New information reveals that the “plastic island the size of Texas” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be better described with an imaginary place name to describe its size, (say “Middle Earth Sized”). This is because recently when researchers went to go find this mythical plastic place so often cited as the reason for yet another government intrusion in what choices we make at the market, (this time literally, at the market, as in the grocery store) they couldn’t find it.
That’s right. There was no concentration of plastics as we’ve so often heard. No floating grocery bags with sea turtles mistaking them for delicious jellyfish. No floating mass of all those empty water bottles you tossed away instead of recycling. (You know you did!) No Wal-Mart bag from that time you snuck in and bought the three boxes of double stuffed Oreos and then tried to hide the bag outside in the trash and it ended up blowing away. Nothing. So you can stop feeling guilty.
But, of course this hasn’t stopped the folks in Sacramento from trying to ban those bags that cause, or caused, well; might-have-caused-if-what-we-originally-said-was-even-remotely-true, environmental damage.
In fact, with one state legislator it’s full steam ahead with his bill, SB 270 to ban plastic bags. His bill would not only ban plastic bags statewide, it would also require that if you forgot to load up your car with the reusable cloth grocery bags (maybe they were still wet from the hamburger blood you had to wash out from the last trip) that day you needed to go to the store between picking the kids up from school and after Doctors’ appointments but before ball practice, on the way to scouts, and before the dance recital,–it’s no problem. Just pay the grocer ten cents per paper bag.
That’s right. If SB 270 passes, your penance for not bringing your reusable bag is paying the grocery store a dime for each paper bag you need to haul your groceries.
Some of you are no doubt still saying to yourself, “well, that’s ok. I’m willing to pay a little bit more at Trader Joes for the piece of mind to know no more plastic bags will be going out to the Middle Earth sized plastic island in the ocean, and my dime per paper bag will be used to atone for my previous environmental sins of plastic bag use.” But wait. Did I not mention that the ten cents per bag is going nowhere but straight to the profit line for the grocery store? Well, actually I did mention that in the subtitle, but you never know what editors are going to do with titles.
This bill, which is now holding on to life by a thread in the legislature would actually amount to hidden tax increase of hundreds of millions of dollars to not fix an imaginary problem, (yes, “not fix” as in it makes no pretense of fixing the problem, imaginary or otherwise) and would be a huge payoff to special interests looking to use the power of the big guys in Sacramento to take dimes out of your pocket everyday and put them in the pockets of their rich friends. In fact, since the bill says it will be “no less than” ten cents a bag, and the average paper bag costs about 3 or 4 cents, the grocery store chains get to pocket some $450 to $700 million extra every year! This bill will cost you hundreds of dollars each year. Do the math.
Now I don’t want to say something funny is going on here, but you look at who’s getting the payouts in the bill and you almost have to laugh. First, the grocery stores get a new windfall of ten cents a bag for something they used to give out for free. Next the bill creates a huge new loophole by allowing a bigger type of plastic bag which is only manufactured by two companies in California. Two companies which happen to be located in some very powerful legislators’ districts. A legislator who happened to be against the bag ban until this little loophole for his guys was put into the ban. Now he’s such a big supporter he’s signed on as a co-author.
Tell you what, how about the legislators concentrate on some of California’s real problems like the 30-40 percent increase in food costs we are seeing? Or how about really addressing the drought? Or the legislators’ pushing to ban plastic bags and pay off their cronies might be better off addressing the unemployment that hovers around ten percent in their districts. These are real problems affecting real California families. Defeat SB270. Stop trying to fix the world’s problems from the state capitol in Sacramento. Or even Middle Earth’s problems.
Senator Dennis Hollingsworth is National Director at the National Tax Limitation Committee and served as Minority Leader of the California State Senate from 2009-2010.