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The concrete tax: Wrong mix

| Friday, July 11, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

When private businesses conspire with the government to fund the former's promotion, customers inevitably pay the freight. It happened with the government-enforced “assessment” on Christmas trees to pay for research and marketing. And it's happening again with a push to seal a similar deal for concrete masonry products.

Instead of a voluntary program within the masonry industry, key players are turning to the feds to set up a compulsory program through the Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotion Act. If enacted, the program would be managed by the Commerce Department and the Concrete Masonry Products Board, which would be handpicked by the secretary of Commerce.

Don't want to ante up? Too bad.

Naturally, proponents call it an “assessment” or a “fee.” No, what's proposed is a tax that would be compelled and enforced by the government. And as with most taxes, once passed, they tend to increase.

At $0.01 or $0.05 per unit (for example, concrete blocks), the tax is being sold as harmless. But it would yield on average $14 million annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And, as is typical, that sum would come out of consumers' pockets.

What's proposed is a distortion of the free market for the benefit of larger businesses and special interests. But just like concrete, if the mix isn't right, what's cast will prematurely deteriorate and fall apart.

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