Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wasted in Wisconsin

It seems that the state that the irreverent 1999 comedy film Dogma referred to as being "worse than hell" has a pretty bad drinking problem, according to a new report.  Wisconsin is apparently significantly worse than the national average in terms of "binge" drinking (#1 in the nation), heavy drinking, drunk driving, and overall alcohol-related costs to society.  The intensity of binge drinking is also the highest in the nation, averaging a whopping 9 drinks (!) per session.  And it should come as no surprise when we consider the things that set Wisconsin apart from most other states.

Wisconsin has the most lenient DUI laws in the nation (e.g. first offense is only a traffic infraction), one of the lowest beer taxes in the nation (2 cents/gallon), several major breweries, long and cold winters, and one of the most pervasive and ingrained drinking cultures in the nation.  Partying hard is almost like a religion in the Badger State, and not just among young people.  And this has been true for most (if not all) of the state's history.

While we do not dispute that the state has a serious problem with excessive drinking, and agree with some of their recommendations, we at Twenty-One Debunked do take exception to the report authors' strident pro-21 stance.  When Wisconsin raised the drinking age to 21 in the 1980s, it did not seem to solve anything, mainly because it failed to change the underlying drinking culture significantly.   If anything, the 21 drinking age likely makes things worse in the long run.  It would make far more sense to lower the drinking age back to 18, while also improving alcohol education, raising the beer tax, and toughening laws against drunk driving.  Only then would it be possible to create a more responsible drinking culture than the one they have now.  Of course, changing the culture will not be particularly easy, but it nonetheless can and should be done.  And Wisconsin would probably be the best place to start changing America's overall drinking culture.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Things Underage Drinkers Didn't Do (Part Six)

It's been a while since we posted a "Things Underage Drinkers Didn't Do" post, and after one of the biggest drinking days of the year, we felt that it was time to post a new one.

In the past few weeks or so:

An underage drinker did NOT kill his 9 year old nephew in a drunk driving crash.

An underage drinker did NOT rear-end a police car while driving drunk.

An underage drinker did NOT drunkenly crash into a gas pump, causing it to burst into flames and injuring her passenger.

An underage drinker did NOT drunkenly crash his semi-truck into another person's car (and injuring her) after driving the wrong way.

An underage drinker did NOT injure a police officer and two children in a drunk driving crash.

An underage drinker did NOT run over and pin a pedestrian after drunkenly crashing into several cars and a stop sign--all in the same night.

An underage drinker did NOT drunkenly crash into both a restaurant's fence AND a the front porch of a nearby house in the same night.

An underage drinker did NOT wrap her car around a telephone pole with a BAC of 0.223, breaking the pole in half, and then try to flee the scene--and this was her second DUI offense.  (Some people never learn)

An underage drinker did NOT drunkenly crash into two cars and a group of pedestrians while speeding, injuring five people and putting one in critical condition.

An underage drinker did not throw such a drunken fit in public that they needed 10-12 cop cars to come and arrest her for disorderly conduct.  All because the bartender wouldn't serve her anymore.

The cop that killed two people while speeding and driving with a BAC of double the legal limit was clearly over 21, since they generally don't allow anyone under 21 to become police officers.

An underage drinker did NOT have the chutzpah to sue his friend and Applebees for serving him the alcohol he drank on the night he drunkenly crashed into and killed two teenage girls.  (Another repeat offender, by the way)

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Baby Boomers are Not the Best Model for Today's Youth

Essentially all American studies of the effects of raising or lowering the legal drinking age were based on a single generation:  the Baby Boomers.  And the latest junk science study is no exception.  Remember, many states lowered their drinking ages in the early 1970s and raised them to 21 in the 1980s, so that was the generation most affected by such changes.  But there is a fundamental question that is rarely asked, especially by the pro-21 crowd:  Could the Baby Boomers (i.e. those born from 1946 to 1964) have been an exceptional generation that was actually affected perversely by the changes in the drinking age?  That is, could the effects that some studies found actually be the opposite of what would have happened for other generations?

We at Twenty-One Debunked believe that the answer is yes, that they are a unique generation that was likely affected differently (if at all) by the changes in the drinking age, and that studies that only look at them are outdated and obsolete for determining the supposed effects of lowering the drinking age in 2013.   There are several reasons for this:

  • Baby Boomers came of age at a time when America's drinking culture was very different, a fact that was true regardless of the drinking age.
  • Baby Boomers (and early Gen-X) were more affected by lead poisoning that any other generation that is still alive today, thanks to the leaded gasoline (and paint) that was used when they were children.  Lead is a neurotoxin that causes serious and often permanent damage to the developing brain, resulting in reduced intelligence, increased impulsivity, and arrested development.  And changes in crime statistics and standardized test scores verify this fact.
  • Baby Boomers were exposed to numerous other developmental toxins as well:  mercury, PCBs, DDT, dioxins, fluoride, and many others.   And they did lots of drugs as well.
  • Baby Boomers, for whatever reason, were apparently raised to be rather narcissistic and self-important as a rule.
  • Baby Boomers, regardless of the drinking age in their home states when they were growing up, succeeded in becoming the drunkest and druggiest generation in American history (at least since the Founding Fathers), yet they have the audacity and hubris to overwhelmingly support the 21 drinking age and other anti-youth laws.
  • And most ironically of all, the Baby Boomers also became the wealthiest generation in American history despite screwing up the economy for everyone else (to say nothing about what is happening to our planet).
That is not to say that all Baby Boomers are reflected in these facts, since a rather large number of them defied these trends.  But enough of them were so as to call into question the wisdom of using that generation as a model for the effects of policy changes on today's youth.  And we certainly should not continue punishing today's youth for the sins of their Boomer parents.  Perhaps some generations can indeed handle freedom better than others--and the best statistics are indeed more on the side of today's generation of young people.

Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18.  If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar.  'Nuff said.