“Four Loko, and drinks like it, are a toxic, dangerous mix of caffeine and alcohol, and they are spreading like a plague across the country.”
-Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
“Chuck Schumer, and politicians like him, are grandstanders who’d rather go after a malt beverage than get to work solving our country’s problems.”
-Janos Marton (D-NY)
Apparently, politicians are gunning for Four Loko, a caffeinated beverage that is also 11% alcohol. The accusations start with the age old story of college campus binge drinking, as if college students would have no other ways to drink themselves sick if Four Loko were unavailable. Do we really have to revisit the tired conversation about whether an 18 year-old drinking age would do more to reduce binge drinking than silly bans on drinking games or individual types of alcohol?
Four Loko is popular among poorer people because it is cheap- $3.50 for a 24-ounce can at my local deli. Some places you can’t even get an old fashioned 40oz for that cheap. The price is probably the reason it’s popular among college students, because it tastes terrible and gives vicious hangovers. Furthermore, students that sleep in until their 11am classes shouldn’t need the caffeine.
Politicians love bogeymen like this, because it’s a way to make positive headlines with older, responsible voters, without doing the job we sent them to do, which is to produce a balanced budget that provides a social safety net and invigorates the economy. Yeah, I know it’s tough, Senator, but that’s how you’re supposed to earn your title, your intern brigade, your free perks and your media attention. Not by going after Four Loko.
The FDA is studying the effect of mixing alcohol and caffeine, and I’m as keen as anyone to hear what they discover. After all, Red Bull Vodkas, the official $14 drink of investment bankers, are also potentially dangerous mixes of caffeine and alcohol. Of course, Schumer would never go after that concoction, because then there would be nothing to serve at his Wall Street fundraisers.
On a local level, City Councilman James Sanders plans to introduce a bill banning Four Loko’s sale in New York City. If Mayor Bloomberg signs the bill, I hope a reporter asks him whether it was appropriate for his 16 year-old daughter to have a full bar in her wing of the apartment during high school. Politicians posture, the powerful do as they please, and the country continues to tailspin. I won’t miss Four Loko if it’s banned, but I already miss the days when politicians at least pretended to work on real problems.