A New York Assemblyman is proposing a $3 tax on items residents order online, and using the revenue to prop-up New York City’s creaking mass transit system.

In a New York Daily News op-ed, Assemblyman Robert Carroll and transit union president, John  Samuelson write the proposed “surcharge” – because “tax” is a naughty word – would apply to just about everything people buy online except for food or medicine. And of course, it’s all for the good of the people:

 A delivery surcharge would incentive some consumers to patronize neighborhood businesses instead of reflexively ordering items online from Amazon, Walmart, Etsy or eBay. They might be reminded how local mom-and-pop stores, and bigger retailers like Bloomingdales and Macy’s, are part of what makes a city dynamic, diverse and interesting. These businesses also employ our neighbors.

There’s a tacit admission here that the companies don’t pay the tax – customers do. But that doesn’t excuse or correct the authors’ cast-iron economic illiteracy: the tax revenue won’t support mom and pop stores, or Macy’s or Bloomingdales. It will support the mass transit system, which is a haven for fraud, more fraud, and old-fashioned abuse (plus even more fraud).

This kind of tax is usually what’s known as a wealth transfer – shifting resources from one group to benefit another. Here, however, it’s little more than a stick-up.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)