Petty Local Regulations and Taxes are Out of Hand

Petty local regulations and taxes make daily life harder, but they offer absolutely NO benefits in return to those affected by them.

March 4, 2019

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

I recently shared a few things on social media about the petty things happening on the local level, but I think it really deserves its own dedicated blog because it’s cropping up everywhere.

It’s understandable that some of the large national issues come off as so daunting and overwhelming that the average person reading about it is left to shrug and think “oh well, what cha gonna do?”.  And truly, what are you going to do about $21 trillion in unaccounted for federal spending?  Nothing.

Aside from the obvious grievance I have toward being nickel-and-dimed by government, there are other social byproducts of regulations and taxes.  Whereas before the taxes or regulations were passed you were fine, now if you don’t follow along or you dare to balk at them, you’re a criminal who hates children.

Safety and public services aren’t just how these measures get passed, it’s how they are perpetually sold in society.  Laws are just codified ideas backed by violence.  The problem is when violence is presented as justified against non-violent individuals.

Tennessee:

Layton Jones out of Nashville “illegally” operated a short-term rental property.  He operated without a permit, was cited, paid the fines, and continued to operate.  His guests didn’t complain.  The city of Nashville however, is complaining.

He was sentenced to a total of five days in jail.  But look at what the Metro Codes Spokesperson, Sean Braisted, had to say:

“By the judge issuing these orders, it really shows there are dramatic consequences for refusing to obey the law when it comes to short-term rental properties. Most people can get a permit depending on where they live if they follow the rules and do the right thing.”

The assumption of course is that “following the rules” and applying for the permit is in fact “doing the right thing”.  I see more wrong in telling someone they need to seek permission to rent out their own private property than I do in the person who refuses.

New York:

Seven year-old Brendan Mulvaney, in Saratoga County’s Ballston Spa, New York, had his lemonade stand shut down because he was selling pre-mixed lemonade from his yard for $0.75 which undercut the lemonade vendors in the fair down the road by over $6!  Of course, the officers who shut the kid down are jerks for enforcing such a ridiculous edict, but that’s not news.  What is rather striking and sad is that FOUR separate lemonade vendors from the fair called Mulvaney in.

North Carolina:

I shared an article on this not that long ago, but my own home state has upped its pettiness.  North Carolina is reviewing a bill that would require anyone over 16 years of age to register their bicycles at the Division of Motor Vehicles. 

It would be $10 annual registration fee, and a $25 fine if you don’t.  Supposedly this would help underprivileged children get helmets and go toward building out bike lanes.

Bicycles are not motorized vehicles, yet the DMV would be charged with processing these registrations.  Moreover, it’s not necessarily the $10 to register the bike, although that is obnoxious.   Wilkes County Rep. Jeffrey Elmore acts like he’s never been to a DMV before.  It’s a universal truth that the DMV is a time sponge.  I don’t care what county or state you are in.

Anyone over 16 with a bicycle would have to go into a DMV and register.  But 7.36 million people are 15 years or older in North Carolina, while all of them are not necessarily cyclists or bicycle owners, that’s a LOT to process. 

Some objections include that it serves as a deterrent to exercise.  It could pose a hardship on those who are already too poor to own and operate a car.  And finally, it could affect tourism if tourists wish to ride bicycles but first have to swing by the DMV to register the bikes they wish to let.

The bill is rather vague on these concerns, and the majority of them could probably be ironed out with online services.  Granted, according to the bill itself, the ONLY things the $10 can legally fund would be helmets, bike lanes, bikes safety education, and signs.  It cannot fund an online service.  It cannot fund more bureaucrats.

Let’s say only half the people 15 and over register.  That’s roughly $35 million in revenues.  Is it that NC government officials cannot find funding for bike lanes anywhere else in their coffers?  If the NC government just redirected $0.005 (i.e. half a cent) from every gallon of fuel tax they collected, they would have the sufficient funding.  North Carolina happens to have some of the HIGHEST state fuel taxes in the union.  According to GasBuddy, the state taxes for fuel are $0.3775 per gallon.

So if I’m to understand this, they will likely divert $0.005 per gallon of fuel tax anyway, to pay for the institution of this law, so they can collect $10 per cyclist to get helmets and bike lanes.

California:

If you thought any of the afore mentioned were bad, this will really get you.  Los Angeles county wants to tax ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft because these “Bay Area tech companies don’t pay their fair share to maintain public streets and exacerbate congestion in a traffic-choked region”.

Dig a little deeper and a few facts surface:

  1. Public transit usage has dropped by nearly 20% thanks to ridesharing services.
  2. Ridesharing in fact has reduced congestion:
    A recent study done by the University of California, Berkeley shows that around 9 to 13 privately owned vehicles were being replaced by one rideshare owned vehicle and that Zipcar estimates it has reduced the number of cars on the road by 400,000.”

They say it’s about reducing congestion, but if that were really true, then why not simply incentivize companies to allow telecommuting?  Especially in areas like Los Angeles where you have an enormous hub of white-collar industries that don’t require you to be physically present in an office to perform those duties.

Get a remote VPN login and let people telecommute.  I say this as somewhat of a digital nomad myself, but it would likely lead to increased productivity, it would put more money in the pockets of employees without the company having to lift a finger.  And the companies can keep more money through various tax incentives that allow them to take a credit for every employee they allow to telecommute.

What if universities offered the same?

Think of all the reduction in traffic you see whenever there’s a government holiday.  That’s what you could reasonably expect every day if such initiatives were passed.  Instead, the county wishes to tax and punish behavior rather than credit and encourage behaviors.

As we see with vice taxes, taxation isn’t really about curbing behaviors as much as it is about punishing or bilking behaviors.  Honestly, it’s not even much of a revenue scheme considering that most of these things cost more to enforce than what they are worth.

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