Monday Open Line


On this date one century ago, the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified establishing direct popular election of senators. Previously, members of the Senate were elected by each state’s legislature. As the voting franchise expanded after the Civil War and into the Progressive Era, growing sentiment held that senators ought to be popularly elected in the same manner as representatives. In fact, as a result of such developments, at least 29 states were nominating senators on a popular basis for the legislatures to approve. In the congressional elections of 2010, just under 42 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. This contrasts with the presidential election in 2008, when over 58 percent voted. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The years of Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, were considered a noble experiment that failed, as the subsequent crime associated with bootlegging caused problems worse than the lone problem of drunkenness. The crumbling of the unpopular Volstead Act accelerated on this date in 1933 when Congress amended the act to permit beer of 3.2 percent alcohol to be brewed and sold. The beer permitted earlier under Prohibition contained only .05 percent. Called “near beer,” and much disdained, one humorist declared that whoever named it was a poor judge of distance. Today, there are nearly 44,000 beer, wine and liquor stores in the U.S., with sales of over $38 billion. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

On this date in 1859, Massachusetts established the first state milk inspection program. An inspector of milk was appointed in August that year, operating from Boston, and whose primary efforts were to suppress so-called “swill milk,” the poor, thin output of cows kept in unsanitary conditions and fed on distillery refuse. Every year, Americans consume an average of 22 gallons of milk per capita, and over 24 pounds of frozen dairy products. When “per capita” means about 310 million consumers, it means the output of the nation’s nearly 1,600 dairy manufacturers ship over $91 billion worth of product annually. You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy from the American Community Survey at <www.census.gov>.