Washington State: How NOT to Run a Liquor Store
I didn’t think this would make the national news. With the most volatile mudslinging election EVER coming up in a few months, most Americans could give two shits whether Washington residents purchase their booze at the supermarket or at a state-run liquor store.
Then again, Washington’s newly privatized liquor distribution system is a microcosm of the ongoing Corporate/Rightwing drive to privatize everything from education to prisons to mass transit. In this particular case, it backfired big time. It was a gold mine for Costco, which spent $22 million to purchase the statewide election results. It was a knife in the back for almost everyone else, especially the approximately 1,000 civil service employees of the Washington State Liquor Department who are now unemployed.
Liquor privatization was approved by Washington voters last November. During the months leading up to the election, the ubiquitous soundbite was “get the government out of the liquor business.” This phrase was parroted endlessly by millions of Washington residents who probably had no idea how robotic and drone-like they sounded. Conversations, letters to the editor, opinion poll questions — everybody who was in favor of the liquor privatization initiative used that exact same wording, again and again. Were they thinking or were they programmed?
Privatization and competition are always better than a bunch of faceless bureaucrats regulating everything. Right? Lower prices, more choices. NOT. As of June 1st — when this new privatization took effect — liquor prices have gone through the roof. At the now-defunct state liquor stores, the price on the shelf was the price you paid at the cash register. Under our new improved system, there’s a whole shitload of new taxes, fees and surcharges. And these new taxes and surcharges are NOT included in the shelf price. When you bring your bottle(s) to the cash register — SURPRISE!
At our local Safeway, an employee was stationed in the liquor aisle, with the sole purpose of warning shoppers that the price would be about thirty percent higher than the price marked on the shelf.
Let this be a lesson to people everywhere who have been mesmerized by “Privatization is Good.” “Privatization means more competition, lower prices.” Etc. Think, don’t Parrot.
We’ve all heard stories about reformed drug addicts who travel around the country, warning students not to do drugs. An old wrinkled toothless former meth addict might say: “Kids, meth ruined my life. Don’t do what I did. And by the way, I’ll be twenty-three next week.”
Washington’s gullible voters who approved the liquor privatization initiative could redeem themselves by traveling around the country, warning other voters: “Don’t be gullible like I was.” “If a corporation spends $22 million to purchase an election, ask yourself why.” “If somebody’s only reason for being in favor of an initiative is a mindless recitation of ‘get the government out of the __________________,’ ASK this person if s/he even knows what s/he’s saying.”