Josh Thompson: The district’s bag tax: a small price to pay

Let’s face the facts: water pollution is a major issue in D.C., and anyone who has ever seen the Anacostia River is a witness to that. Although no one enjoys a new tax, the newly implemented D.C. bag tax is a minor inconvenience when compared to the larger problem it is fighting. Despite the outcries of some, this bag tax is neither unprecedented nor unwarranted, and has the potential to reshape the way Americans approach paying for environmental problems.

Although some have contended that this tax is an example of taxation without representation, it is not. This tax will not harm local commerce in the slightest and is easily avoidable with the simple acquisition of a reusable shopping bag. One of the most important things to remember about this tax is that it was passed by the elected members of the D.C. Council, whose rights include the ability to levy taxes. If residents dislike this tax enough to want it repealed, they will have the chance to check the power of the city council on Election Day, just as they do every two years.

In the meantime, however, we should consider the positives of this tax, the most obvious of which is the $4 million or more that will be raised each year to combat the awful water pollution in the Anacostia River – an initiative long overdue. The tax is also beneficial to any business that gives out plastic bags. An important part of this plan is that 20 percent of the revenue is slated to be returned to the companies that collect it. That does not sound like punishing or stifling the business sector; rather, it sounds like a good incentive for the companies to collect the tax, as well as a new source of revenue for D.C. businesses in these challenging economic times.

This tax is not meant to be punitive, which is further reinforced by the fact that it is simple to avoid. Bring a reusable shopping bag (or two) when you shop for groceries or anything else you cannot carry by hand. These bags are readily purchased at several sites around campus, including CVS and Safeway, but can actually be acquired for free from GreenGW, making the bag tax a thing of the past for GW students.

Hatchet columnist Evan Schwartz claimed the tax represented an infringement on liberty (“Paper, plastic and taxes,” Feb.1), but there is no need for this sort of alarmism when discussing the tax. It is a tax that is easy to avoid and in all honesty not much of a burden for most students. For those diehards who would still denounce the tax, I ask that they turn their anger away from the government and toward the corporations indirectly causing them to have to pay the extra 5 cents. These include various manufacturing companies which have been irresponsibly dumping illegally high amounts of waste and pollutants into the Anacostia River for decades, bringing the situation to a point where government involvement was necessary. These companies also have the money and influence to lobby the government for lighter restrictions, which have been afforded to them. In short, the D.C. Council should be applauded for the implementation of this needed tax and I encourage everyone who has a problem with the tax to grab a reusable shopping bag for free from GreenGW and avoid the tax altogether.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is the director of communications for GreenGW.

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