D.C. has now enacted a tax requiring stores to charge customers five cents for every plastic bag they use. I was a sucker and paid the odious five cents today for the first time for the plastic bag in which my sandwich was wrapped.
Apparently D.C. encourages the use of cloth bags instead. I have free, allegedly environmentally friendly ones from both the libertarian fellowship program I did last year and my undergrad alma mater. The latter largely fell apart under the weight of Russian and Barbri books. It's been hanging in its current tattered state on the coatrack in my office, a shadow of its former self. Maybe that's a good thing: the linked post indicates the cloth bags are actually less environmentally friendly anyway.
What's odd about this tax is that generally if you're a policymaker trying to entrench a revenue-generating program, you want the relevant program to be as invisible as possible. Therein lies the genius of income tax withholding, Milton Friedman's infamous brainchild. The five cent plastic bag tax, on the other hand, is about as visible as possible -- there are little signs in many of the covered retail shops telling the customer that she has a choice to escape the five cents. It's almost as though the D.C. government has chosen this particular approach purely to needle anyone who isn't already a dyed in the wool environmentalist.