If you are like me, you prefer to take your roadtrips via the scenic route. Rather than the sterile sameness of the Interstate, you get the infinite variety of small towns. The larger ones have stately courthouses, '50s relic gas stations, cute old churches; the eye candy of Americana. The very smallest have one thing in common: Somewhere in the rough geographical center of the wide spot in the road, where the speed limit drops from 55 to 35 with shocking abruptness, is an old house or shanty or double-wide or re-purposed service station with a sign proclaiming "VIDEO RENTAL/TANNING".
What business could have a lower overhead? No special training required, minimal licensing hassles, hardly any overhead beyond the power bill... Just plug in your mail-order tanning bed and wait for the eager Miss Pork Rind Festival candidates to line up on your doorstep.
The Senate this past week stripped their health-care reform legislation of its much-derided 5% cosmetic surgery tax (the dreaded "Botax"; maybe they were reluctant to let Nancy Pelosi shoulder so much of the burden,) and added a 10% national tax on "tanning services". Now, as you may have guessed from my opening paragraphs, to call the tanning industry "wildly unregulated" would be wildly understated. In fact, terming the agglomeration of tanning beds in double wides and the backs of laundromats an "industry" is stretching the term until it makes dangerous creaking and groaning noises.
How is this National Tanning Tax going to be administered? How is it going to be collected? Are we going to get a new branch of the IRS? No doubt there will be special National Tanning Tax enforcement agents, with guns. And their own SWAT team. I can't wait to see the shoulder patches; maybe they'll have a bust of George Hamilton in profile.
"Martha, quick! The revenuers! Hide the tanning bed under the Christmas tree box!"
Further, any numbers they generated from this are pure fiction. They have no idea how many tanning salons there are, how much they charge, what kind of profits they bring in... To say "This National Tanning Tax will generate $X squillion dollars for our health care plan," has less basis in fact than one of those History Channel specials on the love lives of Nazi alien ghosts. How'd they come up with these numbers? Count the number of tanned-looking people in the Senate chamber, figure that as a percentage of the American people, and then multiply by how much John Kerry paid the last time he needed a booster? They could have come up with numbers every bit as realistic by taking some dice and shooting craps in the cloakroom (which would be a more productive and dignified, to say nothing of less intrusive, use of their time.)