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  • New Plastic Bag Tax Coming to a Store Near You

    Grocery bag

    Watch out Virginia. You’re next. According to TBD.com, Virginia House of Delegates member Joseph Morrissey will introduce legislation next week to tax residents 20 cents for every plastic bag they receive at a grocery store or retailer. Following the lead of Washington, D.C., Delegate Morrissey sees an opportunity to punish shoppers and low-income earners in order to “chang[e] people’s attitudes.”

    This is just the latest effort by the radical environmental left to punish their fellow citizens who are merely trying to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis. In D.C., residents and visitors have been dealing with a careless and unnecessary nickel tax on bags for two years now imposed by the City Councilman Tommy Wells (D) and the leftist Anacostia Watershed Society.

    Behavior taxes are the new trend for liberal politicians across the nation. Whether it is five cents in DC for a bag, or the crippling costs President Obama is adding to gas prices to discourage fossil fuel use. Without an economically viable and supported argument for their policies, they turn to the invisible hand of the government to penalize you daily, and hope that you simply absorb the new costs of living without a fight.

    In fact, wealthier shoppers may in fact absorb the costs. It is low-income and jobless residents who are obviously hit the hardest when the government starts nickel-diming them at their local store.

    But at least there is a viable explanation in Virginia for why the price of twenty cents was chosen, right? Wrong. Delegate Morrissey simply saw Ireland charging twenty pence for their plastic bags and decided it seemed like a good round number. “It wasn’t any more far-reaching than that” said Morrissey. So Morrissey wants to take a percentage of your shopping budget, on a whim. (And please, nobody tell Morrissey that different currencies have different values, otherwise he may try to raise the tax to thirty cents!)

    Morrissey says that “everyone” loves his proposed tax. Alexandria, Virginia Delegate Adam Ebbin (D) is onboard as well. “I’ve heard nothing negative, only positive,” says Morrissey. This is most likely due to the fact that Morrissey and Ebbin aren’t personally going to collect their tax penalty from their neighbors. Instead they turn part-time cashiers into the long arm of the environmental movement, like Monique Johnson, a lottery agent in Northeast Washington, D.C. who told the Washington Post: “I get dirty looks all the time.”

    And remember, this is all because plastic bags are evil. Of course, this premise means you believe a bag is made from thin air and has no production process or other mitigating factors. According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2009, there is little difference between paper and plastic, it’s simply about what environmental tradeoffs you are willing to choose. Paper bags need more energy and water to produce and result in more greenhouse gases, but plastic are less likely to be recycled.

    Of course, as recycling becomes more accessible everyday, this argument carries less weight. In fact, plastic bags make up a miniscule portion of landfill waste and a study in San Francisco showed that chewing gum makes up entirely more street litter. (Please, nobody tell Morrissey, or he may tax chewing gum!)

    But so long, as you bring a reusable canvas bag to the store, you get the eco-left seal of approval, and everyone is happy. Not so fast. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is called for a federal investigation in 2010 into the excessive levels of lead found in most popular reusable canvas bags. Schumer said: “Federal agencies need to put a ban in place for reusable bags that have lead in them,” and he told the FDA: “Any situation where lead bags are coming into contact with the food being purchased by Americans needs to be immediately investigated and resolved.”

    So if plastic bags are bad, and paper bags are bad, and canvas bags are bad…well what’s left? Will liberals start taxing our arms as we carry our groceries to the car?

    At least the bag tax in D.C. is proven to change behaviors. Shoppers are crossing over into Maryland and Virginia to avoid the tax, like self-described environmentalist Virginia Johnson who told the Washington Post she maps out her day “to avoid having to shop in the District.”

    Delegate Morrissey’s punitive tax on his neighbors in the name of environmental enlightenment is recklessly unfounded and unnecessary, especially in this economy. Just as President Obama’s efforts to unilaterally raise gas prices to change consumer behavior will merely hurt the economy while providing little value to the environment, Delegate Morrissey’s efforts are equally destructive.

    If you think these taxes don’t affect you because you don’t live in D.C. or Virginia, think again. Many states are considering the same behavior taxes, or thinking of entirely new ones. Maryland has been debating bag taxes for years, and just this week, Maryland lawmakers also began consideration of a ten cent tax on each individual alcoholic drink sold in the state. (Logically, a six-pack would cost 60 cents more while a keg would cost ten cents). San Francisco, CA, already the leader in behavior taxes is now extending their reach into McDonald’s Happy Meals.

    Behaviors indeed need to change…the controlling tax-and-spend behavior of leftist politicians.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    25 Responses to New Plastic Bag Tax Coming to a Store Near You

    1. Bobbie says:

      I like how he says "everyone likes it," yeah, everyone in government who use this excuse to guilt the public while Morrissey and the like increase their unearned incomes. What is the representation of this tax? Rhetoric? More corruption to clean!

    2. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Here is one little commercial tax to investigate. This nickel and diming is the new way that governments are using to steal even more money from the population. Try this scheme – in VERMONT the customer is now having to cough up the credit card transaction fees the store clerks get charged from the credit card companies. I bought $48 for sandwiches, soda's and chips and some other stuff. The store clerk proudly informed me that now he can charge 3% to cover the credit card service fee. That cost me a bit over a buck. He was rude in that I wanted to use the credit card but seemed satisfied to take an additional $1.44 from me to cover his business costs. Well, I owned a store in VT years ago and had to pay that fee. It was a business expense that was added to the price of the products we sold. It was minimal so it was never noticeable either on my side or the customer side.

      Well all these businesses have been passing their business costs to the customer for years. With the infinite wisdom of the VT Legislature, we now have to pay it twice. Add the 5-cent bag tax and all the other nickel and dime charges people will end up with less money. Less money means less commerce. Less commerce means less money to be made to pay out to employees. Private sector employees will be let go. These actions are evidence that the government workers and policy makers have no clue where their incomes are coming from.

    3. Kevin H, college par says:

      Behavior tax? Rory, are you saying we should do nothign through tax code to promote behavior?

      If that is the case, i'm certian you and Heritage will be calling for repeal of mortgage interest deduction and marriage penalty relief, correct?

    4. Charles Kyriacou says:

      When is enough, enough? These liberals won't be happy until we're all broke. Even then, the liberals won't be happy. I truly believe liberals are not happy people, that's why they stay up at night thinking of ways to make the rest of us miserable.

    5. Chris says:

      Since any Conservative objection to the hob-nailed jackboot of ever-increasing Lib-Prog control of the great unwashed masses is a clear manifestation of either overt/covert racisim or some other non-PC "ism" that our Imperial Plantation Masters will not tolerate, we're rapidly devolving into a living example of an old Yakov Smirnoff joke about a visit to the former Soviet Union by a starry-eyed Liberal American socialism-indoctrinated college student:

      Student: So, comrade, how are things here in the wonderful People's Paradise?

      Citizen: Ah, well, we can't complain.

      Student: Oh, things are going that well?

      Citizen: No, it's simply that we can't complain!

    6. Bobbie says:

      What are you suggesting, Kevin? Using a bag to hold your groceries is bad behavior so a tax code should be put in place so you can accept to correct yourself from governed coercive rhetoric as bad behavior? Easily influenced on this frivolity. You are ridiculously humorous! then you go to the extreme mentioning marriage and mortgage? You are a prize! How about we focus on uncivil behaviors? Or is that beneath your concerns?

    7. Brad, Chicago says:

      @Kevin H.: Both of your examples are void for making your point. Those policies only "control" behavior by removing a barrier put in place by government, in the first place. A house is a large expense, so to make it easier for people to make that purchase, the government gives you a break on your taxes. That policy is not a controlling factor in whether someone buys a house in the first place. A similar argument can be made for marriage. The combined income of 2 people could end up taxed at a higher rate than the individuals. In addition, marriage is generally a pathway to having children, which is a further drain on a budget. To make it easier for people to have children, not to encourage it, is the effect of that policy. That tax policy is a way to get out of the way and allow people to make the choice. Of course, people shouldn't be getting married for financial reasons. If the tax incentive is your reason for getting married (i.e. the policy controls your behavior), the flaw is your own, not the government's.

      Of course, I can (though I'm not sure I should) justify both of those policies as just use of government authority, due to their direct effect on the stability and general welfare of the nation (not of individual people in the nation, but of the nation, itself). Marriages build families. Families build communities. Communities create stability. People owning homes gives a community far more stability than apartments (which is not to say one cannot have a stable life in an apartment, but I hope you understand my meaning), because you have greater assurance of who your neighbors are going to be.

      In general, the government shouldn't be trying to promote or discourage any personal behavior. Behavior that directly affects other people can be considered, but there is still a risk of the slippery slope coming into effect.

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    10. Brad, Detroit, MI says:

      The great thing about all of these "behaviour" taxes is that it winds up hurting the people that liberals are 'trying to save' the most. Do you think that most people in the upper middle class are affected by cigarette, alcohol, and gas taxes ? Not really. They have enough disposable income and manipulations in their personal budgets to offset the nickel and diming of these stupid taxes. Unfortunately, the low-income families don't have that luxury. They start making tough decisions because the added $20 or $30 every pay period starts making a dent. They are usually all highly regressive and hurt the poor the most. And as far as comparing this tax to the marriage deduction is patently absurd. Let's get rid of the Child Tax Credit while we are at it ? The deduction of mortgage interest for owning a home ? The Energy Tax credit . the Hybrid vehicle tax credit . . . ? They all influence behaviour. Let's agree on something. Get rid of the current income tax code, fire the IRS, and go to a simple use (sales) tax. The ultra rich (like John Kerry) can't hide from buying and using stuff . . .

    11. R Holland, Chandler, says:

      tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend… slogan for the liberal/ progressive/environmentalist/socialist/democrats.

    12. Pmoon says:

      20 cents? That's a lot less than the 99 some of the "limited" or "efficient" or "non bureaucratic" grocery stores have been charging for years now.

      Explain to me how giving my 99 to a private company and never seeing it again is better than 20 to a govt that can spend it on infrastructure, education, or even defense?

    13. Jill, California says:

      I'm all for using reusable canvas bags … when it makes sense. It makes sense at the grocery store, for example, because store employees can easily see if people are shoplifting. It doesn't make sense in a mall, where shoppers can go from one store to the next stuffing items into those opaque canvas bags and walking out with merchandise they haven't paid for. Retails will lose a fortune either implementing expensive security systems to prevent shoplifting or writing off the stolen items. Those costs, too, will be passed on to consumers who can least afford it.

    14. Bill, MD says:

      Rather than a full frontal assault that will result in another schellacking, the progressives will cleverly attempt to hide thier tax increases under the guise of saving the environment, saving our children and saving us from ourselves. As educated "adults", they know what is best for us even if we don't want it. Liberty is being eliminated one tax or law at a time.

    15. Chris says:

      Let's take it to the Statist ideal end-state (no pun intended):

      We all live in large communal dwellings and eat all our meals at the State-provided mess hall.

      No need for all of those resource-destroying bags — paper, plastic or cloth.

      No need for any energy-consuming appliances like refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, etc.

      And, if we either work rigtht next to our State barracks or take State-provided transportation to our government-approved (will there be any other kind?) jobs, no need for all of that personal, energy-wasting private transportation, either.

      Perfect control over large swaths of previously non-government-controlled behavior. Lockstepped conformity. How sublime! (or, at least, subjugated)

      Positively a Statist's Unicorn Utopian dream in full bloom.

    16. George, Lancaster, N says:

      Just wondering who Obama will hire as the new Plastic Bag Czar?

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    18. The Elephant's says:

      You are absolutely correct, Mr. Cooper, but it's an even stranger story. It began with a misreading of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that between 1981 and 1984 more than 100,000 marine mammals were killed every year by discarded fishing nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags. In 2002, a report prepared for the Australian Government my Nolan-ITU said that the Newfoundland study attributed the deaths to "plastic bags" According to the Aussie Government's Environment Dept. website, the report was amended in 2006.

      Scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreading, but governments everywhere have continued trying to phase out the plastic bags. The actual report attributed the deaths to all plastic debris, including fishing nets, equipment, and probably the plastic holders for six-packs. For attaching blame, do some research on the Center for Climate Strategies.

      There is a big risk of food poisoning from the use of cloth bags. Dr. Richard Sumerbell, research director at Toronto-based Spirometircs, and former chief of medical mycology for the Ontario Ministry of Health said that 64 % of reusable cloth bags were contaminated and close to 30% had higher bacterial counts than what is considered safe for drinking water. 40% of the bags had yeast or mold, and some had unacceptable presence of coloforms, faecal intestinal bacteria when there should have been none. Leaking meat wrappings, water from moist produce, cracked eggs, leaking dairy containers contribute. Cloth bags should be laundered with bleach carefully after each use.

      Governments are inclined to follow what their peers are doing. States copy each other, as do cities. Nobody bothers to check out the facts behind the facade–particularly if it means extra taxes!

    19. John, Washington DC says:

      The Foundation "promotes conservative policies"? Really? Then why not promote a policy aimed at conservation of natural resources or reducing dependence on non-renewable resources. Your blog is a joke, pandering to the uneducated.

      John, DC resident happy to use re-usable bags when shopping.

    20. Denise, Utah says:

      Do true progressives have real jobs? I don't know about anyone else but I work so much of my life just to make ends meet I don't have time to dream up all these behavior taxes and punitive regulations for others to pay and obey. Most Marxists have too much time on their hands to try to figure out ways to control the rest of us because we are too busy working!!! Get a life and get OUT of mine!!!

    21. Bobbie says:

      John, what gives you the idea just because we don't want a tax cost imposed on the usage of grocery bags, we aren't conserving them? Or respectful of natural resources? Recycling them? We personally go without before using ANY renewable energy.

      We recycle all our recyclables without using government resources. Do you? We are obligated to pay taxes to the government to run their recycling dump truck and pick up other peoples anyway. People should do it for themselves.

      It's Excellent to use re-usable bags when shopping, just be careful of the led and mercury bags, the longer you use the more susceptible you are to the poison.

      And just an FYI, Heritage does not discriminate education so please, stop in any time.

    22. Thomas, Wasington, D says:

      I hope you all realize that if you are against the bag tax, you are in favor of socializing the costs of the shopping bags by letting the stores give them away for free and recouping the cost on all customers, regardless of how much bags they actually use. The economy will work best if all external costs (including waste disposal, river clean up) are internalized in what we buy.

    23. Blake,Florida says:

      Thanks to the Heritage Foundation, I am able to read the news the general public may never " read or hear "… save, perhaps, Fox News! As for the " Plastic Bag " issue….I do not support any tax increase ( no matter how it is packaged ) or " control " taken away from any American. The Government is in play only to serve " We The People " …not to control us. Most all of us are willing to pay a " fair share " of tax…but, We shall decide what is fair…not mandated! Please Vote for the people who support " We the People " I Love My Country and most all the People who Love Her! May GOD continue to Bless this Great Country!

    24. Tyler, Philadelphia says:

      Paper bags, while more energy intensive on the front end, actually break down. Plastic bags clog our waterways and break down too…into smaller pieces of plastic to make its way into our food. It doesn't "biodegrade". Further, paper bags can be recycled or composted. Plastic bags don't have a market to be recycled at all, as it's incredibly cheaper to make new bags than to recycle them.

      Might want to look into the success of bag taxes:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/24/irela

      Once you bring your own bag or use a backpack once or twice at the most, you won't notice the difference anyway.

    25. Pingback: Kiss Those Plastic Bags Goodbye, Evanston! | The Foundry

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