It is puzzling that there has been so little reaction by the public against the deceptively titled “Marketplace Fairness Act” which will force Internet-based businesses to collect taxes based on where a customer lives. The law sailed through the Democrat dominated Senate on a 69-27 vote, although it should face tougher opposition in the House of Representatives. But will it?
Even ten years ago, the mere suggestion of taxing Internet sales would have resulted in a huge backlash. But today, other than from online providers themselves, the objections have been at best tepid. Even normally staunch anti-tax Republicans like Paul Ryan seem more than willing to consider the idea. This from the Washington Times:
Rep. Paul Ryan said that an Internet tax isn’t a bad idea but that the devil was in the details. “It’s got to be done the right way,” Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in The Hill. But the “concept” is right.
Not surprisingly, outspoken maverick, Ted Cruz, has a different view:
Texas Republican Ted Cruz disagreed. “Internet sales taxes won’t level the playing field between brick-and-mortar-stores and online sellers,” he said on Breitbart. The taxes instead would only grow government further.
But Cruz is a rare bird in politics today ¾ someone who actually stands for Constitutional principles. Because, whenever a typical politician starts talking about “fairness” it is almost invariably code for redistribution of wealth, increased government control, or both.
For example, the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” was an attempt by government to force broadcasters to provide time to views that may have little or no support among their specific audience. If it had not been abolished in 1987, there would never have been the explosion of alternative media (talk radio, cable TV, the Internet) that we have today. Imagine trying to fight for our gun rights without the benefit of those “new media” outlets.
But this latest attempt to tax Internet sales will affect gun owners as much as anyone, perhaps even more. I support (genuine) free market capitalism, so I always patronize local businesses, especially independent gun stores, gunsmiths, etc. But I also believe in competition, and I recognize the advantages of being able to shop from the comfort and convenience of my home computer, or even a smart phone.
Most of us now regularly buy items online, whether accessories like holsters, lasers, and optics, or actual firearms. And let’s not forget about ammunition. When brick and mortar stores began running low on popular calibers, I went online and ordered several thousand rounds. As the shortages got worse, prices inevitably soared. Now imagine having to pile a sales tax on top of that.
Proponents of the Internet tax try to paint it as benefitting the small local store. But the fact that it is the major “Big Box” retailers who are cheer-leading for the bill makes that argument seem suspicious. And when the list of legislators who support the “Marketplace Fairness Act” includes all of the same people who regularly attack our gun rights, it makes me a little nervous.
Whether one particular brick-and-mortar-store, big or small, may somehow benefit from the imposition of this policy is not the point. What it will do to the marketplace as a whole is what matters. Supporters claim that we are only collecting taxes that already exist, but the simple fact is that you will pay more for Internet purchases, and I have yet to hear anyone explain how increasing the taxes collected by government ever benefits consumers.
And what happens to the base prices of products when the competition that Internet sellers provide (by being effectively “tax-free”) no longer exists? You don’t need a PhD in Economics to figure that one out.
Gun owners have to stay informed, because often the most innocent sounding proposal turns out to be a Trojan Horse when the long term effects materialize. Internet taxation is no exception. Because, once the mechanism is in place, why not a new “special” tax on “firearms related” purchases?
Call, email, and FAX your Congressional Representative and urge them to vote “NO” on taxing the Internet.