Taxes

Power to Tax Involves the Power to Destroy (Amusement Arcades Edition)

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Video game
Jonathan Sloan

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall famously commented, "the power to tax involves the power to destroy" on his way to ruling that it's too dangerous to allow states the authority to extract revenue from the federal government. And it's no shocker that the perils posed by the tax power to the federal government are orders of magnitude worse when inflicted on individuals and businesses. Unfortunately, John Marshall didn't spread his sense of mercy beyond the banks of the Potomac to others who might find a similar dagger to their throats—such as Brandon Spencer, the owner of an amusement arcade in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

Andrew Staub at the PA Independent has the story:

The small borough of Hanover has long been championed as the Snack Food Capital of the World, but there's no such grand proclamation about the small York County town's nightlife.

These days, though, a blast from the past is helping change the downtown dynamic, but local officials could derail the momentum.  The borough wants the TimeLine Arcade, which moved into a former bank building just off the borough square last October, to pay a massive amusement tax.

The owner of the arcade, Brandon Spencer, declined to pay what he said would be a nearly $6,000 fee. That's left the borough council pondering whether it should change a four-decade-old ordinance to make sure it applies to a more modern world.

Staub points out that Hanover's downtown is rebuilding after a period of decline—with Spencer given much of the credit by others for spurring the revival with his museum-style arcade. He charges by the hour to play his collection of classic pinball and video games. Because his machines don't take coins, he hasn't had to pay the "tax of $50 upon each coin-operated amusement device" that dates back to the days when Space Invaders was in every pizza joint.

Well, he didn't have to pay it until the town decided, fuck it, they'll just send him a bill adding up to three months' worth of electricity costs anyway.

The kicker, though, is Council President John Gerken's reaction to the news that the tax is unaffordable for the arcade. "It's not government's job to ensure that people stay in business, you know what I'm saying? The laws have to be enforced, whether you like it or not."

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also told us, "a violation of the law is a violation of the law," after cops killed a man over cigarette taxes.

So the sentiment isn't confined to some burg in Pennsylvania.

And if a law or tax happens to destroy, I guess that's just too damned bad.

NEXT: A Century Later, The New York Times Rejects the Anti-Pot Propaganda It Peddled

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  1. “Involves”?

  2. It’s not government’s job to ensure that people stay in business, you know what I’m saying?

    I do, but we aren’t talking about bailing out banks when they make bad loans. We’re talking about people going out of business because you stole so much of their money.

      1. Does anyone actually pronounce it “po-tah-toe?”

    1. Fuck that guy. Also, I’d love to go to an arcade where you pay by the hour rather than by the coin.

      1. ditto on both

    2. Why do you keep hitting yourself?

    3. “It’s not government’s job to ensure that people stay in business, it’s the government’s job to put people out of business.”

  3. This would be the only time I support autoplay on a Reason article, because this entire article must have this song playing in the background while reading.

  4. Oh, good! The opportunity to play the “plain language of the law game”!

    ” ‘tax of $50 upon each coin-operated amusement device'”

    “Because his machines don’t take coins”

    ” ‘The laws have to be enforced, whether you like it or not even when they don’t apply, cause we want the fuckin’ money, see?’.”

    AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED

  5. “It’s not government’s job to ensure that people stay in business, you know what I’m saying? The laws have to be enforced, whether you like it or not.”

    I guess it’s not the governments job to revitilize the downtown, or create a business environment that promotes job growth either.

    God forbid we reconsider the wisdom of laws if they are driving people out of business.

    1. Apparently it is government’s job to make sure that downtown remains and an abandoned ghost town.

      1. Its the government’s job to ensure that the downtown area remains a ghost town so the local RDA always has an excuse to steal some more money for themselves, their cronies, and their patrons.

      2. The whole of York County is a ghost town. Nothing but dead/dying malls, illegal invaders and welfare moochers. [Further, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a tax-hellhole run by corrupt scumbags.]

        So of course, they want to drive a revenue-generating entity out of business.

  6. de Blasio really said that after that tragic event? Holy, um, smokes…

    1. And William Bratton pretty much said that democracy means obeying police officers.

  7. The owner of the arcade, Brandon Spencer, declined to pay what he said would be a nearly $6,000 fee. That’s left the borough council pondering whether it should change a four-decade-old ordinance to make sure it applies to a more modern world the government gets the protection money some douchebucket bureaucrats think it deserves.

  8. “It’s not government’s job to ensure that people stay in business, you know what I’m saying? The laws have to be enforced, whether you like it or not.”

    Smug fucker, it’s the government’s job to create a lawful environment where people CAN do business; it’s not Business’s job to support Government.

  9. I’m from right near Hanover. Next time I visit my parents, I should go play this guy’s Street Fighter II machine. If the government hasn’t put him out of business, that is.

    1. They won’t put him out of business, just convince him that the money is better spent on a moving van.

  10. “It’s not government’s job to ensure that people stay in business, you know what I’m saying? The laws have to be enforced, whether you like it or not.”

    What a cunt.

    He’d be right at home as a villain in an action movie. He really begs for a clever tagline, right before the hero blows his head off.

    1. He already was a villain in a book that I was assured was absurdly unrealistic and one-dimensional.

    2. He already was a villain in a book that I was assured was absurdly unrealistic and one-dimensional.

  11. Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also told us, “a violation of the law is a violation of the law,” after cops killed a man over cigarette taxes.

    I hope that fucker gets shot for jaywalking. Hey, he was outside the law, who fucking cares, right?

  12. He should go galt. Our local home grown radio conservative quit on air yesterday because he is going to go galt.

    http://rbr.com/ktlk-host-jason…..ow-on-air/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldswWSU21-U

  13. This is close to my neck of the woods. I might have to go and patronize this establishment. I hope he has KoF ’96.

    1. http://timelinearcade.net/games/

      Aww shit, he’s got 80 Neo-Geo carts. Yeah, I’m going there.

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