Feb 8, 2011

Lower Wisconsin's Drinking Age—For Rights and Business

Will Wisconsin Republicans and municipal and county candidates for the Spring election finally call for a uniform age of majority and lower the drinking age?

Back in 1986, Gov. Tony Earl infamously caved to Republican pressure in Wisconsin and federal mandates from Washington and raised the drinking age to 21.

After Ronald Reagan signed the national minimum drinking age law, states were forced to either raise the drinking age or face federal sanctions, losing a percentage of highway aid allocation.

Predictably, bars all over Wisconsin tanked; restaurant-bars folded and today the surviving establishments limp along. And Wisconsin neighborhood bars; they're a dying relic.

Let's put aside for the moment the hypocrisy of Reagan's heavy-handed approach to "states rights," and anti-government rhetoric that he had campaigned on in 1979-80.

Let's put aside the absurdity of sending 18-to-20-year-old kids overseas to risk life and limb for country and then come home and face fines for walking in a bar and having a beer. And God forbid throwing a coming-home party with peers; the potential fines are in the $1,000s.

Let's even put aside all the rights and responsibilities that the age of majority confers onto adults except for having a beer.

The fact of the matter is and always has been, beer and liqueur are good for business and Prohibition for 18-to-20-old citizens causes financial harm and a well-deserved disrespect for law.

Back in the 1980s, politicians said losing five and 10 percent of the federal highway funds would be an economic disaster for the state.

In 1993, Gov. Tommy Thompson threatened to veto a proposal lowering the drinking age to 19, saying the resulting loss of $21 million in federal funds would harm the state.

Here we are in the age when our Governor shoos away $810 million in federal stimulus money that would have created 1,000s of jobs and then declares an economic state of emergency, so the question arises: Shouldn't the Republicans now defy the national minimum drinking age law and let small businesses know Wisconsin has their back, and some backbone as opposed to say Tony Earl?

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