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Jim Hightower
Otherwords / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 28 May 2012
“Whiteclay exists solely so booze peddlers can profit from the Oglala tribe’s miseries.”

Lobby Responsibly

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The big beer brewers often admonish us imbibers of their products to "Drink Responsibly." Well, I say back to them: Lobby Responsibly.

In particular, I point to a disgusting binge of besotted lobbying by Anheuser-Busch and other beer barons this year in the Nebraska legislature. At issue was the town of Whiteclay, smack dab on the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

Although only about 10 people live there, it's home to four beer stores. Why? Because right across the state line is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux tribe, which has a devastating problem of alcohol addiction, combined with intractable poverty. The sale of alcohol is banned on the reservation.

Whiteclay exists solely so booze peddlers can profit from the Oglala tribe's miseries. They sell 4 million cans of beer a year to Pine Ridge residents, including high-alcohol malt liquor. So much for that "Drink Responsibly" slogan. One in four children on the reservation is born with fetal alcohol birth defects. The life expectancy of tribal members is less than 50 years.

Responding to this grotesque exploitation of an epidemic illness, Nebraska state senator LeRoy Louden introduced a bill that would designate Whiteclay as an "alcohol impact zone." This legislation would allow authorities to limit store hours and ban high-alcohol beers. Of course, Busch and its responsible beer buddies backed it, right?

Not a chance. Like gators on a poodle, their lobbyists leapt on the legislature, calling in chits from key lawmakers who'd taken thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the industry. The chair of the senate committee considering the bill had pocketed $4,000 in beer money. He dutifully refused to let the bill even go to a vote during the state's recently concluded 2012 legislative session. "We're not here to protect people from themselves," he declared.

Surely there's an especially hot bar stool in Hell reserved for these greedheads.

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ABOUT Jim Hightower
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

I agree that poverty is the

I agree that poverty is the issue and alcohol abuse the symptom. Curtailing access to alcohol will in no way diminish the market, it will likely just make them drive further and create more problems on the highways. That however does not excuse the ethical lapse on behalf of Annheiser-Busch in acting like a predator protecting its kill, displayed by their "lobbying".

The principle of equality

The principle of equality requires that each individual - whether Oglala or not - has the same choice: to drink alcohol or not. Our nation already tried prohibition, and the result was horrific. Our nation's so-called "war on drugs" - which is a big-government-knows-all progressive agenda dating back to 1913 - is a total disaster socially, but does provide instruction on the issue of alcohol abuse. In a nutshell, the government must not restrict people's freedom because when a desirable product is restricted people will violate the "law" (violently) in order to obtain the product.
An alternative is to promote socio-economic growth in the Sioux Nation with particular attention to self awareness and spirit. It's also possible to legalize drugs that are less harmful than alcohol. In other words, to provide more choices and more freedom.

What do you want to bet it

What do you want to bet it was a republican who refused the bill to go through. One of the main reason there is such a high alcohol problems on the reservations if people have lost hope and they turn to drinking to technically "zone out" so life is semi tolerable. Unemployment is high on most reservations, poverty is high, these are only a few things that keep the cycle of drinking problems, poverty, hopelessness and then the babies who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.

It is no surprise that

It is no surprise that alcohol companies are set up right at the NE/SD state line. They do the same thing in the dry counties in Texas. People that want to drink to excess will do just that and closing the stores in Whiteclay will not change that. Finding the reason why people drink to excess and/or are drunk most of the time is key to bringing about change.

Of course corporations should act in the best interests of We the People, but it has been made crystal clear that corporations own our government. So now we are in the situation where we are asking a dog to not mark his territory on every tree.

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