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This Congressman Thinks We Can Fix The Economy By Drinking Beer

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 17/10/2015 Zach Carter
ATHENA IMAGE © Justin Tallis/Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

If you want to help the American economy, you should drink more fancy-pants beer, according to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

"One of the great things about drinking craft beer is you're helping deal with our trade deficit," DeFazio told HuffPost. "American-made American product, homegrown, as opposed to all these other beers, which are foreign-owned and you're contributing to our trade deficit every time you drink one."

DeFazio's comments came during an interview with HuffPost's "So, That Happened" podcast, embedded above. The beer talk starts at 47:40.

DeFazio was drawing a contrast between local breweries and the cheap, crappy swill of big-name brands such as Miller and Budweiser. (Cheap, crappy beer is objectively superior to fancy-pants craft beer, your host contends.)

DeFazio -- a founding member of the House Small Brewers Conference -- is, of course, just having some fun. He isn't quite right on the technical merits of his economic case, but he seems to be correct in spirit (pun intended). Even though Miller and Anheuser-Busch are owned by foreign conglomerates, High Lifes and Buds are still brewed and bottled stateside. Those bottles aren't imports, and thus don't affect the trade deficit at all.  

But drinking foreign-owned beer does have an effect on the current account deficit -- another measure of international trade flows. The share of the profits from Miller and Anheuser-Busch that leave the country have a small negative effect on that metric, while domestically owned craft breweries that keep all of their profits in the U.S. do not.

Theoretically, running big current account deficits can harm the economy. Many economists believe doing so can lead to long-term drags on growth and financial dysfunction. If other countries hoard the dollars they receive, it can drive up the relative value of U.S. currency, which sends domestic manufacturing jobs abroad.The U.S. has been running a relatively large current account deficit for decades. But this is mostly an issue with countries that do huge amounts of trade with the United States, such as Japan and China. Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns Budweiser, is a Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate, while SABMiller is a South African company. 

To sum up: If you are partial to cheap, crappy beer, then you don't have to feel bad about the trade deficit any more than your snooty craft beer friends. They can, however, troll you on the current account deficit. You're kind of hurting America, even though I toast your taste in beer. 

Lovers of cheap, crappy beer and fancy-pants craft beer can probably find common ground on a looming megamerger between SABMiller and A-B InBev, however. The deal would create a mega-brewer with control of more than 70 percent of the U.S. market for beer, potentially driving up prices of flavorless swill while creating a "beerhemoth" that could lock many craft brewers out of the market.

DeFazio called on the U.S. Department of Justice to force major concessions from the companies before approving any deal. He said the combined company should be forced to sell off the MillerCoors division, which would prevent a single firm from owning Budweiser, Miller and Coors. DeFazio also wants DOJ to bar the firm from owning beer distributors.

"If you take two huge companies that make bad beer and put 'em together, you get one really, really huge company that makes really bad beer," DeFazio joked.

Drink responsibly, folks.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

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