MS Philly

Bloggers to Pay for Free Speech in Philadelphia!

In the Philadelphia City Paper, there was a headline yesterday, “Pay Up . . . Got a blog that makes no money?  The city wants $300, thank you very much”. For obvious reasons, I was intrigued.  How in the world can government take to policing blogs and threatening free speech?

According to the article, Marilyn Bess, a woman in Manayunk has had a ‘living green in Philadelphia’ blog for the past 3 years.  Her blog, MS Philly Organic has low traffic and she occasionally contributes to the website ehow.com.  A hobby blog, it has earned the owner $50 in 3 years!

In May, Bess received a letter from the city of Philadelphia demanding that she purchase a business privilege license for her blog, at a cost of $300 and pay taxes on any profits earned.  Now perhaps it would be one thing if her blog was a moneymaking blog but one can hardly call $50 in three years a profitable undertaking.  When Bess tried to appeal her case to the government officials, it was suggested that she hire an accountant.

Another example cited in the article was Sean Barry’s blog, City of Fits, a music-oriented blog that generated a grand total of $11 in 2 years.  Barry’s blog is hosted by popular Blogspot and has 2 small ads on the site. Barry is quoted as saying, “Personally, I don’t think Circle of Fits is a business. It might be someday if I start selling coffee mugs, key chains or locks of my hair to my fans. I don’t think blogs should be taxed unless they are making an immense profit.”

The angle that the government officials of Philadelphia is taking is that there is ‘potential’ for blogs to earn money and they are interested in cashing in on those potential earnings.  Their attitude towards blogs is regardless of ‘how much’ or ‘how little’ revenue the blog makes, the government insists that the bloggers pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits.  I am not sure how the city of Philadelphia intends to track blogs and small-website owners.  Policing and enforcement of blogs, . . . what about the right to free speech?

I find the notion of taxing the potential profit a blog may generate as ridiculous.  The City of Philadelphia thinks they can charge for the right to free speech . . . unbelievable.  Philadelphia and the rest of the country is suffering economically but this is new low as a way to generate income.   Based on the amount of time I spend on Community Matters you would think it should be a business. And I suppose that I could have ads on my site that might generate some money.  How much money . . . my guess is not very much.  However, according to the city of Philadelphia, as the owner of the Community Matters blog site, I have the potential to earn money and therefore would be subject to the $300 business privilege license.  If I lived in Philadelphia, as the owner of Community Matters, I would be required to spend $300 to have the privilege of free speech. 

Save Ardmore Coalition blogger, Carla has an attention-grabbing headline today, WTF Philadelphia? Free Speech Has a Price? Yep, Philly Wants to Charge Bloggers to Blog.  As Carla says, “Come again? Charge for blogging? Charge for free speech? Are the Founding Fathers turning in their graves? Has a tsumani wave hit Independence Hall? Do we hold these truths to be self evident, err I mean self serving? Why not tax all the homeless people one trips on lying on Philadelphia sidewalks while they’re at it?”

One of the comments to Carla’s post, ” . . .  Bloggers paying Business Privilege Tax? Truth is stranger than fiction. Who would have imagined such a thing. Philadelphia’s economy is depressed with high unemployment and small businesses squeezed by taxes and regulations. Philadelphia government is desperate and now squeezing even the most marginal of citizens. Counterproductive, to say the least. Actually, bordering on delusional if the City government thinks this will raise revenue or improve its jobless economy. . . “

This person has it right, Truth is stranger than Fiction!  What’s that saying, Only in America?  Or should that be . . . only in Philadelphia!

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