Tuesday, November 18, 2014

From the "Idiots of the day" file

Seems it's hard to do something good without someone complaining about it. Yesterday the US House of Reps passed a bill that will increase the price of the federal duck stamp from $15 to $25, a move long supported by hunters - the only people who will actually pay the increase - and that will raise an estimated $120 million in additional funds for conservation.

By this morning the move was already being labeled a "tax hike" by Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by the Koch brothers. I'm not sure if the guys who run that shop came in late today and this position was posted by an overly eager intern who showed up bright and early, but that's the story I'd stick to if I were in charge over there because this is just stupid.

For this increase to be a tax hike I guess you'd have to consider the duck stamp a tax in the first place, which would mean my hunting license is also a tax, along with my driver's license and the ticket to the basketball game I attended, all things I consider privileges that I gladly pay to enjoy. I don't know a single hunter - republican, democrat, libertarian, whatever - who bitches about buying a duck stamp.

The bill (HR5069) contains a provision allowing the Dept of the Interior to reduce the price of the stamp in coming years if the overall revenue generated from stamp sales declines. In other words, if people stop buying duck stamps because of this increase (highly unlikely), they can lower the prices again. Ever seen a tax hike do that? In the meantime all of the increase goes toward buying conservation easements, not bridges to nowhere, not staffing the IRS, not hammers for the defense department.

This is in no way a tax hike, but if I had an agenda that included trying to privatize public land I might try to pitch it as one. In fact, Americans for Prosperity made a lame attempt at trying to tie the two together:
Duck stamp revenue fits the bill of Washington ineptitude – the tax on hunters is used to give more land to the federal government, which already owns over a quarter of all the land in the country and cannot manage it properly.
Purchasing conservation easements isn't quite the same as purchasing land, but never mind such details. We're on a mission and won't be deterred by facts.

Noteworthy: The price of the stamp has remained at $15 since 1991. Inflation adjusted, the price today would be slightly over $26. Maybe instead of a tax hike we call this a long-overdue cost of hunting increase.

The bill still has to pass the Senate, with hopes that it lands on the President's desk by year's end. Please Washington, don't fuck this one up.

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