In a matter of months, Austin will join Brownsville among the cities making it harder, more expensive, and potentially more harmful, to get groceries. Retailers, environmental activists and city officials are designing the details of a shopping-bag ban. The consumers who will live with these draconian decisions aren’t in on the discussion, and are barely a consideration.

Brownsville became the first city in Texas to ban plastic shopping bags, limiting consumer options and raising costs. The city’s ban requires consumers to purchase city-approved “reusable” bags or pay a $1 per bag for conventional shopping bags. Environmental extremists rejoice while working families are stuck with higher bills and using bags that often little more than a breeding ground for disease.

Clearly, crony capitalism is alive and well in the environmental extremist movement. This law produces a huge windfall for grocery stores who force people to pay for what used to be complimentary – grocery bags.

Austin’s far-left city council is trying to play catch-up and impose a similar ban in the Capitol city.

The Austin American Statesman dutifully parrots the pro-ban talking points:

Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year, and they cost the city and taxpayers about $850,000 a year to clean up as litter and put in landfills, according to city estimates.

The implication is that every bag turns into litter. Really? That’s a stretch. After all, most families (like mine) use the bags for trash-can liners, lunch bags and myriad other uses, long before putting them in the trash can.

Maybe the city should focus on the illegal behavior — littering — rather than all-out bans? But then, how else would the manufacturers of “reusable” bags get business?

The bag-ban is just the latest example of rampant crony capitalism problem in the enviro-left. Whether it’s Al Gore’s heavy investment in “green” companies poised to make money off of cap-and-trade, George Soros’ massive green energy investments that don’t pay off unless energy prices soar, or cities using tax dollars to subsidize electric cars through charging stations and the like, the liberal environmentalist movement is more intent on forcing consumers to buy (or underwrite) products they don’t want than actually working to improve the environment and people’s lives.

In Austin, the cronies – retailers, enviro-leftists, and city staff –  are currently meeting behind closed doors to fine tune the ban. Guess who gets hammered? (Hint: look in the mirror.)

The grocery bag ban will do precious little besides increase costs for consumers. If the city wants to confront litter, it should enforce litter laws it currently ignores. But banning bags puts people in service of makers of otherwise uncompetitive products, masked behind a radical call of doing it for the environment.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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