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Smart Talk, Jan. 14



Upgrading Catholic journalism


Little Rock businessman Harry Hastings Jr. (Catholic High School, 1945) has given his alma mater $50,000 to upgrade the school's TV studio and journalism department. The money will buy cameras, lights and TVs for 34 classrooms. His father financed the school's first TV studio in 1967. According to a news release, the younger Hastings said he wanted to bring the studio into the 21st century. He made it, with 90 years to spare.


Soaking the poor


Of all the states, Arkansas has the seventh-highest taxes on poor people, according to a new study. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington looked at the effective rate of state and local taxes on the poorest one-fifth of a state's residents. It found that the state of Washington has the highest taxes for poor people. The poorest one-fifth of Washington residents pay 17.3 percent of their total income in state and local taxes. Washington has no income tax. The income tax is a progressive tax, based on ability to pay. Florida, which also lacks an income tax, had the second-highest taxes for the poor — 13.5 percent of total income. Arkansas managed to finish seventh, at just over 12 percent, even though it has an income tax.


Arkansas deprived of Sam's new spirits

Sam's Club, the Bentonville-based warehouse store chain, announced last week that it was rolling out a store brand premium vodka, to be labeled Rue 33. It's the first under the store's Member's Mark premium line, which indicates more are on the way. The vodka was described in a news release as a “refined wheat vodka from the Cognac region of France. It is six times distilled and three times filtered and produced by the renowned Louis Royer and imported by Shaw Ross.” It targets the pricey Grey Goose, another wheat-based vodka made in the Cognac region. Rue 33 will be cheaper, at $28 for 1.75 liters. Grey Goose retails in Arkansas stores in the high $60s.

No need to rush out to the Sam's Club in Fayetteville, which has an adjoining liquor store, to stock up on Rue 33. It's not going to be sold in Arkansas. Why? Each individual alcoholic beverage must be approved for sale in Arkansas. The producer of this vodka sought permission from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. It was denied because the ABC doesn't allow store brands. All beverages must be sold by wholesalers and wholesalers must provide all beverages to all permit holders, not just a single store. ABC officials were skeptical that the private label Sam's Club vodka would be marketed that way. Want cheap, premium storebrand booze? You'll have to check a Sam's Club in a neighboring state.


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