Changing Beer Tastes (And Non-Tastes)

MichelobMSN Money sends us to an article telling us about 5 Beers Americans Aren’t Drinking. That’s the kind of title that is hard to resist—at least if you are a beer drinker, or even more, a beer snob. Which I am.

According to the article, sales of “traditional, full-calorie beers” are declining. A lot. In 5 years, Budweiser has sold 7 million barrels less per year in the United States. How much is that? Anheuser-Busch (the brewer of Budweiser) produced 125 million barrels in 2007—that is all brands for all the world.

Why would these beers be dropping in sales? The article doesn’t actually say. But I think I know. People who want to drink a real beer have decided to, you know, drink a real beer. Budweiser is about as expensive as good beer. So there really is no reason to drink a watery, high calorie beer when you could drink a beer you can sink your teeth into. Maybe Pete’s Wicked Ale or Arrogant Bastard. Or if you are on the other side of the divide, you could drink Bud Light or whatever.

You can see this in the top five beers Americans no longer drink:

  1. Michelob
  2. Michelob Light
  3. Budweiser Select
  4. Milwaukee’s Best
  5. Old Milwaukee

I know, two of those are light beers, which kind of goes again the narative of the article. I assume it is because there are just too many light beer brands on the market. Of the remaining beers, one isn’t bad: Michelob. I actually used to buy Michelob Dark. But I haven’t drunk even it since I was in graduate school.

Anyway, I think this shows that the beer market has divided itself between people who want to drink beer and people who are just too embarrassed to order a wine cooler. But I’m feeling generous tonight. Mr. President, if you’re reading this, it’s okay to ask for what you really want. That Bud Light isn’t fooling anyone.

Afterword

I’m not to fond of cops, but at that beer summit, the only one who had a decent beer was Crowley, who had a Blue Moon.

Also: Lowenbrau is a decent beer and they had a great ad campaign long before I knew that:

Scary Jack Lew

Jack LewLet us give a little thought to Jack Lew. Obama has nominated him to replace Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary. The Republicans are afraid—very afraid. How can Obama choose Jack Lew?!

And he is a scary guy, I can tell you that. Last year, Eric Cantor told Politico, “No one was more prepared and more in tune with the numbers than Jack Lew.” This was in an article titled, Jack Lew: A Liberal GOP Says It Trusts. So you know: this is Freddy Krueger scary. No. Wait. Not Freddy Krueger scary; Kermit the Frog scary. When it comes to Obama nominees, it doesn’t take much to scare the Republicans.

Jonathan Bernstein over at The Plum Line tells us that Jeff Sessions (Fucktard from Alabama) is against Lew becoming Treasury Secretary. But not because Lew is a drunk or a philanderer. No, Sessions thinks he doesn’t have the “gavitas” for the job. What this means is just that he’s against him because that’s what you do to all the nominations of a Democratic president—especialla un oo’s a colored. Bernstein is nicer, “Or, as Kevin Drum figures, it’s just that Lew insists on using real math during budget negotiations.” That’s even worse: a edacated colored nominee.

Bernstein argues that the real problem is that congressional Republicans have abandoned norms. Until Obama we elected, it was accepted that the president should be allowed to have the cabinet that he chose. But no longer. This is what I call the Republicans becoming a revolutionary party. As I wrote before:

In the introduction to The Great Unraveling, Paul Krugman discusses Henry Kissinger’s PhD dissertation. In it, Kissinger deconstructs revolutionary movements. One thing that defines these movements is their rejection of political norms. Krugman talks about it in relation to the Bush Administration. He notes that after scandals where earlier administrations—both Democrat and Republican—would have forced a resignation, Bush did nothing.

I’m not sure what we are to do about this other than try to get out the vote and generally make these people pay for their reactionary governing. For the time being we pretty much have to accept this madness and the fact that it is based on nothing except obstruction for the sake of obstruction.

Massimo Calabresi over at Time has a different take. His article is chalked full of apologetics, but he does paint a compelling picture of Lew. I don’t think the right’s opposition to him is based upon facts, but Lew is a progressive. I think that conservatives could find anyone this side of Hitler and Stalin’s satanic love child wanting. But you can see how a man like this would be poison to them:

Beneath his nerdy exterior, Lew is a passionate progressive on the issue of wealth disparity and programs for the poor. In the original Gramm-Rudman-Hollings “sequestration” talks in the mid-1980s, Lew negotiated the exemptions from automatic budget cuts for Medicaid and other low-income programs. In the 1990s, he again defended Medicaid from the budget ax as President Clinton tacked to the center. And his speakerphone outburst in 2011 was in response to the Republican staffer’s suggestion that Medicaid cuts be added to the revivified sequestration process to avoid debt default.

Bottom line: we should support Lew for Treasury Secretary.

Afterword

It is widely know by people who really need to get a hobby that Jack Lew has an unusual signature made up primarily of circles. Yahoo! was nice enough to create an app that signs any name like he would. Here are a few that I did.

Jack Lew Signatures

Okay. Okay. So Lew is a little weird…

Update (12 January 2012 7:53 am)

For a more critical take on Lew, see 12 Questions for Mr. Lew.

Free Market Fail

Free Marker FailEduardo Porter is an economics writer for the New York Times. He wrote an amazing article on Tuesday, Health Care and Profits, a Poor Mix. Despite the title, it is not only about healthcare. It is more about how the United States has embraced the idea that markets work “magic” and if you want to reduce the cost of a government service: privatize it!

This is a religious believe on the right. And it isn’t confined to the supposed free market. Paul Ryan’s big idea for Medicaid is to “block grant” it. What this means is just to shove some money at the states and let them deal with it. Now I want to be clear: the intention is to destroy such programs. But the argument that is made (because “fuck the poor” is not a very compelling argument) is that the states will “experiment” and find innovative ways to make healthcare (or whatever) cheaper. It doesn’t work. Not only is there no evidence that states are more effective than the the federal government, business is also not more effective.

What Porter shows is our experience over the last 25 years has shown just the opposite:

We now know this didn’t work as advertised. Competition wasn’t as robust as hoped. Health maintenance organizations didn’t keep costs in check, and they spent heavily on administration and screening to enroll only the healthiest, most profitable beneficiaries.

Indeed, the use of HMOs and other private care for Medicare has only increased costs. But it is even worse than the costs would indicate. Porter describes a study of tranquilizer use at for-profit and nonprofit hospitals. Doses given at the for-profit hospitals were four times as high. This was because the for-profit hospitals cut staff to the bone and it is easiest to manage patients who are asleep most of the time.

Let’s think about this. We get worse healthcare for more money via the private healthcare systems. We get corruption and abuse of the poor with our private bail bond system. We get an unstable economic system and higher income inequality because of our under-regulated banks. Yet conservatives are taken seriously everywhere spouting policies that have clearly failed. In fact, much of the “liberal” Democratic Party is devoted to these same failed policies.

To do a riff on Brad DeLong’s line: why oh why can’t we have a better government?

H/T Dean Baker

Obama Sets Scene for Economic Disaster

Obama Question MarkThere is a lot of talk about minting platinum coins. And an increasing amount of talk about the Treasury issuing IOUs (Krugman calls them Moral Obligation Coupons). Jonathan Chait gives a good overview of these ideas. He notes that the coin option solves the debt ceiling issue forever, but it will surely cause the Republicans to react in an even crazier way. (I’m not sure we would notice—they’re already negligibly close to the asymptote.) The IOUs only solve the problem temporarily, but they have advantages like not seeming like such an outrageous thing as the coin and putting pressure on the Republicans from the business community.

I haven’t written at all about these potential solutions to the Debt Ceiling crisis because I can’t get beyond the fact that this is a non-issue and should be treated as such. Obama’s initial plan that he laid out in early December at the Business Roundtable is what we should be doing. We don’t negotiate with terrorist and they are a hell of a lot more rational than the Republican Party. Why are we negotiating with the House Republicans? Unfortunately, since those fine words at the Roundtable, Obama has shown that he is still 50 shades of weakness.

Noam Scheiber provides more evidence of this in The New Republic, writing, “It suggested that even if Obama plays his cards exceedingly well in the run-up to the debt-limit showdown, he could still come away with a worse deal than he deserves because of his willingness to make concessions in the closing moments.” He explains how the White House got a worse Fiscal Cliff deal by screwing Harry Reid. Read the article for the whole story—it is really interesting. Scheiber sums up:

Long story short: Reid’s strategy would have at worst produced a slightly better deal than Biden negotiated had McConnell accepted his final offer before the cliff (a slightly lower threshold for the new top income tax rate and a one-year suspension of the sequester rather than a two-month suspension). At best it could have produced significantly more revenue (closer to a $300,000 threshold) had we briefly gone over. But Reid never got the chance to execute it. “Their guys were running around asking to be forced to vote for this so they could move on,” says the Senate aide of the GOP. “Everything Republicans were doing signaled weakness and desperation for a deal. Unfortunately, everything out of the White House did, too.” …

Whatever the case, allowing your adversary to decide who he’s going to negotiate with is a terrible precedent to set. The evidence suggests that McConnell got a better deal from Biden than he could have gotten from Reid. But even if you disagree, McConnell himself clearly believed this to be true. The lesson he surely took from the White House’s sidelining of Reid is that Republicans will be rewarded with concessions if they hold out in the run-up to a deadline. With that in mind, McConnell will almost certainly repeat the exercise during the next round.

And that leads us to today where the Republicans have every reason in the world to think that Obama will blink. And that leads either to an economic catastrophe or Obama taking a bad deal. Well, bad for the American people. Based on the last four years, I would say that Obama is itching to cut Social Security and Medicare. That would cement him legacy as a Very Serious Person. And you know the definition of a VSP: someone who does no good at all by inflicting large amounts of pain on the poor. You know: a dick.

But whether Obama is a dick or just an incompetent (or both), it is all the same in the end. Right now, the American economy is on the verge of a decent recovery. This stuff—the Republican hostage taking and Obama’s anemic response to it—really does hurt us.

Update (10 January 2013 11:39 am)

Ezra Klein says we shouldn’t go with the platinum coin option. I agree:

There are two ways to truly resolve the debt-ceiling standoff. One is that the Republican Party needs to break, proving to itself and to the country that the adults remain in charge. The other is that America is pushed into default and voters—and the world—reckon with what we’ve become, and what needs to be done about it. Sadly, there’s no easy way out. It’s heads America wins, tails America loses.

Man Doesn’t Tip to Prove He’s a Dick

Rich Men Can't Tip Anymore

I found this on Joey deVilla. It was reportedly found by a waiter. I’m inclined to think that it is the real deal because it includes the bit about Prop 30 in California.

What I think it most interesting is how petty this is. All those years of reading Shakespeare warped my mind into thinking that the wealthy ought to be above this. Of course, all my experience in life indicates that the rich are fairly miserly. When they do give, they tend to be ostentatious about it.

Think about this for a moment. The federal income tax is only going up 4.6 percentage points on income over $450,000. The Prop 30 tax is going up roughly 1 percentage point on income over a quarter million. This is no justification for not tipping, because a rich person’s income devoted to eating certainly is included in the income that is not taxed more. Additionally, the total tax rate hike on this upper income only goes up by about 6%. This is much less than the 15% minimum expected tip.

There is another side to this, of course. If you really were limiting your expenses, you would not stop tipping. You would eat at cheaper restaurants. Or eat out less. But let us not forget that it is very likely that this card wasn’t left by a rich person at all. It was just as likely left by a conservative trying to make a point. You know the kind: Joe the Plumber, who was so concerned about paying taxes on income he had never come close to making.

Whoever left this card is just being a dick. And I even tend to think that he (You just know it’s a guy, right?) will soon get over it. Then he’ll go back to tipping. But I tend to think he is a pretty bad tipper anyway. Most people tip well because they want to be liked. People who want to be liked try not to be dicks; they don’t go out of their way to be one.

Afterword

Note also the, “I wish it didn’t have to be this way for both of us.” This is definitely a dick way of saying, “I know it is because of poor losers like you that my taxes went up!”