Gov. Wolf: Kissing government union ass and making the coronavirus crisis worse
In case you hadn't noticed, late last week, Gov. Wolf ordered the closure of "all non-life-sustaining businesses." Enforcement was set to begin on Saturday.
While this order was being praised on social media, it had one immediately obvious bad effect for Pennsylvanians aiming to buy a bottle of Scotch to get through what could be weeks of social distancing, self-isolation, and more. Definitely, no more spirits would be lawfully bought or sold in the state - even though Pennsylvania's Fine Wine & Good Spirts (FW&GS) stores probably should have been considered "essential" because without them staying open, Pennsylvanians were sure to flood New York to buy booze, risking further spread of the virus, or just buy black market booze containing God-only-knows-what under conditions that definitely don't conform to social distancing.
But the effects could be worse than just this. Wolf closing the FW&GS stores was also incredibly stupid because the longer they're shut, the more it will damage Pennsylvania's finances and the financial health of a bunch of distilleries which do, in fact, employ people that we don't want hitting the unemployment lines this week if we can avoid it - especially if Congress keeps up the infighting over an aid package.
Gov. Wolf says he banned gifts from lobbyists but he still does special interests' dirty work.
As a reminder in Pennsylvania, you can't buy your Scotch or bourbon or gin or vodka anywhere except the FW&GS stores, which are government-run, government employee staffed, and for which taxpayers pay all the costs.
Revenues from FW&GS stores go into the state’s general fund.
And the revenues are high due to a likely unlawful “variable pricing” (a.k.a. "checkout tax") scheme.
So FW&GS stores are kind of set up as if they were a public service. But they also add to the state's bottom line a lot.
And Wolf has compromised them, as well as the distillery industry, with this order. Why? Because government employee unions that represent the FW&GS store staff wanted them shut, no ifs ands or buts.
What Pennsylvanians might not have realized is that even before the new order came through, Wolf had already shut down the FW&GS stores and cut off Pennsylvanians' ability to ease some of the pain of this pandemic with a glass of this here or there, purportedly because of pressure from those same public employee unions.
This is all absurd because while it's understandable that the people working in these stores would be worried about their own safety, just like everyone working in grocery stores or pharmacies probably is, Wolf is very likely setting the stage for more virus spread, when he could be taking smarter steps to keep the stores open but safely.
How could Wolf do that? he could allow on-premise sales of sealed container, take-away booze (on a par with restaurants). Just during this time, he could let grocery stores sell spirits. He could keep some stores open, but reduce the number of staff working and limit how many people could physically be in the store at any given time (though probably people will self-limit with so many people self-isolating already). He could let people order their spirits remotely and then pick up at the store using a "grab and go" type system.
But apparently Wolf would rather pander to government unions than allow an industry that is literally the one producing the danged hand sanitizer to keep functioning with some degree of regularity and allowing consumers access to something they might want just a teensy bit more of in these difficult days. By the way, here's what one Pennsylvania distiller, who normally makes everything from rye to rum, is doing on that front:
A Pennsylvania distillery owner who grew increasingly angry as he saw the skyrocketing price of hand sanitizer has decided to do something about it: He’s temporarily converting his operation into a production line for the suddenly hard-to-find, gooey, alcohol-based disinfectant.
Eight Oaks Farm Distillery filled its first 20 bottles on Monday, a batch destined for charitable groups that need hand sanitizer but haven’t been able to get it due to the coronavirus pandemic. The family-owned distillery plans to dramatically boost production this week and distribute the bottles to charities as well as offer them at farmers’ markets where it sells its spirits and through its website.
The price: whatever people decide to donate.
Maybe that guy should run for governor. He seems like a more creative, proactive problem solver than Wolf.
Wolf is going to make this crisis harder to bear - for average people, for health care workers if he inadvertently spurs spread of the coronavirus, and for his state's own coffers. What a mess.