The Useless Ban the Useful

Politicians share more traits with plastic shopping bags than we might assume at first glance. Both are almost always opaque; the big mouths of each flap in the breeze; and plastic shopping bags enjoy a useful life of about 12 minutes before becoming trash, while politicians—-hmmm….

OK, forget that last: politicians are worthless from the get-go. So perhaps they envy plastic bags, which Americans find so very valuable that they consume somewhere between 14 billion to 100 billion of them per year. Ergo, officials in the People’s Democratic Republic of New York have banned plastic shopping bags as have those in the PDRs of California and Hawaii. (Before you gloat that at least your locale isn’t that crazy, check to see what your legislators are hatching.)

New York State decreed last year that its serfs must forego the convenience of “free” plastic shopping bags with their purchases—or such bags at any price; their diktat went into effect this past Sunday. Certainly, this is among the minor annoyances we suffer under Amerika’s totalitarian regimes: it’s not as though the TSA will now infest supermarkets, groping customers, or cops will haunt Aldi’s liquor aisles, demanding ID before infiltrating the dairy section to slaughter the completely innocent “by mistake.”

Halestorm Akers, Becky Best Price: null Buy New $8.57 (as of 10:30 EST - Details) But the difficulties of shopping sans plastic bags dramatically increase in New York City. Most folks there lug purchases home by hand rather than merely stowing them in their car; they walk, sacks in hand, sometimes only a few blocks but often more. Thanks to exorbitant property taxes, apartments are notoriously small in the Big Apple, space is tight, and many people spontaneously dart into bodegas for some sushi and a serving of aloo gobi rather than cooking dinner in a cramped kitchen.

Their Rulers’ latest decree turns that easy task onerous: as of March 1, “Shoppers can carry their own reusable bags, buy one at the store, or cough up an extra 5 cents for a paper bag…”

As always, potentates pooh-pooh the problems they’ve produced. “Erica Ringewald, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation,” enthuses,“You leave the house, you say, ‘I got my keys, I got my phone, I got my sunglasses, I got my bag…’” But Erica lives in Albany, where she no doubt drives to stores. Breathtaking, isn’t it, her disregard for the elderly, arthritic widow in Coney Island who, having forgotten her bag, painfully grasps her tub of margarine for the three blocks she’ll hobble to her apartment.

You may be marveling as I was at that “extra 5 cents for a paper bag…” That is not an optional expense from entrepreneurs struggling as they typically do to ease their customers’ pain at the State’s diktats; no, that petty larceny is mandatory. Politicians aren’t ordering stores to sell bags—yet. But they are commanding those who offer paper to charge a nickel per bag. Which reveals the actual purpose of forbidding plastic: the law hands more power to politicians and bureaucrats and shovels yet more of our money into the state’s coffers: “Three [of the five] cents will be given to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, while the remaining 2 cents is handed to local agencies.”

New York City is heavily Marxist, so worry over the State’s newest intrusion into daily life arises not over its totalitarianism but over its “impact” on the “disadvantaged.” One Stalinist at Whole Foods opined to the New York Times,  “I know this [ban] is much easier for the bourgeoisie than it is for the working class…” I nominate that quote for this year’s “Moronically Regurgitating the Communist Manifesto” Award. Predictably, Our Rulers exempt welfare-queens from their ban: “If you pay using SNAP or WIC, you will not be charged any paper bag fees. Stores must provide SNAP and WIC users with free carryout bags. No other customers are exempt from this fee.” It’s always a blessing when the State foregoes taxes, given the horrific harm it buys us with our own money. But it’s also a bit much to rob us on behalf of these sponges while excusing them from the ban.

Not surprisingly, politics rather than facts has driven the hatred for plastic bags. For starters, “Plastic bags are less than 1% of all litter … EPA data …[show] that the entire category of plastic sacks, wraps, and bags — including trash bags as well as grocery bags — together account for only a little over one percent of all municipal solid waste, and only a small fraction of overall plastics.” I don’t have stats, but I’d wager politicians and bureaucrats comprise at least another 49% of “municipal solid waste,” while the Thousands Standing Around at airports account for the remainder. Those hoping to save the planet should go after that garbage first. Abducting Arnold--A No... Akers, Becky Best Price: null Buy New $2.99 (as of 10:30 EST - Details)

Second, “In 2011, the UK’s Environment Agency … looked at the number of times that a bag would need to be reused in order to have the same environmental impact as the conventional … [plastic] bag that people are used to. They reach [sic] the following conclusion: ‘In round numbers these are: paper bag – 4 times, LDPE bag – 5 times, non-woven PP bag – 14 times and the cotton bag – 173 times.’”

Other studies have delivered similar findings. But reality doesn’t matter when politics decides an issue: only publicity for politicians does. Accordingly, New York City’s bigwigs are squandering our taxes on “free” “reusable bags” that the Department of Sanitation will dispense to subjects, regardless of the “environmental impact.”

That’s after they wasted our money on a “NEW YORK STATE PLASTIC BAG TASK FORCE” and its “REPORT,” which alleged, “Single-use plastic bags are a detriment to the health of communities and the environment alike. … their negative impacts can be seen daily. These problems … are not only a statewide problem but a national as well as international issue of concern.”

Hey, more parallels with politicians!