5.01.2008

George Bush Even Alienates People Who Like Him

by Jeff Siegel*

It's not only progressives, environmentalists, and U.S. working men and women who are fed up with President George Bush. So is much of the world's wine industry.

The reason is the weak dollar. European, Australian and other foreign winemakers are livid because it has raised the price of their wine in the U.S. by as much as 20 percent. In other words, New Zealand wines that cost $15 last spring are at $18 and $20 this spring. But they aren't the only ones. U.S. winemakers, faced with higher prices for French barrels, Portuguese corks, Italian glass, and Spanish tin foils (the stuff that covers the cork), are suffering as well. One Washington state winemaker told me that he's contemplating changing key parts of his production process because he can't afford to pay $1,000 for a French barrel that cost $850 last fall.

The weak dollar means it takes more dollars to purchase the same amount of foreign currency to buy goods and services. Since November, when things were bad, the dollar has fallen almost 10 percent more against the euro, almost 3 1/2 percent more against the Australian dollar, five percent more against the New Zealand dollar, and an astounding 14 percent against the Chilean peso. "But we have now arrived at a situation where we cannot take it any longer and from now on we will feel the full brunt of any further dollar weakness," said the president of the Burgundy wine association.

I had dinner with a Bordeaux winemaker last night, and he kept going on and on about the weak dollar, the idiocy of the European Central Bank for allowing it to happen, and how the wine business shouldn't be held hostage by a U.S. president who makes policy to benefit his pals in the oil business. And, in fact, there is a school of thought — largely unreported by the mainstream and Bush-tamed U.S. media — that the administration is pursuing a weak dollar to bolster various multi-nationals, like oil companies, that do business in a variety of currencies.

On the one hand, when U.S. consumers are deciding between buying food and buying gas because they don't have enough money for both, the price of wine and the trials and tribulations of winemakers aren't that big a deal. But that the Bush Administration's inept and incompetent policies have alienated a group that has usually supported the president speaks volumes about the ineptitude and incompetence of the Bush Administration.

*Jeff Siegel is the wine columnist for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and the Advocate magazines in Dallas. He also writes and edits the blog The Wine Curmudgeon. These are the author's opinions and do not reflect the opinions of these other publications.

(Political graphic from Wrapped-in-the-Flag, a website that offers copyright-free political material.)









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