What’s your beef? Mine is beef with broccoli. A delicious choice from any of our fine local Chinese food establishments: Osaka, Chopsticks House, No. 1 Kitchen II. Not the original No. 1 Kitchen, though, because I live outside of their delivery zone.
I also have a beef with the new sales tax increase coming in 2011. Among other less selfish reasons, it’s annoying. At my bookstore, Blue Bicycle Books, we already know most prices after tax. You want to buy that $12.50 book? That’ll be $13.44.
$19.98? Bam: $21.48.
We can tell you that up front. No surprises at the register here. Now we have to learn the final totals all over again. Annoying.
We should build schools. We should pay teachers tons. We should even raise taxes to do it, just not the sales tax. But before we raise any taxes, here are a few people we can shake down first:
1. The Internet Gurus.
Let us make a reasonable estimate of Amazon’s annual revenues, most of which are tax exempt. Let’s say $20 billion. Let’s say 2 percent of that is from South Carolina. The sales tax, 7.5 percent, would be $30 million. Just from Amazon.
But local government is asking you to kick in extra at the hardware store, driving more money to the Internet Gurus, those sweatshirted studmuffins who give mankind cool ways to view baby pictures on our smart phones.
They speak passionately of the Net’s potential on an almost evolutionary scale, as though they are just a part of a larger push to create a race of peaceful, sentient beings who communicate entirely by wireless brainwaves. With their monk-like, religious asceticism, they claim they’re not into computers for the money, and yet somehow they have plenty of it.
At least the old tycoons had class and taste. Do you think Mark Cuban is going to build Carnegie libraries all over the country?
Meanwhile, people have a little more reason to skip bricks-and-mortar shopping.
My bookstore is on King Street. Yes, we’re in a recession, but this is a great street in one of the greatest cities in the country. On the two blocks above me, between John and Mary, there are 12 empty storefronts. Between our store and the empty Millennium Music on Calhoun, there is one other retail store.
In 50 years we’ll laugh at the Internet Gurus the same way we laugh at 30 Rock‘s Kenneth Parcell’s reverence for television. In the meantime Jeff Bezos will blow his billions on Skittles and Atari cartridges.
2. Credit Card Processors.
The November vote was an early Christmas present to these guys. Most retail sales are via credit and debit cards. Retailers pay fees of 2 to 3 percent on every sale. My little operation will pay an extra $300 in fees next year, thanks to the tax increase, and the schools get none of that. Maybe if we hit the processors up they’ll stop cold-calling every single day and asking us to switch.
3. People who have their political status on Facebook set to Libertarian.
Is this you? Do you want to legalize hard drugs and unpasteurized milk? Do you think taxes should be a flat rate if they exist at all? Let me guess. You are white, you are a dude, you have a college degree, at least four video game systems, and a tattered copy of Atlas Shrugged.
The fact is that for poor people, a larger percentage of income goes to just staying warm and paying rent. So a “fair,” across-the-board tax increase hits them harder.
In closing, I’m a little confused as to why we even need money for education. The South Carolina lottery was supposed to solve this problem.
“Mommy, why is that man buying that big bottle of beer and all those lottery tickets?”
“It’s for the betterment of society, dear. That man is a hero.”