Berkeley Councilman Proposes Taxing Email to Fund Post Office

OCCUPY your email

Unsurprisingly he’s a Democrat. Even more unsurprisingly, he’s a former Grad student. Wozniak is not too bad by Berkeley standards. He took a common sense position that would have prevented the Code Pink protests and called for ending Berkeley’s ban on nuclear power investments.

But Berkeley is still Berkeley.

Wozniak told the council: “There should be something like a bit tax. I mean a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would still make, probably, billions of dollars a year… And there should be, also, a very tiny tax on email,” perhaps one-hundredth of a cent. He said this would discourage spam and not have much impact on the typical Internet user.

Wozniak went on to suggest a sales tax on internet transactions that could help, in part, fund “vital functions that the post office serves.”

If the Post Office needs to be funded by taxing email, then it’s an open question whether we need the Post Office. And since email is already partly subsidized through the Universal Service Fund, this whole thing is that much more senseless. It’s like taxing the phone to keep the telegraph going.

But it’s not a wacky idea that Wozniak made up.  The email surcharge free idea has been floating around for a while, sometimes as urban legend, sometimes as reality.

Some dot.com companies proposed the 1/100 surcharge as a spam fighting measure, which is where Wozniak got the idea, but the real core source of this appears to be the place where all good ideas come from… especially in Berkeley… the United Nations.

The United Nations Development Program examined such a tax in its 1999 Human Development Report, Globalization With a Human Face, as a way to fund “the global communications revolution.” UNDP calculated that in 1996, such a tax would have raised $70 billion globally.

Technically speaking the UNDP was not proposing to tax emails. That would have been nuts. Instead the UN was proposing to tax kilobytes.

There is an urgent need to find the resources to fund the global communications revolution—to ensure that it is truly global. One proposal is a “bit tax”—a very small tax on the amount of data sent through the Internet.

The costs for users would be negligible: sending 100 emails a day, each containing a 10-kilobyte document (a very long one), would raise a tax of just 1 cent. Yet with email booming worldwide, the total would be substantial. In Belgium in 1998, such a tax would have yielded $10 billion. Globally in 1996, it would have yielded $70 billion—more than total official development assistance that year

A 1 cent per megabyte tax would mean that today you would be paying a 60 cent tax to watch a movie and 14 cents to watch a YouTube video.

Want to upload 40 photos from your iPhone to Instagram? That will be 40 cents. Each song would carry a 2-3 cent tax. Downloading a game? Get ready to pay 4 bucks tax.

The troubling thing is that it is feasible. Unlike Gordon Wozniak’s proposal, coming from a man who got on Twitter once in 2010 and hasn’t used it since, it could work. It would also be quite creepy and totalitarian.

One more reason that America needs to be a UN-Free Zone.

  • Toni_Pereira

    But the Post Office is responsible for the genocide(arborocide??) of 2 billion trees each year! The good and enlightened people of Berkley should tell Mr.Wozniak to get a grip.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Yes but email is responsible for electrocide

  • allenjames

    Ya Democrats would be thing about a stupid idea like that they have nothing else to offer like maybe get rid of unions that have driven up the cost to retire. Democrats don’t know how to cut cost all they know is who to do is see who to screw with hard working people of the state and country ..

  • Rdlake1

    People like this are simply sucking up our good oxygen

  • Givemeabreak

    Government departments should work together. IRS should stop all e-filing and e-payments.

    • kafir4life

      And make illegal the electronic paying of our other bills. I'm guilty myself of using about a "book" of stamps a year, mostly to send out cards and such.

      Seriously, we should be thankful there were no federal buggy whip manufacturers. We'd still be using out tax money to keep them open. Altho' Detroit DOES have a paid blacksmith. The UNIONS say he's necessary, and he makes about 30k + 27k in bennies. I'm glad they can afford that.

  • Edward Cline

    One consequence of such a tax would be diminished use of the "legal" internet, and the rise of "illegal" ISPs, run by gangs who would offer "free," tax-free service to users for a fraction of the pennies proposed by Wozniak and the U.N. These "hackers" would find a way of bypassing all the regulations and controls, just as gangs found ways to bypass Prohibition and cigarette taxes and so on. It would another episode of the Keystone Kops vs. the Kilobyte Klan.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Yup like in the good old days

    • patron

      Also on the flip side it would be very easy to rack up the bill against someone else, like a business competitor or stalking victim. I'm betting Obama's voter app would be exempt, of course.

      Many internet services relay on automatic downloads. Doing a per byte tax would end automatic updates, the cloud as a mobile data store, cluster computing, VoIP and pretty much every new development since P2P, around 1997.

      Morons who propose this idea did not give it much thought. Welcome to liberalism, which we have been living under since 2006.

  • Mike

    I am getting sick and tired of stupid democrats trying to figure out ways to continually tax Americans to death to fund their stupid programs instead of reducing spending…what will it take for
    Americans to wake up?

  • MCMalkemus

    THE REAL ISSUE.
    This problem with USPS is not a lack of money, it is bad management. One tiny example that costs tax payers millions every year: Postal "carriers" don't have to carry the post any more. They can drive to each house, turn off the engine, deliver the mail, turn on the engine, drive to the next house, and repeat the process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzn4ga2tJvM This wastes gas, engines, starters, and the knees of postal workers through repetitive stress syndrome. Why do they do this? The union. They used to park at the base of the street, and push the mail from house to house in a letter carrier. Not anymore. A dollar tax per email couldn't save the USPS. Only provide postal workers with even better benefits than they already have. Only good management could save the USPS. I could do it, if the union were taken away.