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Just some random musings .

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feeding the Beast

Not only has the government raised every possible fee but now they are on a crusade to pass “revenue generating bills”. 

The beast that is the government must get fed. And to do so it must be at the expense of the taxpayers. 

Joe Camacho said it best and it appears that his colleagues agree. 
"'REVENUE generating bills' — I have repeated this phrase about a thousand times since inauguration day in January 2008.   I have asked repeatedly that each legislator should come up with a revenue generating bill that creates a new source of revenue, even if it is just a small amount.  If we had done our job we would not have the present budget short fall.”

Don’t you just love his logic? 

What is the problem? Budget Shortfall
What is the solution? Increase Revenues
How? Revenue Generating bills (taxes)

Damn, such a simple solution and he has called for it a thousand times. 

Well, it appears his buddies are all on the same page now. They are pumping out the revenue generating bills as quickly as possible. 

One in the pipes now and recently passed by the house (I have not seen the final version but the original is on “Revenue Generating Joe’s” website) is the Plastic Bag Bill.

The final version that was passed according to the author on last evening broadcast implements a tax at the point of purchase for each bag that is used by a consumer. The tax can be anywhere from $.05 to .25. 

Wrap that tax in a tree hugger’s outfit and viola you got yourself a perfect revenue generating bill. 

You may say, “Now c’mon Plato we are saving the environment!” 

Is this true?

If a retailer tosses the plastic out to avoid the new tax what will they replace it with? PAPER perhaps? 

Let’s look at paper bags:

Wait. Before I go down that road, where will we draw the line? Currently we tax containers on import $.05 so that the environment is saved. Now plastic bags. What next? Paper bags? Underwear? Furniture? All this stuff has the same negative impact on the environment (if not more) as plastic bottles and bags. Okay, done with the little tangent. I will revisit this later.

Paper Bags vs Plastic Bags:

Issue 1: Energy and natural resources 
It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag. 

Safeway Plastic Bags: 594 BTUs 
Safeway Paper Bags: 2511 BTUs 
(Source: 1989 Plastic Recycling Directory, Society of Plastics Industry.) 

Of course, most paper comes from tree pulp, so the impact of paper bag production on forests is enormous. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone. Paper bag production delivers a global warming double-whammy forests (major absorbers of greenhouse gases) have to be cut down, and then the subsequent manufacturing of bags produces greenhouse gases. 

Issue 2: Pollution 
The majority of kraft paper is made by heating wood chips under pressure at high temperatures in a chemical solution. As evidenced by the unmistakable stench commonly associated with paper mills, the use of these toxic chemicals contributes to both air pollution, such as acid rain, and water pollution. Millions of gallons of these chemicals pour into our waterways each year; the toxicity of the chemicals is long-term and settles into the sediments, working its way through the food chain. Further toxicity is generated as both plastic and paper bags degrade. 

Paper sacks generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. 
Source: "Comparison of the Effects on the Environment of Polyethylene and Paper Carrier Bags," Federal Office of the Environment, August 1988 

Issue 3: Recycling 
It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper. But recycling rates of either type of disposable bag are extremely low, with only 10 to 15% of paper bags and 1 to 3% of plastic bags being recycled, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Safeway Plastic Bags: 17 BTUs 
Safeway Paper Bags: 1444 BTUs 
Source: 1989 Plastic Recycling Directory, Society of Plastics Industry. 

Although paper bags have a higher recycling rate than plastic, each new paper grocery bag you use is made from mostly virgin pulp for better strength and elasticity. 

Issue 4: Degradability 
Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, nothing completely degrades in modern landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed. A paper bags takes up more space than a plastic bag in a landfill, but because paper is recycled at a higher rate, saving space in landfills is less of an issue.

Okay now that that is out of the way and the tree-hugger mask is removed let’s look at the real purpose of this bill and lets look at the real impacts.

The main purpose: Not to end plastic bag use – To generate revenue to feed the Government beast through a new tax source. Additional funds also can be garnered through penalties and fines.

The Real impacts:. This user tax disguised as an "environmentalist policy" will make life even harder for CNMI residents and business in general. At the moment numerous taxes are being avoided by certain entities. Our government cannot police the existing laws. This fact hurts legit businesses. They collect the taxes and remit them properly. Competing businesses do not thus giving them an unfair advantage. Who will enforce this tax? More government workers? 

Why tax? Why not incentivize?  Why not encourage businesses to stock reusable or biodegradable bags by giving them a tax credit for doing so? If the governments need money to fill in budget gaps let them liquidate the legislature’s slush funds, stop the tax breaks and sweetheart land lease deals for new investors, and investigate current government revenue which may be getting funneled out into personal bank accounts (i.e. Timmy’s rydlime deal). Make it easier for people to buy goods and services and easier for businesses to do business and the revenues will come. After all, shouldn’t government exists to foster and protect the citizens and their private property not the other way around

I am so sick of being nickled and dimed by our government in order for them to fill the coffers.

Joe, you want to balance the budget? Start cutting the size of government. Do a legit desk audit. Cut unneeded positions. Quit the political hiring. Dispose of your slush funds. Get rid of all government perks. Cut the bloated salaries of government workers. Focus on the expense column and stop looking at the revenue column. Our government is a fat cat that can gorge itself to death if it is allowed to.

Plastic bag tax… Hey Reps don’t stop there here are other great “revenue generating bill” ideas:

Single Occupancy Room Tax” – Tax anyone who stays in a hotel room alone 5% of the room cost. This will encourage tourist to bring friends or take on the company of someone on-island …. Hmm that leads to the next one.

Escort Tax” – Prostitution is illegal but escorts that spend the night (just cuddling of course) in bed is still honky dory.  Lets charge a flat fee $10 per night fro “escort” services.

Buy Me Drinkie Tax” – Charge a flat tax of $2 tax per ladies drink (hell that is only a 10% tax).

“Remittance tax” – I think one of you guys has already got this one under control… go get ‘em

“Blogger Tax” – Tax a fee of $.02 per posted blog entry and $.01 per comment post. 

“Gas Station Air Tax” – You all use it. You know the pump for filling your tires. What a missed opportunity. $.25 per tire.

“Weather Tax” – All taxes are raise by 5% when it is raining. This will encourage people to stay home and not shop during “baby making weather”. Thus increasing the population and in the long run increasing the number of taxpayers. Hmmm … 

Childless Person Tax” – An additional 10% annual income tax for all Childless individuals. This will encourage them to procreate and make more taxpayers.

Legislation Tax” – Tax each lawmaker $1000 for each piece of introduced legislation… Oh my… axe that one.

“Rubber band tax”
“Stand-up Comic DVD Tax”
“Sugar Substitute Tax”


Anonymous said...

Add a Spam tax of 50 cents per can to help with the CHC health issues related to eating a shitty diet.

Pragmatic Plato said...

Don't get me started on the Banner Tax Law... masked as a zoning law.

$10/month will get you any type of banner up for 30 days.


Anonymous said...

some useful sites, from a different perspective (i.e., other than the one that opposes the bill because it represents a raising of taxes to feed the beast that is the government, other than the one that represents the interests of the plastics industry, and other than the one that opposes the bill because paper bags are worse than plastic bags(which they are in some ways, but in other ways plastic bags are worse than paper, particularly for their impact on marine life and drainage systems, both critical in island environments):

1) 3 articles on other communities' efforts to ban plastic bags outright (the bill that was just passed by the house is a much milder version of the same general idea):




2) 2 articles on the environmental impacts of plastic bags




note: the stated intent of the bill that pragmatic plato decries is to discourage the use of non-compostable plastic bags and to encourage the use of reusable bags whenever practical.

the bill would not require grocery stores to assess fees on bags made of recycled paper, compostable plastic, or reusable cloth.

in terms of environmental impacts, recycled paper is better than virgin paper, and compostable plastic is better than conventional plastic.

and surely we can agree that reusable bags are better than disposable bags of any sort.

Pragmatic Plato said...

And Plastic Tupperware? Where do you stand on that? Or Bags used to hold Doritos? Or Home Trash Bags by Glad? Or The Computer upon which I am typing? Or the Desk that holds the computer? Or the jeans I am wearing? Or the chair I sit upon?
The tile on the floor? The Car I drive?

Surely, these items and every other item I am not listing has a negative impact on the environment.

Surely, they increase the amount of waste added to the landfill.

Surely, when tossed into the ocean have a negative impact on our island environment.

Surely, everything and everything's impact on our island environment is relative and one item must be less damaging than the other.

Surely, we must find a way for the legislature to tax each item accordingly.


PS: Surely, you can not really be defending this insanity.

Pragmatic Plato said...

And just so you are clear:



Neither of these sites compare plastic bag impact to that of paper bags which this legislation still allows without a tax.

Here is a comparison post from one of the sites you listed:


Seems rather asinine to tax plastic and not paper. Hell, it is insane to tax plastic bags and not any other consumer good that "harms the environment".


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call the bill "insanity." That's a little over the top.

It's a very incremental approach to resolving a larger overall waste problem. Will it solve the problems of litter, overflowing landfills, global warming, etc.? Of course not. I don't pretend to believe that -- I'm not sure that anyone does.

But it does target a specific item in the waste stream that has real and quantifiable impacts on the environment. And coupled with other efforts to prevent waste, reduce pollution, and promote more conscientious living, it could help build a stronger environmental ethic in the community.

One pressing question which you haven't even raised yet is, how effectively will this new program actually be enforced, if this bill is signed into law?

Pragmatic Plato said...

I have raised that final question: New Hires... Got to find a place to funnel the new revenues to.

"But it does target a specific item in the waste stream that has real and quantifiable impacts on the environment. "

Almost all consumer goods have real and quantifiable impacts on the environment.

CLOTHING IMPACT: http://www.ehponline.org/members/2007/115-9/focus.html



I could go on and on.

Where may I ask do you draw the line?

Perhaps you don't. "This is an incremental approach".


Marianas Pride said...

So Plato....paper or plastic? ;)

Dr. Tom Arkle covered this a few months back in a letter to the editor and he shares your sentiments.


Anonymous said...

absolutely ludicrous.. the last thing any business needs in the CNMI is more taxes... talk about kicking em when their down an out and tryin to get up... might as well just walk in open the cash register of every business and empty it.. same thing..


Anonymous said...

It is all for the environment.

Once they tax these business to the point that they shut down that will be a great relief to the environment. Look how pristine Pagan is.

Shut down all these damn businesses. Save the environment.

Pragmatic Plato said...

Great so I can attribute the altered ban to tax bill to Arkle and his letter to the editor.

Thanks Arkle.

Terrible solution.


taha said...

I have some ideas. I think the biggest source of water pollution is Industries. Who are releasing large amount of hazardous waste into our water resources. In order to do proper treatment of this waste water consultant like JNB must be contacted. About the waste that are producing through our daily usage. I think ordinary peoples are not a selfish as our bureaucrats. We can control it by spreading knowledge about it. Agriculture pollution is also a major problem. By using proper methods we can control it. Imagine a world for our future generations if it continues. I agree things are better in USA or other European countries but In Asian countries it is worst and since countries is in this world we should also consider them. We are the one who are responsible for destroying our world and we have to make it better

Lil' Hammerhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marianas Pride said...

Plato, DR. ARKLE WAS AGAINST IT. Please read it before assuming Dr. Arkle was supporting this piece of legislation, as he was completely opposed to it.

You and Arkle are on the same side...

Marianas Pride said...

In the meantime, let us think about how important plastic bags are for our social gatherings.

How can we balutan without the plastic bags???

Save the balutan!! ;)

Anonymous said...

Please add the following to the list:

Jessica Barcinas Taylor
Tony Taylor
Rik Villegas
Janel Villegas
Alan Markoff