Monday, October 17, 2016

1927 things I did not know...

In his book, One Summer -- Bill Bryson makes the point that Prohibition was the biggest gift any government ever gave to their people.

Prohibition began in 1920. Despite the new law, unsurprisingly, people kept drinking. As a matter of fact -- speakeasies and underground liquor sales boomed!! There never was a shortage of liquor...and the "criminals" were charging ten times as much for each "illegal" drink...making truckloads of money, and paying absolutely no tax on any of it. Hundreds, then thousands of legitimate restaurants in every city and town in America were forced out of business.

In fact, one of the most profound and LASTING effects of Prohibition was on government tax revenues. Before Prohibition, many states relied heavily on excise taxes in liquor sales to fund their budgets. In New York, almost 75% of the state's revenue was derived from liquor taxes. With Prohibition in effect, that revenue was immediately lost. Prohibition cost the federal government a total of $11 billion in lost tax revenue. The most lasting consequence was that both the federal and state governments came to rely on income tax revenue to fund their budgets.

Thanks to prohibition, organized crime grew from local street gangs to huge, multi-million dollar corporate enterprises, able to buy entire police departments, judges and politicians.
I learned most of what I knew about prohibition from Boardwalk Empire...turns out, all of that violence and corruption was true.

One more thing I did not order to discourage the general population from drinking rubbing alcohol, the government approved a plan whereby the new formula for industrial grade alcohol would be poisonous.  TIME reported in the Jan. 10, 1927, issue “Three ordinary drinks of this may cause blindness or death.”

Although there is really no way of knowing the true number of American citizens who were killed by their government during this time, and families would have been too ashamed to admit their loved one died from drinking alcohol -- it is very likely that at least 11,000 citizens died from drinking the new lethal industrial alcohol.

Think about that for just a minute.  The punishment for taking a drink should be death??  How in the world did they get to that point?  For doing something that, until ten minutes earlier, was perfectly legal in this country -- and ALWAYS was legal in every other country in the world....??

Seymour M. Lowman, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of Prohibition, knew people were “dying off fast from poison ‘hooch'” but said  "if the result was a sober America, a good job will have been done.”

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