Taxes

D.C. Taxes Plastic Bags, Annoying Shoppers and Ending American Beauty Scourge

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The District of Columbia instituted a 5 cent tax on plastic grocery bags this week. So after work today I'll tote my reusable bag—the one I already owned thanks to plenty of private sector initiatives on this front—to the grocery store to buy small trash bags for the garbage cans in my house that used to be lined with leftover grocery bags. While I'm at the store, I'll probably run into the city's dog owners, who now need a new way to scoop and store canine poo. And once we're there, purchasing products to offset the intended effect of reducing consumption, predicts Jillian Melchior of Commentary, our wait in line will be longer than it was before:

A nickel might not seem like much. But anyone who has lived recently in Hong Kong and experienced their 6-cent bag tax knows how burdensome that levy makes commerce. There, grocery-store clerks must cram as much as possible into a single, side-split reusable bag – or face a perturbed customer. (Never underestimate the public's desire to save a buck.) Milk, butter, and eggs become Tetris blocks; and consequently, the checkout lines grow longer and longer as clerks painstakingly pack for maximum space efficiency….

The nice thing about living in Washington is that voters choose all of their city-council members, unlike Hong Kongers. Next time they're voting, the harried shoppers of D.C. might remember this lesson in the unintended consequences of government meddling.

The tax isn't all downside though. Perhaps the eventual abolition of disposable grocery sacs will stave off future abominations like the extended The Plastic Bag Was Just Dancing with Me, Like a Little Kid Begging Me to Play With It rapture from American Beauty:

NEXT: Public Sector vs. Private Sector Compensation or, Suck It, Private Sector.

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  1. Big Shitbag strikes again!

  2. They’ve just opened the door to black market plastic bags from Virginia and Maryland.

  3. They bag your groceries in DC? Wow! They really do live like kings.

    1. Are you copping to being a chubby chaser, Wartster?

      Jezebel jizzed over that shoot. Apparently it’s ok to admire females when they’re of the feminist-approved variety.

      1. All I’ll say is that give me a bottle of Military Special gin and a bathtub full of Crisco, and I’d have a pretty good time with those girls.

        1. Don’t forget your tazer, the flour, and the fried chicken.

          1. I figured the Crisco would work well enough as bait. I’ll save my fried chicken for me.

          2. Tazer ? vibrator, Epi.

            The words “don’t taze me, bro” have never been more serious.

      2. From the Jezebel comments:

        “If Candice Huffine and Crystal Renn were in magazine’s when I was in High School, I would’ve realized I was bisexual a lot earlier. Day-um”

        1. It’s funny, but my friend took me to a lesbian bar near capitol hill. So many really, really fat girls. I’m glad pr0n is so misleading with its representation of lesbians.

          1. I didn’t know we had any exclusively lesbian bars!? My Cap Hill gay repertoire is limited to Neighbours.

            1. I’ll try and get the name of the place. It was odd for me, being a hetero dude with his girlfriend accompanying our lesbian friend with some of her lesbian friends. The hottest girl there was the one working the door, so it had that going for it.

          2. It’s because there are at a minimum, four types of lesbian: Women who are attracted to women, women who hate/fear men, women who are lesbians for the moment, and women who can’t get the sort of man they want and refuse to lower their standards/be celibate.

            I would imagine it’d be pretty hard to be a woman who is attracted to women in a scene composed of all four.

        2. “If Candice Huffine and Crystal Renn were in magazine’s when I was in High School, I would’ve realized I was bisexual a lot earlier. Day-um”

          I can imagine there are some guys that would echo that sentiment.

      3. Apparently it’s ok to admire females when they’re of the feminist-approved variety.

        Wait until the next Beth Ditto tongue-bath.

        1. All of the OMG-fat-is-so-sexy bluster just seems like the feminists doth protest too much.

          (Also: ha! I saw The Gossip at Bumbershoot a couple of years ago. They put on a fun show, but Beth might want to consider some more supportive (and less see-though) undergarments._

          1. Dictating what men can and can’t find attractive is a doomed project.

            I may want the ladies to get all puppy-dog happy over fat, bearded diabetics, but I’m not going to spin hateful conspiracy theories those who don’t fall in line. And I’m certainly not going to complain about it all day on-line.

            1. Exactly. Spend that time on the exercise bike instead. Or do both, whatever. Just don’t forget to pedal.

            2. I’d say it’s irrelevant Sug. From my own observations, mostly at rural Wal-Marts, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of discrimination by looks on the part of men.

              1. Ah, rural Wal-Marts… stick-figure men and their diving bell wives.

              2. Perhaps this relates to the post earlier today about people not having as much sex nowadays? The men are beggars and can’t be choosers. In another era, when women were willing to put out, they could afford to choose the attractive ones.

      4. “I never had sex with that woman.”

    2. “Curves ahead! The plus-size models that prove fashion is finally ready to embrace larger women”

      Just as soon as fashion’s arms double in length.

    3. Not enough T for the copious quantity of A.

  4. Philistine! American Beauty is a classic. The plastic bag scene is sublime. From my experiences in my teens and afterward, I have similar reasons to admire the teenager who speaks those lines as Kevin Spacey’s character does.

    Anybody got a problem with that?

    1. I don’t have a problem with that. You can watch and enjoy any sub-moronic, 2-dimensional, uber-progressive felch-fest that you want.

      I will say that American Beauty is the only film that made me wish I had brought firearms to the theater, well, until last year’s Star Trek.

      1. Wait, the last Dr. Who is on that list too.

        I *really* wanted to shoot my TV after watching that, just to put it out of its misery.

      2. If you expected anything more from the Star Trek movie, then you’ve never seen anything from Star Trek.
        The only movie I remember being angry I saw as I left the theatre was the Planet of the Aps remake; what a steaming pile that was.

        1. Agreed on Apes. When will someone kill Tim Burton? It’s the only way he can be stopped. Making one shitty movie after another doesn’t seem to be any disincentive to him.

          I expected a halfway worthwhile film, which Star trek has largely delivered on the even numbers (excepting 10–I’d throw in 3 just for -SPOILERS- blowing up the Enterprise and uttering one of the classic lines). This one was an odd, #11, so I should have known better.

          1. But without Burton, Hollywood would lose the bafflingly deep pockets of the OMG NEIL GAIMAN IS THE BESTEST WRITER EVAR babygoth crowd.

            And someone would have to put Helena Bonham Carter out of her hollowed-eyed misery.

            1. Or at least force-feed her a decent meal.

          2. There were TEN Star Trek movies?

    2. American Beauty is a fairy-tale composed of every shibboleth of the left. Suburbia is stiffing. Heterosexual marriage is a loveless and doomed project. Hating gays mean you are secretly a homosexual. Yadda, yadda.

      Its perfect opposite in political shitty movies is Forrest Gump.

      1. You guys miss the forest for the trees. Homosexuality, suburbia, marijuana, etc. serve as what Hitchcock called MacGuffins. The point of AB is that having the courage to speak one’s mind can be difficult and dangerous but worth it. It happens to take place in an American suburb, but the essential story about the human condition could have taken place anywhere. I suspect that all human societies place undue pressure on individuals to conform, and AB shows the perils and rewards of resisting the pressure. Is this not a libertarian message after all?

        1. I once saw MacBeth very poorly done as an post-apocalyptic biker gang. Yes, the underlying message of hubris and pride was the same as a high Elizabethan presentation, but it was the delivery of it that sucked so very hard.

          1. I saw Macbeth done with all of the genders reversed. Thus the odd phenomenon of Mr. Lady Macbeth.

            1. To make a long story short…

              A few years later I was complaining about how bad it was to a group of people that ended up including the director and Lady MacBeth. She left the table crying. The director leaned over after my stammered apologies and said “Yeah, it was pretty bad.”

              1. What’s sad is that the idea of mashing up The Road Warrior and Macbeth is friggin’ awesome.

                1. I know! But it was just so half-hearted.

                  Of course, my idea of student theater was warped by The University of Evansville (no, really.) They put on some amazing productions; four plays a year and one was always a Shakespeare and antoher was Ancient Greek. They also did a Dracula update set in the 20s, where Vlad had absorbed Nietzsche and run about ranting about how mortality was something to be overcome.

                  1. Indiana? Home of American General Finance? I turned down several attempts to get me to take a job there. Didn’t know it was a college town.

                    I’ve seen some great local theater, which to my mind shows how many people can act and how vastly overrated stars usually are. If I were a movie mogul, I’d run every damned picture with unknowns.

                  2. Were you an Ace? I attended from 05-07 (dropout!).

                    1. zoltan,

                      No, I’m from Henderson, way across the muddy Ohio.

            2. So was Captain Picard as Othello. Probably not in the same way, though. But still.

        2. You may be right. I got that same message in Rock and Roll High School. And Stripes. And Risky Business. And Sixteen Candles etc, etc.

          Of course, none of those films took itself anywhere nearly as seriously as American Beauty. It’s a VERY serious film, donchaknow.

          There are far better ways to say “fight the system” than that execrable tripe.

          1. Agree. My personal favorite is Cool Hand Luke as far as anti-conformist messages go.

            Last night, I saw Lonely Are the Brave, which is in a similar vein. Definitely worth a viewing. Kirk Douglas as a cowboy who’s still riding around on horseback in the 1950s, with the rise of the automobile and the omnipresent state coalesing oppressively around him. It’s NOT a passing-of-the-frontier film though.

  5. That first paragraph played out like an elementary school film.

    The Art of Juggling Sundries: A World Without Plastic Bags

  6. American Beauty: The most overrated film since Godfather I.

    1. It insists upon itself.

    2. Consider what company that puts you in, Lester. Animated retard Peter Griffin hates The Godfather.

      1. I think Peter’s opinion on the godfather is the only intelligent point he’s ever had.

        1. Shirley, you can’t be serious. (Please don’t tell me you hate Airplane!, too.)

          1. No i love airplane, and the sequel.

            But i never made it through the godfather. or scarface. or any of that mafioso crap.

            I think goodfellas was the only mob movie i managed to watch the whole way through….it wasn’t horrible, but i’m not going out to buy the DVD anytime soon.

            I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue i guess. And don’t call me Shirley.

            1. Scarface is a joke. Yeah, I’ve seen it many times, but it’s just an alright movie that is somehow culturally relevant.

              Godfather actually deserves the praise it gets. There’s no comparison between the two.

              1. The 1932 Howard Hawks Scarface is quite good. The original Airplane! is top-notch, and while the sequel had a few good gags, it mostly sucked.

    3. Lester,

      I was with you until you spoke poorly about The Godfather. I think it was an excellent film.

      1. I like The Money Pit. That is my answer to that statement.

        1. Thank you, I couldn’t think of any more of the banter past FrBunny’s line.

  7. The District of Columbia instituted a 5 cent tax on plastic grocery bags this week…

    … among other equally stupid mandates.

    Next time they’re voting, the harried shoppers of D.C. might remember this lesson in the unintended consequences of government meddling.

    Do not underestimate the power of voter “registration” – ACORN.

  8. Plastic grocery store style bags are one of the handiest, lighest weight, easy-to-store load bearing devices ever invented.

    When anything is cheap, plentiful, and useful, government does or will find a way to tax it.

    They just, can’t, stand, efficiencies!

  9. “Plastic grocery store style bags are one of the handiest shitiest, lighest weight flimsiest, easy-to-storerip load bearing devices ever invented.”

    Fixed.

    I had a clerk, yesterday, place a single loaf of bread, which was part of a larger order, in a plastic bag all by itself (surprisingly, it didn’t rip the bag in half). You’d never see anyone do that in a normal paper grocery bag.

    1. The plastic bag deforms more than the paper one, making it more likely to crush our fluffy american bread when loaded-up.

    2. Probably to protect the bread, not the bag.

    3. Yeah, if he’d jammed the bread loaf into a bag with a couple of cantaloupes and a half-dozen cans of dog food, that’d be just peachy.

      1. I once had a kid, unbeknownst, put the eggs on the bottom of the bag and stacked produce on top. Not happy eggs, nor me, by the time they were home. I even tipped the little fucker at the car.

        She could have put it in with the eggs or in the bag with the chips, or any other lightweight items. I felt very silly carrying this superfluous bag to the car.

  10. Instead of bags, Americans should employ homeless people to carry about their things. Such homeless people could be bought and sold like a commodity, provided that they who so use the homeless provide food and shelter. In this way, the environment will be most protected.

    1. See, slavery wasn’t such a bad thing. It was enslaving just the black people that was objectionable.

      1. As I’ve mentioned here before, the 13th Amendment doesn’t ban slavery. Not if you convict those to be enslaved first:

        Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

        Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

        So, say you make texting while driving a crime, punishable by one year of involuntary servitude to a licensed master. Not unconstitutional, though I don’t think the old school methods would all be tolerated. And you’d probably have to let the cops whip and shoot servants who misbehave.

    2. What if some rich prick like Ratner sees something he likes as my hobo carries it home and has the government declare my homeless bag boy blighted and then seizes everything via eminent domain?

  11. I’m glad they managed to stave off the plastic bag tax in Seattle.

    Amazingly [/sarcasm], stores had been, and are continuing to encourage less plastic bag use all on their own. My local grocery store will give you a 5 cent credit for each reusable bag you bring in.

    1. They’ve actually been offering a 2 cent credit per bag (at Grand Union if anyone is familiar) for at least 15 years. I’m sure most people would rather have the bags than the 20 cents for the spare garbage bags/dog crap reasons listed in the post.

      1. RE: Dagny T.|1.5.10 @ 3:10PM|#

        I’m glad they managed to stave off the plastic bag tax in Seattle.

        Amazingly [/sarcasm], stores had been, and are continuing to encourage less plastic bag use all on their own. My local grocery store will give you a 5 cent credit for each reusable bag you bring in.

        Ditto here in NW WA. I wonder if it will last without legislation – just ’cause it works, and nobody’s getting official credit for it.

      2. I didn’t know Grand Union still existed.

  12. The District of Columbia instituted a 5 cent tax on plastic grocery bags this week.

    Wow, even Seattle couldn’t get this proposal through. What’s the world coming to?

  13. One of our local stores used to give us the credit as well. It’s a better system. I prefer cloth bags anyway.

    1. Hooray for cloth bags.

      A pox on whoever marketed the stitched-together plastic-sheet “reusable” bags. The handles they glue on paper bags are more sturdy than those pieces of crap.

    2. Trader Joe’s sells a nifty six-chambered bag for wine or loosey beers.

  14. Also, keep in mind, it means you can’t pay for the groceries while the bag-boy bags your stuff… because you don’t know what the grocery run is going to cost you until you tally the number of bags you’ve consumed… which means more time consumed per customer at the cashier, which means longer lines, more costs to the grocer, all of which will be passed along to you.

    But, to Katherine, don’t buy garbage bags at the store… they’re overpriced… stick to paying the $.05 per grocery bag, it’s a better bargain. 🙂

    1. And how does it work for the self-checkouts? Or are those banned now?

      1. Self-checks? You mean the job-murderers?!

    2. That was exactly my thought — that a nickel a bag is a bargain for garbage bags. However, we don’t know if the supermarket will continue to offer them or decide not to, considering that the $.05 is a tax over and above the cost to the store.

      But if they switch to paper, that’s even better for garbage. They stand all by themselves, no need for a wastebasket.

  15. See, slavery wasn’t such a bad thing. It was enslaving just the black people that was objectionable.

    Progressively speaking, exactly. See also: the income tax. The 16th Amendment repealed the 13th, but as long as everyone is forced to work for someone else it’s cool.

  16. Under the new law, city businesses that sell food or alcohol must charge customers five cents for every disposable paper or plastic carryout bag. The law also requires that these bags be recyclable and carry a message encouraging recycling.

    I smell an opportunity for all you entreprenuers: RTFL carefully, then make/use clever non-standard bags for your customers’ convenience.

    If it’s a nickel per bag, why use twenty-two when one will do? What is “a bag”, anyway?

    1. Why not just emphasize to customers that the bags are not disposable? Free, yes. But not intended to be discarded.

  17. Rent plastic bags with the understanding that they must be returned at some indeterminate date.

  18. Rent plastic bags with the understanding that they must be returned at some indeterminate date.

  19. $.05 tax? Here in SF, they simply banned them outright. Apparently there’s a big floating bunch of plastic out in the Pacific that has everyone’s rectum in a knot.

    1. IT’S TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS!!!

    2. There’s some folks over on Castro Street that can help alleviate those knots.

  20. I don’t see the tax deterring too many people from using plastic bags. Typically you use 8-10 plastic bags per trip. That’s 40-50 cents. So what?

    It has nothing to do with keeping bags out of the river and everything to do with revenue generation. Do you really think they’ll use the revenue to clean up the rivers?

    1. No, I don’t. Maybe my community is cleaner than most, or maybe D.C. is a city of pigs, but I never see plastic bags floating around the streets. Fast-food drink cups, however…why the fuck is it so hard to put those things in a dumpster?

  21. Also, the paper bags are WAY larger than the plastic ones, so switch to paper and you’ll only pay for 3-4 bags. 15-20 cents, big deal.

  22. I think you might also like this youtube video from Australia:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npf6qns0JhU

  23. “While I’m at the store, I’ll probably run into the city’s dog owners, who now need a new way to scoop and store canine poo.”

    I’m still not on board with compelling dog owners to pick up dog shit anyway. Because you own a dog, I get to tell me what to do, up to and including picking up dog shit? Why isn’t that worse than seat belt laws?

    If we sentenced people who didn’t wear seat belts to picking up dog shit, most of us would probably think that was cruel and unusual punishment, but just because you own a dog…

    Why don’t we just make it against the law to be annoying? I tell ya, being annoying is quickly becoming a libertarian imperative…

    My rights may end where yours begin, but they certainly don’t disappear just because I step out in public. And if the right not to be compelled to pick up dog shit isn’t a right…

    And if you don’t want to step in dog shit, watch where you’re going–idiot.

    1. Nuisance?

    2. Did you know that Atlanta is the dog shit capital of the world?

    3. You don’t have to pick up any shit left in your yard. But you’d better damn well pick your dog’s shit out of my yard. That is an agression against my property.

    4. Dog shit is litter and I think that it is not unreasonable to make people pick up garbage that they leave in the street. Would you mind if I came and took a shit in front of of your house?

    5. You’re dog can leave shit on your property all you want. It can’t leave shit on anyone else’s property – nuisance, trespass, simple human decency, etc. Is that so hard to understand? Idiot?

      1. Why is the sidewalk everyone else’s property but mine?

        And does this weird loss of rights once I step out in public extend to anything else or is it just my dog?

        And if it does extend to anything else, what’s the basis for that? Is it because you find it annoying? Are my rights a popularity contest based on how many of you find them annoying?

        I shouldn’t be allowed to do things in public that other people find annoying? Is that really where we’re headed?

        1. Ken, you’re not thinking this through in the slightest, and you’re kind of being a dick about it.

          Dog feces are a primary vector of several parasites. Parasites that can remain long after the poo itself has been ground to dirt. So just watching where I go will not protect me from the shit that your dog left behind.

          Also, unless the sidewalk is on public property, it typically IS someone’s property, other than yours. The sidewalk is on an easement to facilitate passage, but the property remains in private hands. You have a right, granted by the easement, to pass along the sidewalk, but you do NOT have a right to store your trash there, or leave your dog’s shit there. It ISN’T your property by any stretch of the imagination, so you are not free to do whatever you want, and it’s not an imposition on your freedom to restrict what you can do there. Your leaving dogshit there is an imposition on the property rights of the landowner.

        2. Also, I think you would rightly get arrested if you took a shit on the sidewalk, so no, it’s not just your dog.

  24. And if you don’t want to step in dog shit, watch where you’re going–idiot.

    No can do. Texting, don’t ya know.

  25. Pro Liberate,

    I’ve seen some great local theater, which to my mind shows how many people can act and how vastly overrated stars usually are. If I were a movie mogul, I’d run every damned picture with unknowns.

    Google “Arthur De Vany” and poke around some of his posts on movie economics. Your suspicion is exactly right.

    1. I remember William Goldman saying something similar in regards to studios not having any confidence in what would succeed and what would not. Hence the constant reuse of not-so-great actors and directors, not to mention rehashing movies, TV shows, video games, toys, and God knows what else in an attempt to reduce the risk.

      It’s a self-perpetuating problem, of course, because by doing all of that, they’re driving up dramatically the cost of producing a film (e.g., sought-after actors and directors cost a 10-100 times as much as perfectly competent lesser-knowns, working off of existing properties requires buying or licensing rights, etc,). Once movies start costing $200 million instead of $10-20 million, their willingness to take any risk at all is greatly diminished.

  26. Seriously, you probably do need laws to protect you from stepping in dog shit then, because I don’t care. I don’t care if you step in dog shit while you’re texting or walking your kid to school. …not enough to pick up dog shit, and nothing but the fear of severe legal consequences will make me do it too.

    So you better keep an eye on the sidewalk. ’cause I’m out there, walking around, not picking up dog shit. All day long.

    1. Uh, Ken, I just gotta ask.

      Are you a dog?

      1. No, just gruff and in a tizzy.

  27. The worst part of this tax isn’t that the people are deprived of the nickel, it’s that the money goes to the DC city government. They’ll blow it on hookers and crack.

    -jcr

  28. I’ve always been a fan of fuller-figured models. There’s a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:

    http://www.judgmentofparis.com/

    They’re all gorgeous.

    The site’s forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.

  29. I use grocery bags as household trash bags. Essentially I would be taxed for using a bag that contains less plastic and better for the environment than on of those thick hefty bags. and I am one of those penny pinchers would spend 15 cents less and buy store-brand.

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