Donald Trump is responsible for all manner of things, particularly if you ask anyone at MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times or the Washington Post. He’s caused unrest around the world using nothing more than tweets, sparked riots in the streets and I’m pretty sure at least a couple of people have blamed him for global warming. But perhaps his greatest trick of all has been to increase the rates of alcohol consumption in America. Or at least that’s the opinion of WaPo columnist Kathleen Parker.
Amid hurricanes, a vanished journalist, the recent Supreme Court hearings, midterms and “mobs,” it is little wonder that Americans are drinking more than ever.
Factually, this is so. More than 70 percent of Americans imbibe each year, and about 40 percent drink excessively, according to two separate studies last year. A comparison to 2014 data showed a 10 percent increase in the number of heavy drinkers.
I mention these sotted stats for context. Lately, at least from my perch on the porch, the evening cocktail has become less an aperitif than a medicinal slug made necessary by the alternative of ripping off my face. To bear witness to These Times In Which We Live is to go insane, join a cult or pour your favorite poison.
Parker goes on from there to cite a number of horrible things about the world today, spending most of her time talking about Kanye West’s recent appearance in the Oval Office. All of this is supposedly to blame for a rise in American drinking habits.
Let’s put the snark aside and say that this is true. If so, Trump can chalk that up as one more win. I mean, somebody has to keep the alcohol industry afloat, right? There are a lot of jobs riding on the successful sales of beer, wine and liquor. One study last year found that the beer industry alone accounted for more than 2.2 million jobs and more than $350 billion in economic output. That works out to 1.9 % of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. The wine and liquor industries provide a similar boost.
What I find odd here is that the booze business needed any sort of a bump. Traditionally, the liquor industry has been seen as one of the most recession-proof business channels in the country, perhaps second only to the Mafia. When times are good, people drink to celebrate. When times are hard, they drink to console themselves. Or at least that’s how it’s traditionally been perceived.
So is Parker onto something? Is Trump actually driving people to drink? I’ll wait until martini time this afternoon to decide, but if he is I say good for him. And now he’s got somebody on the Supreme Court who really likes beer, so we should be in good shape from here on out.