Those of you who are of a certain age (near mine) and who grew up here may remember being underage but able to drive over to Ohio for the exotic experience of drinking 3.2 beer. You could drink a six-pack and never feel a buzz, but we were young and drunk on the idea of getting drunk, so we "felt" the effects of that Near Beer. Kids of later generations probably did the same thing with wine coolers, the wusses.
But is it possible that 3.2 beer saved the country? FDR was elected by promising many things, one of which was the end of Prohibition. Repealing the Prohibition amendment would be a lengthy process, so Roosevelt asked Congress to ease the country back into intemperance with the legalization of beer. The 18th Amendement had banned "alcoholic" beverages, which were defined as anything containing 5 percent or more of alcohol, so 3.2 beer was a nifty loophole:
Congress heeded the call. On March 22, FDR signed a bill legalizing 3.2% beer. Within two days, brewers in Milwaukee had hired 600 workers. Beer makers in New York announced plans to spend $22 million refurbishing their dilapidated plants. Detroit automakers scrambled to supply brewers and their wholesalers with $15 million in new cars and trucks. In the 48 hours after the beer taps opened April 7, brewers paid $10 million in federal, state and municipal taxes ($155 million in today's dollars).
Beer alone would not undo the economic disaster or heal the nation's spiritual malaise. But at a moment of despair, FDR's words and actions inspired Americans to believe the country could steer a new course. Over the next few months, the president proposed, Congress approved and millions cooperated in implementing a host of innovative (and untested) projects designed to prime the economic pump and get people back to work.
Beer made us believe again! OK, it's a little over the top, but interesting. What will be the next Prohbition lesson we learn? No, not marijuana -- that was never part of the national psyche. I give you, as the economy starts to melT down, John McCain and Barack Obama, both struggling (whIch means ready to relapse at any moment) ex-smokers.