“Wining” about the State of Michigan

Unemployment in the State of Michigan was pegged at 10.6% in December 2008 (compared to 7.2% nationwide).  The state of Michigan has been in recession far longer than the US as a whole.  While other states continued to grow and prosper, for a multitude of reasons, we did not.  And now, unfortunately, we have welcomed our fellow citizens of the union to our party.  While they say that, “misery loves company,” frankly, I’d rather not see the rest of the nation in our pit, because at least if there is business prospering somewhere, we can go to it or “ship” to it.  Or can we?

So in this abyss of economic misery, what is it that our state legislators focus on?  Bringing jobs to Michigan?  Spurring business growth?  Nope, our infamous legislators, who are becoming known nationwide for their incompetence, focused efforts this past fall and early winter to ban the direct shipment of wine to consumers.  I can tell you, as a resident of Michigan, I am sleeping easier these days, since we residents are now safe from that inherent danger.  Call off the militia.  We are now cut off from direct shipment of wine. 

If we can elect to have wine shipped direct to our homes, bad things will certainly happen.  I can’t name one, but our knowledgeable legislators, particularly those funded by the Michigan wholesalers (imagine that!), must be able to articulate those bad things, and I for one have unquestionable trust in their honesty and integrity to do the right thing.

Because we Michigan citizens are simple-minded, we did have a couple legislators who “tried” to lead us to believe that direct shipment of liquor would open the floodgates of alcohol to underage drinkers.  This was something we simple-minded citizens would understand.  Of course, we were offered no data that exhibited that states with bans had lower incidences of underage drinking than those without, but it just goes to common sense, right?  Because when underage drinkers think about how they are going to obtain alcohol to get “blasted” on Friday night, the first place they turn is to a winery in Leelanau or in Sonoma.  I can imagine the conversation:

Edward:  “Caroline, darling, I would like to get really intoxicated on Friday.  Would you prefer to do so with a spicey Cabernet or an oaky, extra dry Chardonnay?

Caroline:  “Oh darling, let’s go with a CASE(!) of the Cabernet since that pairs nicely with the red meats on our $5.99 pizza that we’ll order at 2:00 a.m.

Edward: “Wonderful choice.”  Let’s see here.  We’ll need 15 days for delivery.  And we’ll need to charge this on the charge card so that when my parents get their statement, we have it gone by the time they see it so they can’t stop the shipment.  And, we’ll need to have Charles, who is 21, hang around for a few days so he can take delivery.  Since today is February 1, that means we should be able to get really drunk on Friday the 27th.  Put that date in your PDA, darling!”

Because if we know one thing about underage drinkers, they plan ahead – weeks ahead!  And they drink expensive alcohol – made more expensive by shipping charges.  That’s what they do!

Who are we kidding here?  This ban is ridiculous.  Though I have yet to direct ship wine or any other type of alcohol to my home, I like the ability to do it.  And, I have sent a handful of wine baskets to my forty-something friends in states where they do allow free commerce to occur.  Interesting, while they loved the baskets, they did have trouble taking delivery since they all work and had to make special arrangements to take delivery TO PROVE THEY WERE 21 AND WERE THE INTENDED RECIPIENT!

So if this ban isn’t about saving our children, then what could it be about?  Perhaps we simple-minded citizens should check out who was pushing it?  Let’s sum it up from a quote from Crain’s Detroit Business in November 2008: 

Mike Lashbrook, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, says Michigan distributors have a lot to lose if direct shipments are allowed. Lashbrook said he’s seen estimates of 500,000 to 700,000 alcohol retailers nationwide — retailers who, if the bill does not pass, could bypass Michigan distributors in selling to Michigan customers.    

Does that leave any question as to the real reason we now have this ban?

So in a state that should be supporting businesses in a fledgling but growing wine industry in our state as well as small retail businesses here that were set up to ship wine baskets, we are shutting them down.  Interesting, these Michigan businesses can ship out of state, but not within our state (unless of course they employ people to deliver their product personally, which is economically not a possibility).  So we cut them off in favor of a wholesaler organization that adds nothing to the consumer experience except cost and complexity.

Michigan’s economy is in flames, and our legislators just keep adding kindling to it, either by inaction or the action they do take.  And I am disappointed in Governor Granholm for signing this bill.  I’ve been a general supporter though I do think she needs to act more quickly, take more chances and cut more fat, but I have always believed she had the best interests of Michiganders at heart (combined with significant challenges with such a dysfunctional state government). 

In a state that should be encouraging business at every angle, this ban is a symptom of the disease called “same old politics.”  Will we ever see politicians who go to do the state’s work for the purposes of benefitting the state and the people who reside here?

So once again, as I did last fall, my only therapy, besides this blog, will be to once again, vote anti-incumbent.  When the time comes, I will grab my bottle of wine, purchased from a local market (with mark-up margin for the wholesaler who has added so much value), pour myself a glass, and mark the boxes on my absentee ballot of those who have not yet served the state hoping that by sending them, they may act in the benefit of the state.  Cheers!

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