Monday night, the Republican-controlled House voted in favor of a tax on concrete to placate special interests in Washington D.C.
Provided yet another opportunity to expand the size and scope of government, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 985, the Concrete Masonry Products, Research, Education, and Promotion Act of 2015, a tax in all but name.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. (F, 45%), would create a Concrete Masonry Products Board composed of 15-25 members appointed by the Department of Commerce after a referendum approval by producers of concrete masonry products. This board will have the power to establish, finance, and carry out a “coordinated research and education program,” ostensibly to “promote masonry products in the domestic market,” according to a legislative bulletin email from the Republican Study Committee. This program will be paid for by a “federally administered assessment.”
An “assessment,” in case you were not aware, is Washington-speak for a “tax” — in this case, a tax on concrete.
As Daren Bakst of The Daily Signal explained when an earlier version of this bill was considered by Congress in 2014:
The legislation calls for concrete masonry product manufacturers to pay an “assessment” to the Board that would begin at $0.01 per concrete masonry unit sold (this includes concrete blocks and related units) and be capped at $0.05 per unit. The number of votes a manufacturer receives would be based on the number of machine cavities in operation a manufacturer has, thereby favoring larger manufacturers. […]
When an assessment enforced by the government is no longer voluntary, it’s a tax. Proponents will try to spin it otherwise, but whatever name one gives it, it’s a mandatory assessment that must be paid, and the full power of the government will be used against those who don’t pay into the program.
In other words, Big Concrete lobbied for a compulsory government “promotion” program that will be funded by levying a tax on concrete products — a tax that will inevitably be passed to the consumer via higher prices.
The House Liberty Caucus released a statement in opposition to H.R. 985.
Said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. (A, 96%), chairman of the Liberty Caucus: “If an industry wants to raise money to promote itself, then interested businesses should do so through voluntary agreement. The fact that an industry asks the government to impose an assessment means that it has been unable to persuade every business to participate voluntarily.”
The government has no business involving itself in the research and promotion of the concrete masonry industry. This legislation is purely and simply corporate welfare to the special interests of the Concrete Masonry Products Board.
The bottom line is that your representative’s commitment to free market principles was just put to the test. The vote Monday evening passed with just 37 Republican members voting against the special-interest bill.
Did your member vote for liberty and free market principles? Or did they appease cronyism at your expense, with yet another new tax?
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this piece claimed Congress had voted. At this time, only the House has voted. The error has been corrected.
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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations: @ChrisCPandolfo.