Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A tax by any other name ...

... would still smell like shit.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Officials are weighing a proposal to generate as much as $56 million in new revenue by selling, rather than giving away, the city's limited number of taxi permits known as medallions.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is promoting the move as a financial necessity with the city facing a projected $129 million budget shortfall for public transportation. But the proposal has divided the local taxicab industry.

The government almost always follows the same playbook.
  1. Induce artificial scarcity. Claim this is justified because it somehow "protects us from ourselves".
  2. Stand in front of newly created phantom tollbooth bottleneck.
  3. Profit!!
Somehow, we calmly accept this as the necessary situation with cabbies, doctors and lawyers, and in fact, we see the price of the mafia protection these professions enjoy as a sign of their health; it might cost a fortune to go to med school, but that's just because you'll make so much money afterwards, right?  Or this:

"Auctioning medallions would dramatically improve the availability of taxicabs in San Francisco because the better the industry becomes, the more a medallion is worth," Mr. Newsom said in a statement.

I guess if "the industry becomes better" means "SF cab meters set up to actually extract blood from passengers during trip", then, yeah, sure, a steep new license fee would dramatically improve the industry.

I also love how this whole thing is set up to make the victim of the mafia feel like he's doing well; once he's paid his dues, he's thrilled to have the mafia "protect" him.

Drivers who stick with the industry are guaranteed a steady income once they rise to the top of a waiting list for their medallions.

That system "represents the American dream," said Jamshid Khajvandi, an immigrant from Iran who has been driving a San Francisco taxi for 29 years. After getting his medallion, he said, his income increased about $1,700 a month from leasing it out part-time, offering him sufficient income stability to raise three sons.

If we want welfare for this guy, we should just have freaking welfare for this guy.  Fine.  But isn't it sorta stupid to include it in the price of cabs?

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