While making some valid arguments about freedom of the Internet from regulation, Neil Stevens’ recent Tech at Night piece unfortunately misses the mark on closing the uncompetitive sales tax loophole that requires brick-and-mortar retail outlets to collectsales tax, thereby driving up their prices at the point of purchase, while exempting online retailers, especially Amazon.com.
In every other industry, conservative correctly wretch at the thought of the government picking winners and losers through the tax code. One need look no further than the Obama administration’s Solyndra debacle.
Respected leaders in the conservative movement, including Govs. Haley Barbour and Nikki Haley and American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas have endorsed e-fairness as a conservative principle for free enterprise:
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS):
“As Governor or Mississippi, I value the important role that our Main Street retailers play in our communities. Failure to level the playing field threatens to, and in fact has, run many of them out of business, taking with them jobs and the sizable contribution they make not just [to] our community culture, but to the organizations who have long benefited from their charitable involvement … government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. In this area, at least, the Marketplace Fairness Act will end that practice, and that’s something conservatives should be proud to support.”
Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC):
“And I will tell you regardless of what happens with Amazon, we want them. I have told them we want you to do business in this state, but we want you to do it on a level playing field. They got free property, they got tax incentives, they got plenty of things. Don’t ask us to give you sales tax relief when we’re not giving it to the book store down the street or we’re not giving it to the other stores on the other side of town, it’s just not a level playing field.”
“Whether it’s the Department of Energy’s disastrous Solyndra project, or levying sales taxes, or a multitude of other policy decisions that impact the private sector, the government picking winners and losers is a perversion of the free market system. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill — especially conservatives — ought to at least acknowledge this when deliberating important reforms to the tax code. As we consider wholesale reform, exempting Internet sales can no longer be justified…the Marketplace Equity Act of 2011 begins this conversation.”
Stevens concludes by arguing, “Firms like Best Buys simply deserve to lose.” He may, in fact, be correct about that. But they don’t deserve to lose because of a bad law that punishes them through the tax code.