May not be enough

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I suppose you can’t write a column this week without mentioning the massive Stimulus Bill that just passed Congress.

Massive is the only word to describe the bill as it far surpasses any government spending bill in our history. The frightening thing is that even proponents of the bill are saying that it isn’t large enough.

One thing is certain—the denial some of our leaders and leaders of other nations had regarding this recession is long since over. China has closed more than 70,000 factories putting millions of its own migrant workers out of work. Taiwan’s exports, which largely go to the United States, were down more than 49 percent during the recent holiday season.

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In this country, we have already lost 3.6 million jobs. Some retail chains like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue had sales declines of almost 25 percent over the holidays. Our automobile sales are at the lowest point in decades with all three of our major carmakers on the verge of bankruptcy. Even Toyota, now the world’s largest auto manufacturer, had its first loss in its 70-year history.

Political unrest is increasing around the world as the standard of living declines. Some countries like Russia, China and India were just beginning to enjoy the benefits of their expanding economies. The United States this week indicated that the worldwide economic collapse is now a greater threat to our safety than terrorism. Even President Obama’s popularity rating is down 10 points since the Stimulus Bill began being debated in Congress.

Our government is acting in a big way with this stimulus package. The efforts up to this point have not had the desired effect of stopping the decline, although it may have been worse if some of these actions had not been taken.

The optimist in me says our government leaders have access to much more data than I do and that they are looking out for the American people and this country’s future.

The pessimist in me says that any bill that is over 1,000 pages and isn’t printed until the night before Congress votes means that no one has really read it or knows what it truly contains.

Good or bad you need to pay attention to all that is going on around you. Before this recession is over it will have had an impact on you or someone you know.

Sales of alcohol

One of the debates going on in Georgia and in other states is about allowing the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Only 15 states do not currently allow Sunday sales. Many states with larger cities or recreation areas say Sunday sales are necessary to compete for conventions and tourism dollars.

My own opinion about why you are seeing so much interest in increasing the sale of liquor on Sunday is a bit simpler; it is a way to increase taxes.

At no point in recent history has there been so much interest at the state level in either expanding the sales of alcohol or increasing the taxes on the alcohol that is already sold. Almost half the states in the country are attempting to raise alcohol taxes.

A bit less than $20 billion is currently raised by taxes on alcohol. That might literally be a drop in the bucket with our current economic problems, but it is a significant number nevertheless.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, lifting the ban on Sunday sales usually brings up to an 8 percent annual sales increase, along with the corresponding increase in taxes collected.

Times do continue to change. When I was a boy there wasn’t even a store of any kind open on Sunday. My father owned a grocery store and would get calls on Sunday to open up for a mother to get some milk for a baby. The gas stations were mostly closed and only a few restaurants were open to cater to the after-church crowd.

I have been through several local liquor referendums in my political days and they do get people upset. I find it interesting that the thing that might finally topple the Blue Laws once and for all won’t be a reduction in moral beliefs but instead, the need for an increase in taxes.

Other Blue Laws that exist in Georgia cities include:

• All citizens must own a rake;

• Selling two beers for the price of one is not allowed;

• You must obtain a license before holding a going-out-of-business sale;

• Goldfish may not be given away to entice someone to enter a game of bingo;

• Persons under the age of 16 may not play pinball after 11 p.m.;

• On Mondays, it is illegal for one to whistle very loud after 11 p.m.;

• No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday;

• And my personal favorite, members of the General Assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the legislature is in session.

About our presidents

Finally, Monday was President’s Day. Started in 1880, this was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen. In the 1960s there was an attempt to combine the birthday of Lincoln and Washington into one holiday, but it failed in committee. The official title of Presidents Day remains Washington’s Birthday.

In the mid 1980s, retail advertisers began using the “Presidents Day” in sales flyers and announcements. After a number of years, the term caught on and is widely used today in describing the holiday.

Eight presidents were born British subjects. Six presidents graduated from Harvard. Yale is a close second with five graduates.

The most common religious affiliation among presidents has been Episcopalian, followed by Presbyterian.

Barack Obama is not only the first African-American to be elected president of the United States; he was also born in Hawaii, making him the first president not born in the continental United States.

The oldest elected president was Ronald Reagan at age 69. The youngest was Kennedy at 43. Both Gerald Ford and Reagan lived to be 93.

There were eight left-handed presidents, including President Obama. Fourteen presidents served previously as vice president.

And finally, 26 presidents were lawyers. Enough Said.