Taxes

D.C. Bag Tax Update: Now With More Porn Mags

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The Washington Post tracks the predictable yet irrational response to the city's new 5 cent bag tax, aimed at reducing consumption and keeping the Anacostia River clean. As anticipated, people have lost their minds in incredibly inefficient ways:

Normally no penny-pincher, [D.C. resident Virginia Johnson] now maps her day's travels to avoid having to shop in the District; she has abandoned her beloved neighborhood grocery store, Harris Teeter on Capitol Hill, in favor of stores near her Virginia office—even though she pays an extra 2.5 percent food tax there. And twice she has unwisely carried an armload of bagless food out of D.C. restaurants, with calamitous results.

In one case, to avoid paying an extra one-quarter of 1 percent on a $20 dinner, she said no to a plastic bag, stumbled in a hole outside a Sizzling Express lunch spot and watched a whole tray of sushi hit the deck in front of the eatery on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The next day, jostled on a busy sidewalk, she lost her unbagged lunch in front of a Cosi at Dupont Circle.

"It's not rational, I know," said Johnson, a legislative affairs specialist at a federal agency and a self-described environmentalist who was already dedicated to recycling bags. "But this is where my zeal for conservation runs into my passion for small government. The bag tax makes me batty; I'll do a lot to avoid paying it."

And this:

Allen Purvis proudly boasts that he has not a paid a nickel since the fee was imposed, even though that recently required him to carry six loose bottles of Kendall Jackson chardonnay out of a liquor store on P Street in Georgetown. With $71 of wine at risk and the store owner looking on in horror, Purvis tucked the bottles in and under his arms and made it to his car.

"And then I went, 'Crap; it's locked,' " Purvis said. "I was definitely more fixated on not paying for the bag than on getting them to the car."

Purvis, like many shoppers, is also learning how much privacy was afforded by that once-free plastic film. He has become a sort of dry-goods voyeur.

"Now you can see what people buy," the retired lawyer said. "They've got a carton of milk, a can of SPAM. You wonder, 'What's he going to do with that SPAM?' "

Purvis said he will probably keep up his bag boycott until he buys something either too big or too embarrassing to carry unbagged.

note, this is actually a magazine about meat

Speaking of which, the sex shop across the street from Reason's D.C. offices makes a cameo in The Wall Street Journal's reporting on the tax yesterday:

Pleasure Place, an adult toy store, so far isn't charging for bags—even though it has a license to sell food, including edible body frosting. "I'm not sure if it applies to me," says Cecilia Colglazier, the owner. Victoria's Secret, which sells mints, edible body icing and edible shimmer powder, along with its trademark negligees, isn't charging for bags either—at least not yet.

Of course, some kinds of brown paper bags—the bag of choice at sex shops the world over—are still untaxed. Sandwich shops that have seating, for instance, don't have to tax paper bags containing food. But even those* bags must be "100% recyclable, made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled content and say something like 'Please Recycle This Bag' in highly visible type on the outside of the bag."

In the interest of good customer service and ending the madness, stores—especially high end stores—should be able to simple include the bag tax in their prices, right? Nope:

"Under no circumstances, the law says, are stores allowed to pick up the five-cent fee for their customers."

*updated with more brown bag detail.

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  1. “I’m not sure if it applies to me,” says Cecilia Colglazier, the owner.

    Yeah, that’ll hold up.

  2. Of course, brown paper bags[…] are still untaxed[,][a]lthough the bags must be “100% recyclable, made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled content and say something like ‘Please Recycle This Bag’ in highly visible type on the outside of the bag.”

    I wish the city of DC good luck with its “Support our local and well connected paper bag manufacturers” tax scheme.

  3. That’s not my bag, baby.

  4. “It’s not rational, I know,” said Johnson, a legislative affairs specialist at a federal agency

    Explains a lot about why our govt is so fucked, with this caliber of thinker in it’s ranks.

    You wonder, ‘What’s he going to do with that SPAM?’

    Duh, It’s SPAM. He’s going to have sex with it of course.

  5. No dancing at Jefferson Memorial, judge rules
    A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that alleged the National Park Service violated the rights of a District woman who was arrested in 2008 for dancing with 17 others at the Jefferson Memorial.

    U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled in a 26-page opinion on Monday that the interior of the memorial is not a public forum where people may dance, even if they are silently boogying to music on headphones.

    “The purpose of the memorial is to publicize Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, so that critics and supporters alike may contemplate his place in history,” Bates wrote. “The Park Service prohibits all demonstrations in the interior of the memorial, in order to maintain ‘an atmosphere of calm, tranquillity, and reverence.'”

    “Prohibiting demonstrations is a reasonable means of ensuring a tranquil and contemplative mood at the Jefferson Memorial,” the judge added.

    The suit stems from a dance by Mary B. Oberwetter and her friends inside the memorial at 11:55 p.m. on April 12, 2008, the eve of Jefferson’s birthday.

    Oberwetter and the others were listening to music on headphones and engaging in expressive dancing to honor “the individualist spirit for which Jefferson is known,” Oberwetter’s attorney, Alan Gura, wrote in court papers.

    That’s when U.S. Park Police Officer Kenneth Hilliard showed up and told them to stop. When Oberwetter refused and asked why he was demanding they stop their jigs, Hilliard arrested and charged Oberwetter with demonstrating without a permit and interfering with an agency function. The charges were eventually dropped.

    Oberwetter then sued the Park Service in March 2009, alleging that it violated her rights to free expression and asked Bates to block the government from taking such steps in the future. She also sought monetary damages against Hilliard and the Park Service for violating her rights. The Justice Department argued for the Park Service that the government had the right to regulate activities inside the memorial because it is seeking to maintain a quiet atmosphere.

    “The Memorial is, has long been, and is intended to be a place of calm, tranquillity, and reverence?a place where visitors can go to celebrate and honor Jefferson and enjoy and contemplate the Memorial itself without the distraction of public demonstrations and other expressive activities,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in court papers. “The Memorial is akin to a temple or a shrine (both in terms of its purpose and its physical characteristics), not a place of public expression.”

    Read the Opinion jeffersondecision.pdf.

    No word yet from Gura on whether he plans to appeal.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.c…..emori.html

    1. “a place where visitors can go to celebrate and honor Jefferson and enjoy and contemplate the Memorial itself without the distraction of public demonstrations and other expressive activities”

      That makes my head asplode.

    2. did he use his P & I argument?

  6. The bag tax isn’t nearly as stupid as the reaction to it. Haven’t these dolts ever seen a canvas bag before?

    1. I kinda wondered that myself. We don’t have a bag tax in STL, but we started using canvas bags anyway and I have to say it’s kinda nice not to have to mess with the plastic bags anymore.

    2. Or a nickle?

    3. That’s not the point. It’s the principle of the thing. Before the mandatory seat belt laws went into place, I was religious about ensuring that everyone in any car I was driving was belted. Now, I never require my passengers to buckle up, and I only do so myself sporadically. Is it irrational? If my goal was the same as the state’s–to ensure maximum safety–yes. But it’s not. My desire not to be coerced outweighs the practical considerations.

  7. Edible shimmer powder?

    I am seriously going to have to kill myself before I think about that too much and get depressed.

  8. What the fuck is shimmer powder, edible or not?

    1. Think Tinkerbell

    2. Powdered shimmer, obviously.

    3. Like, this, but I have no idea why it would be sexy to eat it. Then again, I’ve never understood the appeal of the edible undies that look/taste like Fruit Roll-Ups.

      1. Ah, so that annoying makeup with glitter in it that ends up on you and you don’t know why.

        Fuck that noise. Why would anyone want to eat glitter?

        1. “Why would anyone want to eat glitter?”

          Because it is on a naked lady, I would think.

  9. Hayek v. Keynes rap:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..r_embedded

    1. Linked yesterday. Way to keep up.

      1. As a non-regular, I just gotta say, “Fuck You.”

        1. As a regular, I just gotta say, don’t make an offer you don’t want accepted.

  10. It’s been said before, but:

    Build a wall around D.C.

    If absolutely unavoidable, put a gate in it.

    1. The best movie pre-review I’ve ever read was about the flick, “Independence Day” and started, “From what I can gather, the movie is about aliens that come down and destroy Washington, D.C., but later turn out to be hostile.”

      1. hahahahaghahahahahsah!

  11. “Under no circumstances, the law says, are stores allowed to pick up the five-cent fee for their customers.”

    I like it; it’s honest and straightforward. “FUCK YOU, PEASANTS!! BOW DOWN BEFORE US.”

  12. The purpose of the memorial is to publicize Thomas Jefferson’s legacy

    It’s working; I had no idea Jefferson was the patron saint of petty tyrants. You learn something new every day.

  13. SPAM? The shopper is going to eat it, presumably.

    I thought I should try SPAM once to see how it tastes. I actually kind of like it.

    1. it’s best when heated.

    2. Fried SPAM & eggs. Goddamn, it’s good.

    3. Ingredients:
      1 Sara Lee Pound Cake
      1 Spam loaf
      1 Block, Cheddar cheese
      1 Can, apple pie filling

      Directions:
      Cut pound cake, spam and cheddar cheese into slices. Sandwich spam, cheese and 2tbs pie filling between slices of pound cake.

      Cook in Foreman Oven for 10 mins.

      Enjoy!

      1. Always use the low sodium Spam.

      2. You forgot “Alert heart surgeon to prepare for immediate quatruple bypass.”

      3. meat&cheese; + fruit&cake;
        Wtf? Like, seriously america (i say america because the rest of the world would lynch someone for making such an abomination) what the fuck is with combining stuff that has no business being combined.

        It started with raisins and walnuts in salads, where will it end? A Tuna sandwich with skittles? PB&J&Mayo;? Wtf America.

        PS: Keep the raisins and walnuts in sweets & baked goods, people.

        1. Pistachio encrusted Copper River salmon is to die for.

          1. Pistachios and Almonds are exempt from the restrictions.

  14. “It’s not rational, I know,” said Johnson, a legislative affairs specialist at a federal agency and a self-described environmentalist who was already dedicated to recycling bags. “But this is where my zeal for conservation runs into my passion for small government. The bag tax makes me batty; I’ll do a lot to avoid paying it.”

    But there is a rationality within it. It’s a way of giving the middle finger to the man. Who cares if it makes my life harder? I’m going to drive 20 miles out of my way just to say “fuck you”.

    It’s a message to the political class. And one they’d better start listening to.

    1. “I’m going to drive 20 miles out of my way just to say “fuck you”.”

      Then they get you on the gas tax.

      THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

      1. Plus $2 for the SwearJar. It never ends.

    2. She’s a legislative affairs specialist at a federal agency. She is The Man

  15. Is that a baby in the picture over the words meat magazine?

    1. It’s okay, he’s Thai.

  16. She also sought monetary damages against Hilliard and the Park Service for violating her rights.

    I would have awarded her one shiny new nickel; it’s got Jefferson on it.

  17. [D.C. resident Virginia Johnson] now maps her day’s travels to avoid having to shop in the District; she has abandoned her beloved neighborhood grocery store, Harris Teeter on Capitol Hill, in favor of stores near her Virginia office — even though she pays an extra 2.5 percent food tax there.

    Let’s be generous and assume that $100 worth of groceries takes about 10 bags. to hold Virginia pays an extra $2.50 in taxes not to mention the inconvenience and saves herself $.50 in taxes on bags. I wonder what kind of legislative affairs she could possibly bring any perspective to? Remind me again, are these the high caliber of government employees we need to pay more than the market rate?

  18. Haven’t these dolts ever seen a canvas bag before?

    People in DC tend to be black people. Walking around a store with a bag is not their recipe for a pleasant shopping experience.

    1. +3/5

  19. This Exists: BBC Documentary Shot Entirely by Chimps

    On Wednesday, the BBC will be premiering The Chimpcam Project, which was shot by and for chimpanzees. Briefly: a team of Scottish primatologists interested in finding out the sorts of images that chimps preferred equipped the chimps with “a camera enclosed in an orange bash-proof box.”

    The chimps weren’t initially too interested, but gradually warmed up to it when they realized they had control over which videos they could watch on it. The group of chimps began to carry it around and share it, and: voil?! Chimp-shot video.

    http://www.geekosystem.com/chimpcam-project/

    1. So, Letterman’s monkeycam lives on after all.

      This shouldn’t be confused with the not-as-successful tigercam.

    2. Soooo a Michael Moore film?

      Badabooski!

    3. I loves me some Monkey Tuesday. This is an (almost) suitable substitute for the day.

    4. So if this is Monkey Tuesday, why is the story about apes? Chimps are not monkeys.

      This story has been brought to you as a special preview of Stickler For Accuracy Wednesday.

  20. “Under no circumstances, the law says, are stores allowed to pick up the five-cent fee for their customers.”

    Can the stores give a “discount” equal to $0.05 per bag of groceries? They could call it a “good customer reward.”

    Personnaly, I recycle nearly every plastic bag I get at the store. I have two large dogs and since I live in suburban MD townhouse neighborhood, I have to pickup my dogs poop. If MD was to ban or tax plastic bags, I’d just start buying bags to pickup poop.

    1. According to the American Chemistry Council “while sales of plastic shopping bags declined almost 90 percent [in Ireland]; sales of other plastic bags, such as garbage bags, increased by 400 percent.”

      /grain of salt and all

  21. Thanks, Reason for making my day by simultaneously proving that people are irrational idiots, and that teabaggers are even bigger idiots than the norm.

    I don’t know what I would do without you.

    1. Masturbate your dog more?

      1. I wish that’s all he did to me. 🙁

        1. shhhhhhhhhhh…

        2. I’d say we should organize a SWAT raid to rescue poor Rex….but, ummm, yeah. Might as well commit puppy-suicide.

    2. proving that people are irrational idiots

      Chad, you do that with every. single. post.

    3. Chad, teacher says, every time you piss off a libertarian an angel gets his wings. George Bailey: That’s right, …

  22. Hey, if you will only defy petty tyranny when its convenient, then you aren’t much of a human being.

    Mad props to these people, I say.

  23. Do condoms count as bags? If so, I might be violating this law by not charging all those women a nickel, as I do occasionally give them something edible.

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