Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Will That Be Paper, Plastic, or W-2?

Thanks for the Memory to Darth Apathy.

I hadn't planned to blog much about non-baby issues for the next few days, but I have the time, it helps take my mind off of things, and my gosh, this was just too good to pass up:

San Francisco May Charge for Grocery Bags

Mon Jan 24, 8:23 AM ET Strange News - AP

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco may become the first city in the nation to charge shoppers for grocery bags.

The city's Commission on the Environment is expected to ask the mayor and board of supervisors Tuesday to consider a 17-cent per bag charge on paper and plastic grocery bags. While the goal is reducing plastic bag pollution, paper was added so as not to discriminate.

"The whole point is to encourage the elimination of waste, not to make people pay more for groceries," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.

Environmentalists argue that plastic bags jam machinery, pollute waterways and often end up in trees. In addition to large supermarkets, other outfits that regularly use plastic bags, including smaller grocery stores, dry cleaners and takeout restaurants, could eventually be targeted.

Officials calculate that the city spends 5.2 cents per bag annually for street litter pickup and 1.4 cents per bag for extra recycling costs.

Grocers and bag manufacturers argue that many people already reuse their plastic bags, and that the use of plastic won't go down because people will purchase plastic trash bags to use instead. Other opponents call the plan an unfair and regressive tax on shoppers.


Talk about stupid and ill-thought-out. Let's not even bother for the moment to do any more than observe in passing that the proposed tax (17 cents per bag) is over DOUBLE the estimated cost to the city of disposing of bags (6.6 cents per bag). Let's not even focus, as Vic does, on the idiocy of taxing paper bags just to prevent the users of plastic bags from feeling that we're discriminating against them (we ARE, but at least they wouldn't be alone) Let's assume for a moment that San Francisco is stupid enough to enact this tax (it's not really much of a stretch to assume so).

So now, how will they enforce it? How are they going to make sure that each shopper is taxed properly? Will shoppers in San Francisco have to scan each and every bag they plan to use? What if they miscalculate how many they need? Will the cashier have to ring them up for more bags? reimburse them for bags unused? Completely impractical. Or maybe the baggers will have to count bags as they go, report the total to the cashier, who THEN rings up the groceries? Again, impractical, and rife with potential problems. Will people stop double-bagging, increasing the risk of spilled groceries? Will they instruct baggers to cram the groceries in even tighter?

What's more likely to happen is that they will impose a tax charged to the store for all the bags it purchases. You buy 20,000 bags, that's $3,400 please. So how do you recoup that expense? By spending even more money to implement the stupid measures mentioned above? No. You either eat it as a business expense, or you increase your prices to make up the loss. That means ALL your customers pay higher prices to cover this tax -- not just the people using plastic bags, but the people using paper bags, the guy who doesn't need a bag for his pop and candy bar, even the environmentally conscious shopper with the tye-died "Love your Mother" cloth grocery bag. So what happens? Prices for groceries go up in San Francisco, and suddenly for all those people living not too far from other municipalities, it seems unwise to buy your groceries in San Francisco. So the SF stores see a drop in sales, a drop in profits, and a drop in ALL the taxes they put into the coffers of the city (not just the bag tax). Not to SPEAK of the impact this would have on smaller stores if the city proceeds to tax them as well. In the end, this will prove to be nothing but a hassle to the people of San Francisco, and a boondoggle for the city. San Francisco needs to put this proposal back on the shelf.

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