Senator Padavan is in the dog house over at Fox News, following our disclosure that he has put forth a bill that would tax dogs, cats, and certain other pets. Fox News's David Asman reacted with a hilarious column on the absurdity of the senator's tax, which would force New Yorkers to pay 3% on most of the supplies, such as food, that they purchase for their pets. Mr. Asman's comments prompted a phone call and then an email from the senator's office claiming that the money raised by the tax will go to some animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation support fund. Mr. Asman, who came up via the Wall Street Journal, is one of those journalists who has the savvy to recognize that it's meaningless — given, if nothing else, the fungibility of money — for a politician to say a tax will go to a trust fund for animal shelters.
Well, bow wow. The flaw in the senator's logic is not only that money is fungible. It's in the individuals he targets to pay for this superannuated animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation support fund. He's targeting the wallets of pet owners. Why should they, of all people, be the ones to support this so-called rehabilitation support fund. They already do their part in respect of helping animals by keeping them as pets. If Mr. Padavan were to do this logically, he would seek a tax targeting individuals who don't own pets and don't already use their own money to buy food for these animals. If the idea is to use the power of the state to help animals, why not give a tax credit to persons who keep pets.
More broadly, if one buys into the views of economists such as A.C. Pigou, about whom we wrote in the context of the mayor's proposed charge to enter parts of Manhattan by car during certain hours, attention needs to be paid to what behavior Mr. Padavan is trying to discourage with his "paw and claw" tax, as it was dubbed by our Albany bureau man, Jacob Gershman. Is he trying to discourage the owning of pets? Or the feeding of pets? The fact is that if one wants to encourage New Yorkers to help pets and other animals, the best way to do it is to reduce the taxes on pets and pet-owning activities and increase taxes on activities that are antithetical to owning pets.