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Caldara: Denver’s bag tax just virtue signaling with other people’s money

Colorado’s environmentalism is best described as virtue signaling with other people’s money.

Denver’s city council took the brave and virtuous step to save the world by taxing both our paper and plastic shopping bags 10 cents apiece.

Mother earth will sleep well tonight, just as council members will sleep smugly.

What would we do without those in power using the coercive power of government to force their lifestyle decisions on others?

The answer to that non-hypothetical question is that they would have to convince people to change their behavior voluntarily. It’s what free people do to change society. We used to call it respect.

I ask it over and over, what happened to the principled left?

Growing up it was the left who used to say things like, “the ends don’t’ justify the means,” and “I disagree with what you say but I defend with my life your right to say it.” They battled the intolerant Archie Bunkers of the country who used the government to punish other’s immoral behavior.

Move over Gerry Falwell. The left has now turned into the moralistic command and control elite they once demonized.

The left once fought for people to have relationships of their own choosing, such as the right for same-sex couples to marry. By contrast, a grocer today giving a customer a free paper sack is a perversity that must be ended by force of law.

It is becoming clear the left only supports consensual relationships when people are naked.

Yes. I know. Stopping bag use is completely different. This is about saving the freakin’ planet. Thus, this isn’t intolerance. It’s compassion. If people are so thoughtless as to use bags to carry food home to their kids, it becomes a core function of government to re-educate them. You know man, for the planet.

Of course, the moralists of old who were trying to save the family unit from the destruction caused by pornography and homosexuality were completely different. They were only trying to save humanity, not the planet. If only they charged a 10-cent tax for the brown paper wrappers they mandated cover porno mags, maybe today’s eco-moralists would understand they’re basically the same.

No one with a straight face is going to believe taxing shopping bags is going to make a bean’s worth of difference to the amount of plastic or paper created. In case you hadn’t noticed darn near everything in your neighborhood store is wrapped in paper, plastic, or a mixture of the two. Even the apple you buy unwrapped came to the store in a cardboard box and you’ll put it into a free produce-section plastic bag and carry it to checkout.

But that sack the bagboy, I mean, bagperson puts it in, well that’s the evil bag. Let’s tax THAT one. The earth will know the difference between the bag from the produce section versus the bag at check out.

It’s so simple a third-grader could understand it. Even lobby for it. As Ashley Elementary School third-grader Nolan Gall said during a public hearing, “I want plastic bags not to be a part of America…My sister has turtles and plastic bags kill sea turtles.”

Of course, a third-grader wouldn’t understand that plastic bags in Colorado don’t find their way to the sea. After being reused to clean up dog poop, or lining a trash can they find their way to a turtle-free landfill.

Like the third graders testifying in the 1980s that a kid shouldn’t have two mommies, she is parroting her parents’ values. In the 80s we looked at that kid and thought her folks were brainwashing the poor thing. Today we look at that kid and hold her up as heroic, the poor thing.

I guess pimping children for political gain never goes out of style.

Maybe the pure symbolism, and don’t fool yourself that it’s anything else, of using fewer shopping bags is a fine aspiration. If so convince me. Don’t coerce me.

Oh. And if council respected us, they would tell the truth and call this bag tax a “tax” instead of a “fee,” thus requiring a consensual vote of the people. The only reason not to is that they fear people may not share their virtue signaling.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a libertarian-conservative think tank in Denver.


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