I got an email today.

I’m quite “Internet popular” so I get lots of them. Some of the emails are informative. Some of the e-mails are funny.

This one was trying to sell me on some sham.  It came from the Marin Institute.  (Luckily, I made their list. It’s funny, how did they know I was from Marin?)

The subject line: “Thumbs-up on the local Charge for Harm alcohol fee!”

Thumbs up? When did a tax on alcohol become good cause for a celebratory motion of not one, but two of my thumbs?

I figured there must be a reason for the excitement so, since I’m a real sucker, I opened the email. Inside, I learned that I am supposed to take action and “tell Mayor Newsom and Supervisors Dufty, Chu and Elsbernd to charge wholesalers for alcohol-related harm.” Well, I do run a local government Web site … but wait. What was alcohol-related harm exactly?

The Marin Institute didn’t exactly share that information in the email, so I jumped on their Web site and searched around for a few minutes before I found this:

“Each year, the City and County of San Francisco incurs costs resulting from alcohol use. These include the costs of providing medical care for people with alcohol-related illness, treatment and prevention costs, costs to the law enforcement system, costs resulting from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and other injuries, and the indirect costs associated with disability and diminished capacity.”

Back in the email, I read that, “The San Francisco Controller’s Office recently commissioned a ‘nexus study’ that assessed alcohol costs to city services. That groundbreaking report detailed $17.7 million in unreimbursed alcohol-related costs for the city and county.”

After reading the email, I sat and stared at my computer screen for 30 seconds or so. The $17.7 million seemed hefty at first. But everything is relative so I quickly went to Google and found out that the city’s proposed budget is roughly $6.5 billion for next year.

So here’s my problem: How much will the city lose when its economy’s biggest industry takes such a drastic tax blow?

Governments at the federal, state and local level already take more than $2 dollars in taxes for every $1 the industry earns in profits. Plus, San Francisco’s hospitality industry is already suffering.

The proposed alcohol fee would be imposed at the point of wholesale, which will knock up prices to restaurants, hotels and bars – and eventually consumers.  This leads to shrinking sales, shrinking wages and benefits, and eventual job cuts. (Also, note that the majority of those in the industry may not hold a college degree or an ability to find another job – not a fact, but common sense.)

I’m not an economist – though I do know a few good ones – but that chain of damages would seem to be drastically worse in costs to the city than the $17 million figure touted by the Marin Institute.

At this point, I started wondering who or what the Marin Institute was and why they cared so much about increasing alcohol taxes – even to the point of sending me an email about it.

I checked back with their Web site to figure it out and it didn’t take long to realize the organization’s motivation. It’s written right on their Web site:

“The Marin Institute envisions communities free of the alcohol industry’s negative influence and an alcohol industry that does not harm the public’s health.”

Oh … I get it now.

They hate alcohol and don’t want it around. Fair enough, but why weren’t they open from the start? The email should have read: “We are against alcohol and we don’t want you to drink it.”

The Marin Institute isn’t looking out for the best interest of the city of San Francisco or its economy. It has its own interests.

And if their true goal is to stop us from drinking alcohol, then they must understand that this tax is going to have a dramatic effect on reducing sales, right?

Sounds like they are making the argument for why this additional alcohol fee would be a terrible idea.

Tricky email … you almost got me.

James Spencer can be reached at jspencer@publicceo.com