootleggers were becoming rich on the profits of illegal alcohol sales and violence was on the rise. But it wasn’t until the Great Depression that the repeal movement truly gained steam.
“We got Prohibition because of an emergency, the emergency being World War I, and we lost Prohibition because of another emergency, the Depression.”
By arguing that the country needed the jobs and tax revenue that legalized alcohol would provide, anti-Prohibition activists succeeded in recruiting even noted teetotalers to their cause. As the economy crumbled and the Democratic Party gained power, the demise of Prohibition eventually became a fait accompli.
By 1930, though, the Great Depression was in full swing, and the nation’s mood had changed. The 18th Amendment, which ushered in Prohibition, had forced an estimated 250,000 alcohol industry employees out of work. Now, with a quarter of the U.S. labor force jobless and people growing increasingly desperate, this seemed absurd.
What’s more, income tax collections had dropped precipitously (along with personal incomes), and the federal government was desperate for revenue, having forfeited an estimated $11 billion in alcohol-related taxes over the course of Prohibition.
The repeal of Prohibition didn’t reverse the Depression, as some of the most optimistic wets predicted, but it did fund much of the New Deal, with alcohol and other excise taxes bringing in $1.35 billion, nearly half the federal government’s total revenue, in 1934. t (Individual income taxes, by contrast, brought in only $420 million that year.)
So, here's looking at you, kid.