As long as we’re fact-checking the ridiculous debate over the even-more-ridiculous HR 5034, let’s have a quick glimpse at the Congressional testimony of Pamela S. Erickson. She’s put forward as a credible source of information in favor of HR 5034, a former Executive Director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and current CEO of Public Action Management, “a company that provides expertise in public policy leadership.” She seems to see drinking entirely in terms of crime and debauchery, and to promote her apocalyptic vision of America’s alcohol problem she makes videos for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, so she’s totally objective. (UPDATE: Video removed from Ms. Erickson’s website, but continues to be on the site of the Center For Alcohol Policy, an adjunct of the NBWA.)
From Ms. Erickson’s testimony:
The U.S. has serious problems with alcohol—particularly with underage drinking, but it has not reached the point of an epidemic…Our children are drinking at younger and younger ages and young women are drinking at increased rates.
According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future project, which has long-running, reliable data on teen alcohol use, fewer teenagers are drinking, they’re drinking less, and they’re drinking less often.
As for Erickson’s assertion that American children are drinking at younger and younger ages, well, that’s bunk as well. A study produced for the National Institutes for Health (data from which is the basis of this handy chart) show that the median age of kids having their first drink has been rising for the last decade — meaning, contra Erickson, that children are drinking at older and older ages.
The one thing Erickson got right is that underage drinking “has not reached the point of an epidemic” in the United States. In fact, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs notes that underage drinking is less common in the United States than virtually any other industrialized country.
Of course, if HR 5034 is about protecting an unnatural commercial monopoly rather than saving our children from doom, it won’t garner broad political support. So, to make the bill seem less self-serving, it’s helpful to have someone like Ms. Erickson around to paint a bleak picture.
If it’s any solace to Ms. Erickson, our children’s use of illegal drugs is way higher than most other nations. So, you know, at least we can panic about something.