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Brookings Councilman Bezdichek: Ban Plastic Bags! Powers: “Nanny State!”

Brookings city councilman Tom Bezdichek would like to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. Pat Powers screams "Nanny state! Nanny state!"

Seattle, San Francisco, and D.C. have banned plastic shopping bags. Chicago is implementing a partial plastic-bag ban. New York City may require customers to pay a dime for their convenience. Stores all over Europe expect you to bring your own bag. This isn't nanny-statism; it's recognizing that free bags easily become litter and trying to deal with that public problem.

We can debate the extent to which plastic shopping bags pollute the environment. (Alas, much of that debate is fueled by crony-corporate mouthpieces hitching their profit wagons to that one word from Mr. McGuire in The Graduate.) What bugs me is the crux of Powers's bitter attack on his neighbor as an enemy of sainted capitalists:

Let me restate this – So, Tom Bezdichek is going to go on the attack against the job creators & providers in this town. He is going to go on the attack against the lion’s share of the sales tax generated in this community, because in his dippy liberal world, he doesn’t like people who litter? [Pat Powers, "Welcome Back To The Nanny State. Brookings City Councilor Plans Attack On Retailers Using Plastic Bags," Dakota War College, 2014.07.23].

Pat's argument appears to boil down to the infallibility of businesspeople. The popular job-creator mythos attempts to paper over the fact that job creators, just like job doers, and moms, and kids, and retirees, make decisions that have consequences. They all—we all—have a responsibility to make sure our choices don't harm others. Sometimes we make choices that look as if they don't cost us much but end up imposing costs on others. And sometimes when the short-term financial incentive of such choices clouds certain actors' ability to see the long-term, large-scale costs, community regulation can and should trump certain selfish decisions... even the decisions of those whom the GOP thinks are hot stuff.

Bexdichek isn't attacking job creators or anyone else. Bezdichek is trying to solve a problem and improve his community. We can hope Brookings shows the wisdom to ignore Pat Powers's one-note squawking and instead engages all interested citizens in an intelligent discussion about the harms and merits of plastic shopping bags.


  1. SDTeacher 2014.07.23

    I'm going to display some ignorance here and ask how such a ban hurts business owners? If consumers are required to purchase/provide their own shopping bags, doesn't that save the store owners money?

  2. Craig 2014.07.23

    I thought Republicans were all about local control? I guess that only applies when it results in a total lack of control.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.07.23

    Duz anyone rilly care what PP has to say about anything?

  4. larry kurtz 2014.07.23

    pp sells useless plastic items to support his litter: consumption is all he knows.

  5. Donald Pay 2014.07.23

    Powers is someone who is living his life as a toddler, or maybe a barely functioning adolescent. He's SO PROUD!!!!...Yes, he is!!!...for never growing up beyond the point where he sees everything as Mommy restricting his "freedom" to have his room as dirty as he wants it. He never has grown up and taken responsibility for his existence on earth. So, you expect this sort of temper tantrum from him. Generally, the best advise is to ignore him.

    Still, there are a lot of thirteen year olds out there, pretending to be responsible adults. Many of them end up in the SD legislature, but that's another story. Bans don't seem to work well with these developmentally stunted adults, unless there's a positive incentive to go along with it.

    Most customers get used to bringing their own reusable bags fairly quickly, especially if there's a bad refund for bringing your own bag. We regularly get bag refunds for using our own. A lot of stores will ask you if you want to donate your bag refund to charity. Maybe giving little Patty a 10 cent bonus would make him happy for being a responsible adults.

  6. Lynn 2014.07.23

    Donald DWC reminds me so much of A bunch of manchildren at the old Catholic Junior High and High School I was sentenced to. The mentality and personal assassinations that has nothing to do with truth or solving problems but retaining power.

  7. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.23

    PP should look into zoning and inspection powers of cities and counties if he really wants to find abuses of power with no checks and balances and the potential for using regulations for totally inappropriate purposes. Regulating plastic bags is irrelevant by comparison. I use the plastic bags for coffee grounds...sealing the bags of grounds with a knot. Coffee grounds can really stink in a garbage can otherwise. Beyond that, I have found no use for such plastic bags...well maybe for packing shoes and shampoos into suitcases. I could live with only reuseable bags especially if there was a sensible monetary advantage personally. Seems to make simple sense. Every needless plastic bag helps drive up the price of every plastic device and also petroleum fuels, etc. etc.

  8. 96 Tears 2014.07.23

    You can find city landfills these days by watching the plastic bags hanging on the fence lines. The higher the density of plastic bags on fence lines, the closer you are to the source of those bags, the city landfill.

    Crybabies like PP live in a pretend world. Don's correct in assuming Pat's emotional age appears to be that of a toddler. Sadly, Pat's view is shared by too many adults who think there is an easy answer for every problem, including sticking your head up your butt and waiting for it to just go away. Worse, people like Pat insist on staying in the way and obstructing any progress.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.23

    Even out in the boondocks, a strong wind will leave plastic bags in trees, on fencelines, and on powerlines even if there isn't a dump for 20 miles.

  10. crossgrain 2014.07.23

    Like a plastic bag, I'm on the fence with this one.

    On the one hand, I try to be a careful steward of the environment by taking full advantage of Brookings' single-stream recycling program, re-usable shopping bags (though I don't ever seem to have the right amount), limit my utilities usage, driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle, etc.

    On the other hand, those plastic bags are so darn useful. We use them to carry our lunch to work, put them in the car for incidental wet items, as a small garbage can liner, to pick up after the dog on a walk, as a second safety net for shampoo bottles in the suitcase, boot liners for wet snow, and about a million other things. Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart both have receptacles for recycling those we don't use in other ways.

    I've also read someplace that it costs more and causes more carbon emissions to manufacture and recycle paper bags than their plastic counterparts... though to my knowledge, the science on this may be a bit fuzzy.

    There might be some middle ground to be found here: increase recycling/disposal awareness for plastic bags rather than an outright ban and see if that shows promise in the short term. Long term I would promote the increased use of re-usable shopping totes.

  11. Eve Fisher 2014.07.23

    Speaking of recycling plastic bags, I understand that you can take them to the Madison VFW, where they have a recycling center. Or is that nanny state, too?

  12. Old Guard 2014.07.23

    Pat Powers has a propensity to fly off the handle at many things, both actual and imagined. In one breath, he complains that a duly-elected official is going to propose eliminating plastic bag waste. In the next breath, he whines to the city of Brookings to keep chickens out of the back yards of citizens there.

    His rampant hypocrisy is well-documented and - just as Mr. Pay mentions above - he thinks much like a spoiled child. In fact, you all probably remember that abusive, obnoxious second-grade bully at your school playground. That is Pat Powers in the Blogosphere. Except he's not a second-grader any more, but even more intolerable and piggish as an adult-aged person. I do not believe that intellectually or psychologically he is an adult.

    Powers loves to give a tiny sliver of context in a forest-sized topic to promote his weak and wrong ideology, but forgets that other people read to inform themselves. Then he deletes posts that point out how wrong he is.

    Powers loves to browbeat everyone who ever wronged him or helped him make a fool of himself, pointing out their inadequacies and brushes with the law (however minor), while completely forgetting that he resigned in complete shame and disgrace from the Secretary of State's office.

    Yes, Pat Powers is a tool. Possibly even a SuperTool. And so are many of the people who post in his blog. But at least they're fun - and easy - to agitate!

  13. Nate K 2014.07.23

    I use them to provide an additional layer to things that might stink in my trash (I keep my trash in the garage until pickup day - I try to be mindful of smell).

    They also work great for dog waste, in the car, and in small trash cans (i.e. restroom).

    I can't remember the last time I have ever disposed of bags without giving them another purpose. If ever banned, I will likely find myself using more wasteful plastic bags (i.e. actual trash can liners) in their place which will be a larger drain on my resources as well as those of the planet...

    I don't see a reason for governemnt regulation on this, and agree it is somewhat nanny-like, but that's just my opinion.

  14. David Newquist 2014.07.23

    Powers rages with sound and fury over the nanny state because he imagines himself as the voice of the ninny state.

  15. Chris S. 2014.07.23

    When we were in Ireland, you didn't automatically get a bag of any sort — plastic or paper — when making a purchase. People brought their own bags, little old ladies brought baskets for groceries, whatever. In a complete coincidence, the beautiful countryside wasn't littered with plastic bags fluttering in fencelines, littering fields, or stuck high in trees. Weird, I know! And yet everyone there seemed to be surviving this jackbooted tyranny just fine. [/snark]

  16. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.23

    What Powers to realize is that South Dakota already is a nanny state.
    If it weren't for the government teat, we wouldn't be a state at all.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.23

    Sorry, eyes aren't working well today.

    Obviously my comment should have read, "What Powers doesn't realize is that South Dakota is already a nanny state.

    If it weren't for the federal government's teat, South Dakota wouldn't be a state at all.

  18. lesliengland 2014.07.23

    why cant greedy corps and their repub protectors TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their doing business? SWAAACCCKKKK

  19. leslie 2014.07.23

    wonder if this is a repub initiative? me neither

    this is what happens after the state refuses to bury philly's baled waste in Edgemont.

    live in se rapid city? multi-millions in adjoining land at the dump don't quite cover the summer smell but commissioners and judges decide to place correctional facilities there.

    pattern of repub thought?

  20. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.23

    Republicanism stinks so bad in itself that they just can't smell confinement hog and concentrated cattle yard smells. Don't blame them for their own stink. They just can't help themselves even if it taints all their normal senses.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.23

    Eve, the VFW recycles? Those darned veterans: send them all over the world like Matt Varilek, and they come back socialists!

  22. Lynn 2014.07.23

    Meanwhile here in the "Nanny State" another cyclist is hit in Sioux Falls today.

  23. Michael B 2014.07.23

    Who is this Pat Powers you keep talking about?

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.07.23

    The Professor said "ninny state". Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!

    I agree with the comments about all the uses for small plastic bags. Most grocery stores have a recycling bin for plastic bags by the door. It's pretty darn easy.

    On the other hand, I like what was said about no plastic bags flying around or hung up on the fences and trees.

    Seems like every time an organization or business runs some type of promotion, they give away cloth bags. I keep some in the trunk of my car.

    Charge for the bags? 5c each? Give away cloth bags?

  25. JeniW 2014.07.24

    I use the the plastic bags for my cat's soiled litter from their litter boxes. I also use them as my cheap, light weight, and collapsible briefcase for work. I also use them for trash. :)

    I dislike the cloth bags because of their size. The people at the store put more stuff in the bag than I can lift, carry, and transport.

    If there were smaller cloth bags, I would probably use them once I have plenty of plastic bags for other things.

  26. lesliengland 2014.07.24

    on the other hand, imagine how unlaundered cloth and other reuseable bags transfer illness; assuming plastic bags are heat sanitized in manufacture.

  27. Craig 2014.07.24

    San Francisco banned the single-use plastic bags and requires stores to charge the customer if they need any type of bag (paper, compostable, or multi-use plastic). This is a win-win as it offsets the costs of the bags to the consumer (retailers charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag), while reducing the amount of waste and trash.

    Republicans should love this because it allows the 'job creators' to increase profits.

    Democrats should love this because it reduces the amount of environmental impact.

    Indys should love this because it gives the consumer a choice... either bring a reusable bag, go without, or pay for one at the time of purchase.

    Why would someone be against this? It should be universally supported because it is the right thing to do and causes no measurable detrimental impact to anyone other than the companies who sell the bags.

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