Tag Archives: new york state

Regulation of the Day 149: Sliced Bagels

In New York State, sliced bagels cost 8 cents more than unsliced bagels. It’s not because they’re more expensive. The marginal cost in labor and equipment is practically nil. Nor is it because bagel shop owners are greedy. Shops in Connecticut and New Jersey don’t charge more for sliced bagels. And there’s nothing about New York consumers that makes them more susceptible to predatory bagel pricing. The reason is government.

Albany’s legislators are in quite the fiscal mess right now. Short of cutting spending, they’re trying everything they can to plug their $8.5 billion budget deficit. The Wall Street Journal explains how this affects bagels:

“In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn’t subject to sales tax. But the tax does apply to “sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings),” according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. And if the bagel is eaten in the store, even if it’s never been touched by a knife, it’s also taxed.”

So there you have it. Bruegger’s, a New York bagel chain, put signs in its stores telling customers that “We apologize for this change and share in your frustration on this additional tax.”

Bruegger’s shouldn’t be apologizing to its customers. The state legislature should be apologizing to theirs. If they had been able to keep state spending in check, there would be no need for the tax.

(Via Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward)

Regulation of the Day 125: Salt

Having eliminated all crime from New York’s streets, ended homelessness, rebuilt Ground Zero, and fixed the state’s ailing public schools, New York’s state legislature has set its sights on how much salt you eat.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already has a plan to reduce NYC residents’ salt intake by 25 percent over five years. But State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) thinks that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It only covers New York City, for starters. The rest of the state’s salt intake would remain perilously unregulated under the Bloomberg plan.

That’s why Mr. Ortiz has introduced statewide legislation that would “make it illegal for restaurants to use salt in the preparation of food. Period.

A $1,000 fine would accompany each violation.

Tom Colicchio, who owns a restaurant and has appeared on the television show Top Chef, is livid. He told the New York Daily News that “New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore… Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.”

He’s right; the salt ban does offend culinary decency. But there’s another angle that’s at least as important: personal responsibility.
If I want to pile on the salt, as Mayor Bloomberg famously does, that’s my right. But I also need to be liable for the consequences. If chronic salt over-consumption gives me high blood pressure and heart trouble, that’s my fault. I should pay the cost.

But that’s not how the current health care system works. We suffer from the 12-cent problem: on average, people only pay 12 cents for every dollar of health care they consume. Roughly 50 cents are picked up by the government, and insurers cover the rest.
That means people have less incentive to watch what they eat than under a more honest system. Why not rack up huge health care bills? Everyone else is paying for me. Health care on sale! 88 percent off!

Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Decades of government encroachments in health care have taken away a lot of our responsibility for health care decisions. So it makes some sense that Mr. Ortiz would finish the job by taking away peoples’ freedom to eat what they want.

A better solution would be to have both freedom and responsibility, instead of neither. Ban the salt ban. Give people more control over their health care dollars. Let us be free. Let us be responsible. We’re all adults here. Treat us as such, Mr. Ortiz.

Regulation of the Day 111: Buying Wine in New York

It is illegal for grocery stores to sell wine in the state of New York. Only liquor stores are allowed to sell the stuff.

This regulation, a relic of Prohibition, lives on because of one of the central concepts in public choice theory: diffused costs and concentrated benefits.

The benefits are concentrated in one constituency: liquor stores. Regulations give them get millions of dollars in free business. That means they have millions of reasons to lobby to keep the status quo.

Consumers, on the other hand, are hurt by the ban by the exact amount that liquor stores benefit. But that hurt is spread far and wide. No one consumer feels enough pain to hire a high-priced lobbyist to open up the market.

That means New York’s misguided restrictions on competition are likely to continue for some time. It’s hard to imagine an aggrieved shopper suing New York’s wine cartel because she has to make an extra trip to get the wine on her grocery list. Or because she pays a bit more than if she lived in a different state.

(Hat tip: Jonathan Moore)