Since there seems to be some confusion on the part of the Teamsters, their leader Mr. Mel Kahele and maybe even the mayor, the Honolulu City Council, Oahu Transit Service and anyone else who doesn’t understand our consumer driven economy and the bus strike, let me put the situation in terms that a bus driver will understand:

Imagine that many years ago trolley operators liked to drink beer. Trolley operators and most everyone else could only get beer by going to a bar and getting a portion of a mass quantity (a keg). There were many breweries and many bars with many kinds of beer competing for business.

Then one brewery got the idea to bottle the beer so that individuals would not have to visit the bars to get their favorite beverage. The price was higher at first for this new product and not everyone could afford the alternative, but over time other breweries copied the idea and competition brought the price down so that a greater number of people could afford the individually proportioned amounts. This was good for the consumer, but bad for the bars and breweries that didn’t change with the trend.

Since the city leaders decided that beer was needed for the common good, they decided to take over the bars and keg breweries that were failing and outlaw any competition in the keg or draft beer market. They passionately sold the public with the slogan: “Affordable draft beer for Joe Sixpack.”

Years later, bus drivers and everyone else could still buy packaged beer of any kind from many different stores, but they could only buy “The (draft) Beer” from “The (City) Bar.”

The Fraternity of American Teams & Bar Brewery United Threat Society (FAT-BBUTS) had a strong union and their membership was paid well by the company that made “The Beer” and operated “The Bar” (the city had eventually franchised the rights to a private contractor OTL, Out To Launch, Inc.). Unfortunately, “The Beer” sold in only one variety, didn’t give much of a buzz and tasted flat and watered down. It didn’t get you where you wanted to go, so to speak. So over time, the patronage dropped steadily, while costs and taxpayer subsidies kept going up to pay the margins that were not covered by the revenue collected at “The Bar.” The public, the mayor, the Council and even bus drivers complained while OTL blamed poor patronage and rising cost due to FAT-BBUTS demands.

Then the city leaders came up with a plan to increase the number of customers at “The Bar” and they called it BTRT, Beer That’s Relatively Tasteless. The idea was to force packaged beer producers to make half of their beer to taste even blander than “The Beer” so that Joe Sixpack would settle for the latter rather than go without. Just as they were making BTRT a reality and trying to convince the public of the benefits, FAT-BBUTS went on strike and “The Beer” disappeared. Most everyone was convinced that without “The Beer,” those with limited resources would be forced to pay higher prices for competitively produced draft and packaged beer. The mayor, the Council, OTL, FAT-BBUTS, Joe Sixpack and bus drivers all wanted to ignore the glaring fact that their taxes were propping-up a failing system which was costing more to even the poorest in the city, than a competitive alternative.

So what is my lesson to the average bus driver and anyone else who is curious? If you want Beer That’s Relatively Tasteless and unaffordable, then get the city to fashion the beer industry after the city bus system.

”’Guy Monahan is the treasurer of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.”’

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards.