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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Bag tax: Can the poor afford it?

Don’t insult the poor’s intelligence in bag-tax debate

Editor, The Times:

Central Area Motivation Program, or CAMP, opposes the 20-cent bag tax because, it says, the poor just aren’t able to remember to bring bags when they shop. The rationale? [“Who’s left holding the bag fee,” Danny Westneat’s column, July 29.] The program handed out reusable bags, told clients to bring them the next time they came and most clients returned without them. The excuses? They forgot the bags. Or someone stole their bag. Or the bag got “lost” in a move.

CAMP does tell its clients what hours it is open. CAMP doesn’t stay open all the time in case clients “forget”; if the client shows up during the closed hours, they don’t get served.

CAMP tells clients to bring their own bags, and when they forget — it gives them free food — and free plastic bags. What’s wrong with this picture? CAMP could have charged them 20 cents for a bag, told them to find some sort of a bag and return or let them figure out how to carry the food without a bag. I can guarantee clients would learn really quickly to bring their own bags.

Do these clients forget their wallets? Their shoes? Their cigarettes? No, no and no because the first time they did, they had to do without. Nobody jumped up to hand them free replacements. People learn to be responsible when there are consequences for being irresponsible.

CAMP insults the intelligence of its clients to claim that because they are poor, they aren’t able to — and shouldn’t have to — learn basic lessons in responsibility.

— Laura Billington, Maple Valley

Don’t trust coalition against the bag tax

My July 30 mail brought an expensive brochure from the so-called Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax, which, according to, is a front for the Washington Food Industry, 7-Eleven and some lobbyists for the plastic industry.

The brochure rehearsed the same insulting arguments: The tax will hurt the poor (who presumably are too stupid to buy a $1 cloth bag that will pay for itself in a week), is filled with loopholes (you prefer a stricter tax? Bring it on!) and will result in bureaucracy and cost. That’s very public-spirited of the plastics industry. Care to spend some of your money cleaning up the Pacific Trash Vortex, the continent-sized plastic dump that floats in the North Pacific? Didn’t think so.

Please don’t be fooled by this condescending, mean-spirited, shortsighted and ultimately evil campaign. The tax is a very sensible way to gradually change the behavior of Seattle shoppers and stem the tide of garbage that we’re heaping on the Earth.

— Charles Martin, Seattle

Bag-tax opponents walking on paper-thin arguments

The thinness of the plastic industry’s argument against the grocery bag tax is now transparent. The Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax, supported by the American Chemistry Council, ran a full-page ad in The Seattle Times July 30 making four points to frighten voters.

Its observations of the 20-cent tax on bags are factual but designed to provoke an emotional reaction against taxes. The coalition implies the tax is unfair because it excludes big-box stores. But big-box stores already reduce packaging considerably more than retail stores.

The coalition’s emphasis on money that will go to hiring full-time city employees plays on antigovernment feelings, and it purposely obscures that these jobs would be to reduce garbage and promote recycling.

Finally, the coalition makes the absurd claim that because smaller stores keep the taxes, this won’t help the environment. I suppose they haven’t heard about the Eastern Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre greater than the size of Texas. Or the animals that choke to death on plastic bags. Or the smothering impacts of plastic bags on coral reefs. Or carbon emissions from plastic and paper production. The list goes on and on.

— Preston Hardison, Seattle

Solutions can be found to help poor endure bag tax

In response to Danny Westneat’s column, the issue of poverty in the plastic-bag debate needs to include the desperately poor around the world who are adversely affected by the choices of North Americans.

Bags, pieces of bags and microscopic particles of bags are ingested by shellfish, fish, birds, turtles and other animals that are essential to ocean health. The poor around the world who depend on catching their food in these oceans cannot afford to have the ocean’s health compromised. They are already disproportionately affected by the damage we have done to our environment.

I truly believe all of us in Seattle, no matter what our income level, can learn a new behavior. It takes time to make a new habit a routine, but it can be done.

Clearly, more thought needs to be put into figuring out what kind of reusable bag will work best for the poor and homeless in Seattle. However, the livelihood of the poor around the world is far more important than the “inconvenience” of bringing along a reusable bag.

— Kimberly Christensen, Seattle

Comments | More in Environment, Seattle, Taxes


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