Bag bans — a microcosm of Obamacare

I went to a Safeway in Mill Valley because it was convenient.  When I got to the check-out, I was reminded why I never shop at that Safeway:  their town council banned plastic bags and you get charged five cents per bag for a paper bag.  Next year, all of the stores in Marin County will be subject to these rules.  I have no words for how much I loathe this liberal police state law.  Let me count the ways:

Let me begin by saying that the problem isn’t that I’m being charged five cents per bag.  I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap.  I’ve understood since I was a child that stores don’t really give bags away for free.  Instead, the cost of bags is folded into the prices they charge.  I’m paying not only for the groceries, but also for the staff, the facility, the shopping carts, and the bags.  I therefore don’t mind stores such as Goodwill that charge for bags as a way to keep their overhead down.  That’s a business decision, and I’m happy then to make my own decision:  Do I want to pay the ten cents or will I just make do without a bag?  After all, I don’t need to go to Goodwill.  I can do without cheap books or I can find them at other stores (or online).

The five cents per bag charge at Mill Valley (and soon, all Marin) stores irks me because it’s not a business decision.  It’s punitive.  The local governments are punishing me for having the temerity to use a paper bag.  Moreover, once it goes Marin-wide, I can’t avoid it, unless I want to drive 50 or 60 miles to a fascism-free county.

As it happens, I adore paper bags.  I’m forced to use a recycling bin and paper bags are an easy way to collect recycling.  They can go right into the bin along with the recycled refuse filling the bag.  Paper bags also make great packing material, covers for textbooks, stable (non-tippy) bags in which to carry food to potlucks or school events, fireplace starters, etc.  I’ve already paid for them by paying a higher price for my groceries than I would in a store (e.g., Goodwill) that says “We keep prices down to help save you money.”  Marin stores, though, are being forced to say, we charge you money to punish you.

There are two alternatives to paying a fine to use a paper bag:  You can bring your own, or you can toss individual items into the car (as you do at Costco).  I’m going to opt for the latter.  I refuse to become a bag lady.  I will not be forced to buy bags, which I then need to remember to carry around with me wherever I go, and which I need to remember to wash regularly so I don’t poison my family.  As to that last point, washing bags means that I’m doing an extra load of laundry every week, which means increased water and electricity use.  Surely that can’t be green.

I go crazy when I see all the liberal drones in Marin dragging around their little bags.  It makes me feel as if I’m living in a third world country.  They look like derelicts.  They’re feeling righteously smug, and I’m looking at them and thinking that they’ve been brainwashed to accept a Zimbabwe lifestyle.  (Let me say here that, while I don’t agree with them, if people want to do this, I applaud them.  Why?  Because they’re freely making a decision and it works for them.  That’s how life in a free country should be.)

Bottom line:  The bag ban forces me to buy a product I don’t want or to pay a penalty.  It is a microcosm of Obamacare.  It is a denial of free will, it perverts the marketplace, and it is an unforgivable form of coercion against a free citizenry.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Most consumer don’t know this, but re-used shopping bags quickly become breeding grounds for all kinds of noxious (and dangerous) microorganisms.

  • Ron19

    Reminds me of the stories about the Russian women in Moscow.  They always carried a net bag in case an item they would like to buy suddenly showed up somewhere.

  • rick9911

    Look at the behavior modification the government has acheived through a 5 cent charge on bottles & cans.
    Americans are apparently cheap & easy.

  • Charles Martel

    One thing you can do to epater the Marin bourgeois is to arrive at the checkout counter with your own roll of supermarket-style plastic grocery bags. Peel off a few, hand them to the bagger, and announce how proud you are that the county has once again come out squarely on the side of Choice. 

  • Ymarsakar

    For some reason, I don’t like Democrat regimes. It smells of death and decay.


    Speaking of supermarkets…the electronic umbilical cord unplugged.
    CBS is reporting that a “possible glitch” in a computer system upgrade was likely responsible for rendering EBT cards useless across much of the country Saturday afternoon. Computer glitches have been testing Americans’ patience and preventing them from signing up for health insurance under Obamacare for two weeks now, but it took only hours of the EBT glitch for talk to turn to fear, panic and even rioting.

  • lee

    I hate the bag ban. It penalizes the poor. I was a POOR grad student when I lived in manhattan. And thanks to grocery shopping, in five years, I NEVER had to shell out a penny for trash bags. Most EVERYONE recycles their bags in some way or another. For the left wing BANANAS of Marin, it just makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I recall years ago reading in the I-J about the ENORMOUS “carbon footprint” of the averaege Marinite. Yeah, the bag ban ain’t gonna smallify it by much.

  • Katja

    The plastic bag bans are really annoying. There have also been studies saying that in areas that have enacted these plastic bag bans, cases of food poisoning (especially E. coli) spike, and ultimately lead to deaths of people.  Insanity, I tell you!
    What really annoys me, too, is that it’s almost impossible in the US to find decent “alternative” bags.  Most grocery stores love to hawk their “reusable” bags, but they’re made of recycled material that is really hard to clean.  In Germany, all the reusable grocery bags seem to be made of cotton, are cheaper (maybe $.40 to $1.50 a piece), and can be thrown in the wash with regular laundry.  

  • lee

    When I went to Israel the first time, in 1981, Grocery stores didn’t have bags. Everyone brought these net bag things. You threw them in the laundry ever one in awhile. 

  • Zoltan

    Grocery bags and healthcare insurance are only the beginning.  Soon you will be required to buy multiple copies of “Quotations from Chairman Barrack” with its distinctive green cover.

  • 11B40

    If you insist on bad-mouthing our rulers (and I enjoy the same progressivism several soviets to your south), I’m afraid that I will have to inflict some serious history or at least memory on your carefully contrived argumentum absurdum.

    Back in the early ’70s, I sojourned for a while in the USSR’s cosmopolite metropolis of Murmansk. Comfortably nestled within the Arctic Circle, I came across a phenomenon then known as the babushka which referred to an elderly kerchiefed  lady, well-insulated, and carrying an empty shopping bag in case she should come across a store that actually had something to sell that she wanted and could afford to buy.  Your rejection of an opportunity to become, as you put it, “a bag lady” evinces an ideological separation from your fellow proletarians not to mention the nomenklatura which is guided solely by your best interests.
    Also, in a “What comes around goes around.” kind of way, I seem to recall a bit of a brouhaha a couple of decades ago, when plastic bags were introduced in order to save our beloved trees from imminent extermination. I can only guess that, somewhere sometime in the interim, massive forests, massive beyond massiveness, have been discovered and that these will certainly, in the most scientific of senses, preclude any environmental detriments.  Now, some will say, “Wait, No,” those were the dreaded fossil fuels, from which those plastic bags were manufactured in some obviously dangerous process, that were found in volumes massive beyond massiveness. But you can really believe that our rulers might possibly be unaware of these things.

  • Earl

    Oh, BW!!
    Reusable shopping bags are GREAT!!
    I take my Walmart bag and my Dollar Tree bag and my FoodMaxx bag, each with its large logo on the side, into the Co-op store (with the hairy-legged, sandal-wearing, baggy-clothed females) and into the Whole Foods Store (with its sleek, “so much better than you” staff), and shock the natives.  It’s SO MUCH FUN!!
    Does this make me a bad person?


    “Does this make me a bad person”?
    Worse than bad – it makes you Sadie! :)

  • Danny Lemieux

    Nah, Zoltan. It will be puke-yellow. 

  • Ymarsakar

    I thought commies still liked seeing the color of red, as they drink the blood of babies every full moon still.

  • Libby

    I completely agree with you on the punitive charges for shopping bags, and I’ve read that ‘the use your own bag’ policy actually increases shoplifting (people put store merchandise in another store’s bag and claim it was a prior purchase). However, I regularly use a few heavy-duty ripstop shopping bags from Lands End (wish I had gotten more – they’re discontinued) because I hate the accumulation of the flimsy grocery store bags.
    The one store where I love the bags is Target because they make perfect office & bathroom trashcan liners. I mentioned this to a Target checkout gal once and she said that many customers mention how useful their bags can be (because of their size and strength). 

  • Ron19

    Good news!
    Go to Amazon (on Bookworm’s link) and search for the following’3 items, in All or Home and Kitchen:
    net bags
    mesh bags
    t shirt bags
    Check in your grocery store for what kind of bags they are selling or stocking, and what the boxes they come in look like, so you can take a different looking box of them into the store and carry it in your basket, so you won’t get accused of stealing them from the store.  You’ll still be able to re-cycle the t-shirt bags as garbage bags at home.
    Look for the Prime marker so you can get them quickly when the time comes for your area.  It’s already started in some places here in SOCAL, and is spreading like mold.

  • Earl

    SADIE:  Best compliment I’ve had all day….which, come to think of it, is “damning with faint praise”.
    But, I DO appreciate it!  SO much fun to do…just as well you live in a different town – we’d drive them all crazy!!  Not that it’s very far to drive for most of those lefty watermelons!!

  • Bookworm

    Excellent practical ideas from all of you. It’s not really the bags per se — it’s the coercion that makes me crazy. 

  • Ymarsakar

    Speaking of coercion, if the US military had been given a draftee contingent, I wonder how many of them would have been Obamacans and Leftist operatives, ready to dish out unto the civilians what park rangers can only dream of dishing out using civilian grade enforcement powers.
    I’m very suspicious of our current kings and queens in DC. Especially given that the military is under Authority, and civilian authority at that. Which is not going to be American authority for very long.

  • Earl

    We’re fighting the good fight here in Chico, BW….door-to-door canvassing for signatures failed, and the city council appears uninterested in inflicting this kind of nonsense on our town…at least for the present.
    I’m afraid the watermelons will be back, however… suggestion won’t help you get rid of the ban, just make those who support it a bit uncomfortable when they see your choice of logos…..
    Yeah…it’s a bit childish, but some parts of you can avoid growing up and no one gets hurt!!

  • Ron19

    When I was an undergraduate studying economics under Professor Arthur Smithies of Harvard, he asked me in class one day what policy I favored on a particular issue of the times. Since I had strong feelings on that issue, I proceeded to answer him with enthusiasm, explaining what beneficial consequences I expected from the policy I advocated.
    “And then what will happen?” he asked.
    The question caught me off guard. However, as I thought about it, it became clear that the situation I described would lead to other economic consequences, which I then began to consider and to spell out.
     “And what will happen after that?” Professor Smithies asked.
     As I analyzed how the further economic reactions to the policy would unfold, I began to realize that these reactions would lead to consequences much less desirable than those at the first stage, and I began to waver somewhat.
     “And then what will happen?” Smithies persisted.
     By now I was beginning to see that the economic reverberations of the policy I advocated were likely to be pretty disastrous— and, in fact, much worse than the initial situation that it was designed to improve.
    Simple as this little exercise might seem, it went further than most economic discussions about policies on a wide range of issues. Most thinking stops at stage one. In recent years, former economic advisers to Presidents of the United States— from both political parties— have commented publicly on how little thinking ahead about economic consequences went into decisions made at the highest level.2 This is not to say that there was no thinking ahead about political consequences. Each of the presidents they served (Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, respectively) was so successful politically that he was re-elected by a wider margin than the vote that first put him in office.
    2 Herbert Stein and Joseph Stiglitz.
    Sowell (2008-12-09). Applied Economics (Kindle Locations 5599-5600). Perseus Book Group-A. Kindle Edition.
     Sowell (2008-12-09). Applied Economics (Kindle Locations 145-164). Perseus Book Group-A. Kindle Edition.

  • Michael Adams

    We live in Free Round Rock, but we often venture into the People’s Democratic Republic of Austin, where there is, but, of course, a bag ban. We bring plastic bags form the Round Rock stores, and people look on in envy.
    The Politburo (AKA City Council) were dragged kicking and screaming into  putting a measure on the ballot which calls for single-member districts. We had elected the entire Council At-Large since long before I came here. The people were persuaded that At Large dilutes ethnic minority voting strength. So, when we go to districts, we won’t elect the entire Council from the rich Dem part of West Austin, and there might be some changes made.Stand by for further developments.

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